AMERICA/GUYANA- Contested region of Guyana Esequiba: Tensions between Venezuela and Guyana

Friday, 1 December 2023 military  

Georgetown (Agenzia Fides) - The relationship between Guyana and Venezuela is tense since today, December 1st, the decision of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Guyana's request for interim measures to stop the referendum organized by Caracas for next Sunday, 3 December, on the annexation of Guayana Esequiba, which is part of neighboring Guyana, is expected.
The Guayana Esequiba region, which Venezuela claims from Guyana, was the subject of US intervention in 1895 to prevent British efforts in the area. Guyana Esequiba is an area of approximately 159,500 km2 west of the Essequibo River, currently administered and controlled by Guyana, but claimed by Venezuela as part of its territory. The dispute dates back to colonial times, when Spain and the Netherlands fought for control of the area. In 1814, the Netherlands ceded its colonies of Essequibo, Demerara and Berbice to Great Britain, which later united them to form British Guyana. Venezuela inherited Spanish claims to the region after its independence in 1811, but Britain extended its control further west of the Essequibo River in the 19th century. In 1895, Venezuela asked the United States for help in resolving its border dispute with Great Britain, citing the Monroe Doctrine, which called for an end to all colonization efforts in the Western Hemisphere. The United States intervened and forced Britain to agree to international arbitration over the entire disputed territory. The arbitration tribunal convened in Paris in 1898 awarded most of the territory to British Guiana in 1899. However, Venezuela later declared the award invalid, accusing the tribunal of being biased and corrupted by British influence. The dispute remained unresolved even after Guyana gained independence from Britain in 1966. Since then, Venezuela has maintained its claims to Guyana Esequiba, occasionally resorting to military and diplomatic pressure to assert its sovereignty over the region. Venezuela has also rejected the ICJ's jurisdiction to resolve the dispute, instead proposing bilateral negotiations with Guyana. The region is rich in natural resources such as oil, gas, gold, diamonds and timber, which have attracted interest from both countries and foreign companies. In recent years, Guyana has granted exploration and production licenses for offshore oil and gas reserves in the disputed waters to several multinational companies such as ExxonMobil. Venezuela has protested these activities and accused Guyana of violating its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Both Venezuela and Brazil reported military movements on Guyana's borders, the latter as a preventative measure. Brazil has so far tried unsuccessfully to mediate between the two countries. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 1/12/2023)