Guyana Not Letting Its Guard Down Against Venezuela’s Attempt To Invade By Referendum.

Photo: Guyana Information Services: Peoples Progressive Party’s (PPP) General Secretary Dr Bharrat Jagdeo
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The government will maintain its vigilance as the Venezuelan administration attempts to enact the results of a recent referendum claiming two-thirds of Guyanese territory – the Essequibo region.

General Secretary of the Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) Dr Bharrat Jagdeo during a press conference on Thursday made it clear that the government will not back down from protecting its land and sovereignty.

The Venezuelan government’s actions, he said, are a form of annexation by decree, which is in clear contravention of the Argyle Declaration and the judicial process currently before the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

“In fact, it runs counter to the provisional measures given by the world court, that prohibits any change of the status quo, in relation to the 1899 award. Venezuela is seeking to unilaterally change this,” the general secretary expressed.

Guyana has already engaged its international partners on this latest development and they too, have already expressed outrage at Venezuela’s untrustworthy nature, according to Dr Jagdeo.

“We have brought this to their attention; the bad faith negotiations of Venezuela…they are aware of what’s happening…we’re not gonna let our guards down. So, I hope the country recognises this,” Dr Jagdeo affirmed.

On Wednesday, April 3, 2023, President Maduro held a signing ceremony, whereby the results of the December 3 Referendum, claiming two-thirds of Guyanese territory, became a law (in Venezuela).

Guyana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation immediately voiced strong condemnation of Venezuela’s actions, stating that it is an egregious violation of the most fundamental principles of international law.

The ministry also reminded that if Venezuela wants to contest the title to the territory in question, the proper forum is the ICJ.

Photo: Public domain. Venezuela would like to seize all the territory of Guyana west of the Essequibo river. The territory is sparely occupied, but has rights over the oil-rich offshore waters.

Guyana has been collaborating with several countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and India to fortify the country’s military capabilities to enable it to better patrol its borders and ensure its security.

In December of last year, the President of Guyana, Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali, and his Venezuelan counterpart, President Maduro, met in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, prompted by Venezuela’s heightened threats to Guyanese territory.

During the meeting, the two leaders agreed not to resort to threats or force against each other to avoid escalating the situation.


On September 21, 2023, the National Assembly of Venezuela put forward five questions for a consultative referendum that it hopes to hold with the country’s citizens. The National Electoral Council of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela released the questions to be posed in the national referendum on December 3, 2023, in support of that resolution. The purpose of these questions is to garner support for a set of measures that include the annexation of Essequibo and its incorporation into Venezuela as a new state, the definitive and final rejection of the 1899 Arbitral Award, and the issuance of national identity cards, and Venezuelan citizenship to the populace.

The International Court of Justice on December 1, 2023, ruled that Venezuela must refrain from any action that would see it undermining Guyana’s control of the Essequibo, including annexation, consequent to the results of their referendum.

President of the Court, Judge Joan E. Donoghue, read the Court’s Order, which said, “Pending a final decision in the case, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela shall refrain from taking any action which would modify the situation that currently prevails in the territory in dispute, whereby the Co-operative Republic of Guyana administers and exercises control over that area…Both Parties shall refrain from any action which might aggravate o extend the dispute before the Court or make it more difficult to resolve.”

According to the judge, the provisional measures are binding and impose a legal obligation for the court’s decision to be respected.

Nevertheless, the referendum proceeded on December 3, 2023.  While the Nicolas Maduro regime claimed over 10 million Venezuelans voted in the election. A plethora of international reports to the contrary – with some outlets reporting that 89% of registered voters did not turn out to participate in the referendum.

In defiance of the ICJ decision, on December 5, 2023, Maduro announced several measures, including, the:

  1. Creation of a new High Commission for the Defense of Guyana Esequiba, coordinated by Vice President Delcy Rodriguez;
  2. Immediate activation of the debate in the National Assembly for the approval of the Organic Law for the defense of the Essequiba Guyana;
  3. Creation the Zone of Integral Defense of the Guayana Esequiba with 3 areas and 28 sectors of integral development, to be located in Tumeremo;
  4. Designation of MG Alexis Rodríguez Cabello as Sole Authority of the Guayana Esequiba whose political and administrative headquarters will be located in Tumeremo;
  5. Creation of the divisions of PDVSA Esequibo and CVG Esequibo for the exploration and exploitation of gas, oil and mining;
  6. Publication and dissemination in schools, high schools and universities of the country the new Map of Venezuela that includes the Guayana Esequiba; and
  7. Activation of an Integral Social Attention Plan for the entire population of Guayana Esequiba that includes a Census and the opening of a Saime office for the delivery of identification cards to the population-based in Tumeremo.

Further, on December 8, 2023, Maduro signed a series of decrees within “the framework of the Action Plan for the defense and protection of the new state of Venezuela, our Guayana Esequiba,” including a:

  1. Decree in which citizen Alexis José Rodríguez Cabello is designated as the Sole Authority of the state of Guayana Esequiba;
  2. Decree by which a High National Commission for the Defense and Recovery of Guayana Esequiba is appointed with all sectors of national life. I assume with great commitment the appointment as head of this body;
  3. Decree that makes official and establishes the new official map of #Venezuela arising from the December 2, 2023 referendum;
  4. Decree ordering the immediate creation of the Pdvsa Essequibo, CVG Essequibo and CVM Essequibo Division;
  5. Decree that establishes the creation of the new Comprehensive Defense Zone of Guayana Esequiba; and
  6. Decree that orders the start of work and declares new national parks, protective reserve areas and natural monuments to Guayana Esequiba.


Guyana is currently before the ICJ on the substantive matter of the Guyana/ Venezuela border controversy.  Under the United Nations Charter and the Court’s own rules, final judgments from the ICJ both on jurisdiction and the merits will be legally binding on Guyana and Venezuela, whether or not Venezuela participates in the proceedings.

Guyana’s border with Venezuela was legally and internationally decided over 100 years ago by a tribunal of arbitration in 1899 in what was determined then to be a “full, perfect, and final settlement”.

After 67 years, prior to Guyana’s independence, Venezuela challenged the 1899 Arbitral Award. This led to the signing of the Geneva Agreement in 1966.

Efforts over more than half-a-century, including a four-year Mixed Commission (1966-1970), a twelve-year moratorium (1970-1982), a seven-year process of consultations on a means of settlement (1983-1990), and a twenty-seven-year Good Offices Process under the UN Secretary-General’s authority (1990-2017), all failed to end the border controversy.

The move to the ICJ was advanced after there was no success with a further attempt, using the United Nations’ Good Offices process, to resolve the matter of Venezuela’s renewed claim to Guyana’s territory, the Essequibo County.  Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, in 2015, had charged that the signing of the 1966 Geneva Agreement rendered the 1899 Arbitral Award null and void.

On 30 January 2018, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, acting under the authority bestowed upon him by the Geneva Agreement, chose adjudication by the ICJ as the means for resolving the controversy with finality. In taking his decision, the Secretary-General was exercising the power vested in him in the 1966 Geneva Agreement between Guyana, Venezuela and the United Kingdom to decide how the controversy should be settled.

Guyana commenced proceedings before the Court on 29 March 2018 in accordance with the Secretary-General’s decision.


Guyana is seeking to obtain from the Court a final and binding judgment that confirms that the 1899 Arbitral Award, which established the location of the land boundary between then-British Guiana and Venezuela, remains valid and binding, and that Guyana’s Essequibo region belongs to Guyana and not Venezuela.

Venezuela has, so far, participated in the ICJ proceedings, despite claiming that it does not recognise the Court.

It first challenged the ICJ, claiming the court had no jurisdiction to consider the case. However, the ICJ on December 18, 2020, delivered its judgment in the case concerning the Arbitral Award of 3 October 1899 (Guyana v. Venezuela) – relative to the question of the Court’s jurisdiction.

The court ruled that it has jurisdiction to hear Guyana’s case seeking the validation of the 1899 arbitral award establishing the boundary with Venezuela. Venezuela did not take part in the proceedings.

The judgment found that both Guyana and Venezuela had conferred authority on the UN Secretary General under Article 4, paragraph two of the February 17th 1966 Geneva Agreement. That agreement allowed the Secretary-General to choose a means of settlement under Article 33 of the Charter of the United Nations which included judicial settlement.

Source: Guyana Government Information Service.


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