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Venezuela Has Won Its Essequibo Referendum. Now What?

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4th of December, 2023. Guyana, South America. GSA News. Guyana News.

Last updated: December 5, 2023 at 13:04 pm

What Happens Next?

Venezuela has won its referendum aimed at annexing the Essequibo. Whether they actually won or they rigged it is hard to tell. Venezuela’s National Electorate Council announced that 95% of the voters voted Yes to all five questions.

  1. Do you agree to reject by all means in accordance with the law the line fraudulently imposed by the Paris Arbitration Award of 1899 that seeks to deprive us of our Guayana Esequiba?
  2. Do you support the 1966 Geneva Agreement as the only valid legal instrument to reach a practical and satisfactory solution for Venezuela and Guyana regarding the controversy over the territory of Guayana Esequiba?
  3. Do you agree with Venezuela’s historical position of not recognizing the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice to resolve the territorial controversy over Guayana Esequiba?
  4. Do you agree to oppose by all means in accordance with the law Guyana’s claim to unilaterally dispose of a sea pending delimitation illegally and in violation of international law?
  5. Do you agree with the creation of the Guayana Esequiba state and the development of an accelerated plan for the comprehensive care of the current and future population of that territory that includes, among others, the granting of citizenship and Venezuelan identity card in accordance with the Geneva Agreement and international law, consequently incorporating said state on the map of Venezuelan territory?

According to Venezuela’s National Electorate Council, about ten million people, which is less than half of the Venezuelan population, but perhaps more than 100% of registered voters in Venezuela, turned up to vote. Videos and reports coming out of Venezuela showing extremely poor voter turnout and election officers falling asleep at polling places across the country suggest that these figures might be highly fraudulent. Nevertheless, the Maduro regime boasts of a resounding victory at the polls in its quest for the Essequibo.

The Venezuelan government’s next move would be to enact laws that make the Essequibo a state in Venezuela. It will then repeatedly call President Ali to the negotiation table asking him to cede the territory to Venezuela or come to some sort of compromise. These calls of negotiation will be accompanied or closely followed by threats of invasion and use of military force.

Failing cooperation from the Guyana Government, the Venezuelan government may occupy the territory backed by their state security apparatus and attempt to administer and control it. If the Guyana Government or people put up a resistance, this may result in an armed conflict. If they don’t, the Guyanese economy might be ruined. This development could potentially result in forceful seizure of properties and human rights abuses.

However, a military enforced occupation of the Essequibo is risky business for Maduro. In addition to sanctions, they could face military action from the United Nations Security Council, and possibly the United States. The United Nations Security Council is mandated to enforce the ruling of the ICJ, and Maduro has long been at loggerheads with the United States.

The ruling of the International Court of Justice prohibits Guyana from entering into any negotiations with Venezuela over the disputed territory. “Neither party shall take any action that alters the current status of the territory in dispute.”

The Venezuelan military has already been activated to defend the Essequibo after the referendum which is now successful. The Guyana Government would be well advised to take definitive steps with its strategic military partners to formulate a plan of action and contingency plan to defend the Essequibo, secure the country’s borders, and protect its people.

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