February 17, 1966 | 55 years after the Geneva Agreement, Venezuela reaffirms its sovereign right over the Essequibo
The sun of Venezuela is born in the Essequibo! In its full and sovereign right, the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, led by President Nicolás Maduro, 55 years after the signing of the Geneva Agreement of 1966, ratifies that this legal instrument is the only one with full validity for the just claim on the territory of Guayana Esequiba.
It is worth highlighting the historically recognized rights of Venezuela when in 1966, after various negotiations and very close to granting independence to its colony British Guiana – today the Cooperative Republic of Guyana – the British government signed the Geneva Agreement recognizing Venezuela’s claim over the Essequibo Territory, expressed in 159,500 km2 and seized by the Paris Arbitration Award on October 3, 1899, validating in turn the English usurpation.
In this context, it is important to highlight the wealth of Guayana Esequiba, which is expressed in the presence of bauxite, gold, diamonds and manganese, and it is suspected of important reserves of uranium, oil and natural gas, some already subject to exploration and exploitation plans by transnationals. It also stands out for its high levels of biodiversity, with forests, savannas and mountains, as well as a wide abundant hydrography in rivers and deltas that drain into the Atlantic, with great influence on fishing productivity and its agricultural potential.
Going into history, the stage of territorial usurpation began in 1839 when the Prussian naturalist Robert Schomburgk, ignoring the border between Venezuela and British Guiana on the Essequibo River, presented his line that covered 142,000 km2 to the west of this river artery, in Venezuelan soil from the province of Guayana. However, this territory belongs to Venezuela since the founding of the Captaincy General of the country by the Spanish empire in 1777.
A flawed Arbitration Award
Given the foregoing and after having appealed to the United States government, it proposed arbitration between the parties in conflict. In 1899, a tribunal, whose formal decision is known as the Paris Arbitration Award was formed in Paris. The ruling concluded with the cession of the territory west of the Essequibo River to Great Britain.
In this process, Venezuela was excluded from the team of judges, which was made up of two British, two Americans and a Russian, who was announced as an “impartial third party.” In fact, only one Venezuelan national participated directly in the process, forming part of his country’s defense team, which was also made up of other four US lawyers.
However, as Venezuela was not directly represented, since the two representatives of Venezuela were appointed by the United States, not representing the Venezuelan State, It declared the nullity of the sentence, an attitude maintained decades later, also alleging important defects that invalidate the arbitration decision.
The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela sustains such a historic struggle in rejection of any decision that legitimizes a process influenced by foreign colonies, such as the precise creation of the arbitration mechanism, which arose from the foundations of the Monroe Doctrine, becoming an opportunity for the United States to represent Venezuelan interests.
With the arrival of the Bolivarian Revolution, Commander Hugo Chávez, in the Aló Presidente of March 19, 2000, rebuked about this fact:
“A flawed award of nullity. The ownership of that territory was not taken into account. The limits of Venezuela, throughout life, before independence reached the Essequibo River. Simón Bolívar himself gave orders to the Congress of Angostura to evict Dutch and later English troops who began to occupy the western part of the Essequibo River, but they could never do it because they had no way to confront those empires.”
The Essequibo belongs to Venezuela
Regarding this territorial dispute and without taking into consideration the legitimate claims of Venezuela, Guyana, officially the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, established the inclusion of the Essequibo Territory within its limits in the Constitution of 1980, amended in 1996, which states:
“The territory of the State includes the areas that immediately before the beginning of this Constitution were compromised in the area of Guyana along with other areas that could be declared as part of the territory of the State by Act of Parliament.”
These areas are those that made up the colony of British Guiana, before its independence, for which Great Britain recognized the Essequibo River as the western limit, politically mapped in its favor in 1938.
In contrast, the official map of the United States of Venezuela by L. Robelin from 1890, shows the historical claim of the region as Yuruari Territory and Delta Territory.
Thus, the 1896 map of former British Guiana and the various boundary lines drawn show the highest British aspirations and the Essequibo River that Venezuela considers its border.
For its part, Venezuela includes the territory within its domains since its first constitution in 1811, the last reform of which was given in 1999, declaring in article 10 that:
“The territory and other geographic spaces of the Republic are those that corresponded to the Captaincy General of Venezuela, before the political transformation that began on April 19, 1810, with the modifications resulting from the treaties and arbitration awards not vitiated of nullity.”
The Captaincy General of Venezuela, included the territories of the former Province of Guayana, which occupied the same Esequibo region.
Venezuela reaffirmed on March 6, 2006, the addition of one more star to the national flag to incorporate the Guayana region, emphasizing the historical debt as established in the decree of Simón Bolívar of November 20, 1817 about the eight provinces of the nascent Venezuela.
Geneva Agreement, an instrument for understanding
The Geneva Agreement was signed on February 17, 1966, in that city of the Swiss country, and the mechanisms were established to initiate a process of review, discussion and search for satisfactory solutions to a controversy that affects the territory and sovereignty of Venezuela and Guyana.
It constitutes the instrument that regulates Venezuela’s claim to sovereignty in Guayana Esequiba; reiterated on May 26, 1966, with the express reservation of the country’s rights over the entire area that lies on the left bank of the Essequibo River, taking it from its source to its mouth in the Atlantic Ocean.
The Geneva Agreement is registered in the General Secretariat of the United Nations Organization under No. 8192 (1966), it was distributed as a document of the General Assembly on May, 03 1966 under the initials A / 6325; and the Secretary General accepted the functions derived from it, by means of a communication dated 04ABR1966:
“I have taken note of the obligations that may eventually fall on the Secretary-General of the United Nations under Article IV, paragraph 2 of the Agreement, and I am pleased to inform you that these functions are of such a nature that they can be appropriately performed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations.”
This agreement details the steps to be followed for the resolution of the borderline-territorial controversy over Guayana Esequiba, arising from the Venezuelan contention before the UN, in 1962, to consider null and void the Paris Arbitration Award of 1899, issued by the Arbitration Tribunal of Paris and that defined the common border between Venezuela and British Guyana.
Given this, both parties agreed to create “a Mixed Commission, in charge of seeking satisfactory solutions for the practical settlement of the dispute”, the text reads, which, within a period of 4 years would have to decide what could be the solution to the borderline problem; once this period expired, the Protocol of Port of Spain between Guyana, the United Kingdom and Venezuela was signed in 1970, by which part of the Geneva Agreement was frozen, for a 12-year term. In 1982 Venezuela decides not to ratify the Protocol of Port of Spain and returns to what is established in the agreement.
Later, in 1983, at the initiative of Venezuela, the border conflict is carried out under the auspices of the Secretary General of the United Nations, in accordance with the provisions of Article IV, paragraph 2 of the agreement and attached to Article 33 of the Charter of the United Nations, referring to the means of peaceful solutions to disputes.
Between 1983 and 1999, both countries tried to resolve the conflict through the so-called UN Good Offices mechanism, a system for the peaceful settlement of territorial disputes through a ‘Good officiant’ chosen and accepted by the parties. The function of this figure is to bring both governments closer together so that they reach a satisfactory solution, as dictated by the treaty. However, these attempts never yielded concrete results.
In 2015, the conflict between the two countries was fueled when the US oil company Exxon Mobil announced the discovery of an important deposit in the Atlantic Ocean, right in the area that enters the historic territorial difference. The explorations were carried out with the endorsement of the government of Guyana, which provoked a note of protest from Venezuela.
ICj without jurisdiction in the conflict
In 2015, Venezuela formally requested the United Nations (UN) to appoint a Good Officiant to mediate in the conflict with Guyana.
On July 10, Venezuela delivered to the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, a letter in which it requests the prompt appointment of the good officiant, who will mediate between the governments for the solution of the territorial controversy through dialogue and peace.
But again, no solution was reached. Given this, Guyana unilaterally asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to judge the territorial dispute.
Venezuela has reasoned that, having recognized in 1962, the nullity of the Award of 1899, by the international community, the ICJ does not have jurisdiction to evaluate and decide on the matter.
Likewise, Venezuela poses to the ICJ the role of mediating in the resolution of the conflict, but in accordance with the Geneva Agreement and never at a unilateral request, but before the presentation of the case by both parties, in compliance with the principles of good faith and friendly resolution of conflicts that are the basis of the aforementioned pact. Last year, after the decision by the ICJ announced on December 18, which validates the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Award of 1899, Venezuela filed a document in rejection, in which it states:
“The Geneva Agreements are the only current bilateral general restrictive norm, applicable to settle, through friendly negotiations, the territorial controversy. The foregoing denies the judicial route, incapable of reaching the practical and satisfactory settlement that this Treaty imposes on both parties. In this sense, Venezuela has been and is willing to commit itself to such friendly negotiations to reach a mutually satisfactory settlement.”
In this sense, the Bolivarian Government repudiated the ruling issued by the ICJ, in the aforementioned terms, while claiming, once again, the validity of the Geneva Agreement of 1966 and ratifying that it will continue to exercise its just claim, taking into account the grotesque fraud that the Arbitration Award of 1899 implied to the detriment of its territorial integrity.
The Bolivarian Government emphasizes in the document presented to the ICJ, that the Geneva Agreement established that Guyana, once its independence was obtained, would be considered part of it, so the Guyanese Government must adhere itself to the established procedure.
Venezuela in defense of its sovereignty
Faced with Guyana’s attempts to delegitimize the resolution process of the Essequibo territorial conflict, the President of the Republic, Nicolás Maduro, issued a letter earlier this year to the UN Secretary-General, a letter that reiterates his rejection to the decisions unilaterally taken.
Through the letter he reiterated that “he has never given his consent” for the International Criminal Court (ICJ) to evaluate the territorial controversy outside of what is attached to the Geneva Agreement and affirming that they will continue to fight for their territory.
Also, he sent a letter to the president of the ICJ, Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf, to deny that the two countries have been summoned to a virtual hearing on January 15, although Venezuela maintains that it does not recognize the jurisdiction of the court.
“Normally for any court case, it may take about 3 months or more to convene a hearing between the parties to see the court’s decision, they intended to impose a hearing on January 15 without Venezuela knowing the official decision delivered with stamp and signature of the court”, the Head of State denounced on that occasion.
The Bolivarian Government demanded that the date was changed to January 25, “it continues to be a strange, suspicious outburst when acting in this hasty manner, trampling on the rights of Venezuela”, said the Dignitary, when other cases have extended times for any decision or sentence of this body.
“The date of January 25 does not offer the possibility of offering a final position on a matter of vital importance for the country, time is required due to the dangers that underlie this sentence, which also contravenes the 1966 Geneva agreements”, he quoted.
On January 23, the Executive Vice-president of the Republic, Delcy Rodríguez, who leads the Presidential Commission for the Defense of the Essequibo, reported that the ICJ postponed the hearing between Venezuela and Guyana to february 26 in order to address issues regarding the territorial controversy over the Essequibo.
Rodríguez indicated that the decision to postpone the hearing responds to the request of her Government, to discuss aspects of the ruling of December 18, 2020, in relation to the lawsuit filed by Guyana against Venezuela.
On the 55th anniversary of the signing of such a relevant international legal instrument, Venezuela ratifies its unwavering commitment to the correct compliance with the Geneva Agreement, for which it invites once again the authorities of the sister Cooperative Republic of Guyana, to advance in friendly negotiations, in order to reach a definitive solution to the existing controversy between both nations.
Today Venezuela with its Bolivarian Diplomacy of Peace, shows the world the historical truth of what happened with the dispossession of the Essequibo by the empires of that time, and calls for national unity to walk through the provisions of the Geneva Agreement, as an instrument for the defense of the sovereignty.