By Misión Verdad – Oct 3, 2023
October 3, 2023, marked the 124th anniversary of the invalid judgment of the Paris Arbitral Award, in which, by the sinister plot of the judges involved, Venezuela’s historical rights over the Essequibo territory were discarded.
The Monroe Doctrine was used by the United States to intervene in this territorial dispute, under the precept that any European incursion in America was a threat to its national security. Seeing that Great Britain was involved, the United States decided to take this as a justification to interfere and act to protect its interests in a region considered strategic.
This caused the dispute to become a direct negotiation between the two Anglo-Saxon states. In this scenario, the United States demanded that the Venezuelan claim be submitted to arbitration, which resulted in Great Britain and Venezuela signing the Arbitration Treaty in Washington in 1897.
Finally, in 1899, the ill-fated Paris Arbitration Award was consummated, by means of which Venezuela was stripped of 159,542 sq km of the Essequibo territory.
All this is accurately described in a report published by the Venezuelan government in 2015. It explained that the elaboration of the Treaty of Washington, which took place between 1895 and 1896, was carried out in a manipulated way by the US and the UK, without taking into account the true participation of Venezuela in the process. In addition, then US Secretary of State Richard Olney pressured the Venezuelan government to stop questioning the treaty and to sign it without delay. According to the 2015 report:
Venezuela was placed on the sidelines in this matter, as if it were a “semi-barbaric” or “semi-savage” state. In a letter addressed to President Cleveland on December 5, 1896, the United States Ambassador in London, Thomas Bayard, who was supposed to defend the interests of Venezuela, issued abject opinions about our country: “Our difficulty lies in the completely untrustworthy character of the Venezuelan government and people, which results in an indefinable and, therefore, dangerous responsibility for the management of their own affairs by themselves.”
The report revealed the unfair and unequal conditions under which Venezuela was excluded from representation in the Arbitral Tribunal. The treaty established that the tribunal would be composed of five jurists: two appointed by Great Britain, two appointed by Venezuela, and one chosen by the Supreme Court of the United States. However, Great Britain refused to allow the President of Venezuela to appoint a Venezuelan judge and demanded that both jurists be US nationals:
…. [I]n the face of this outrage, British journalist Paul Reuter noted, “The conditions under which Venezuela consented to be represented, in the absence of a protectorate or any other analogous institution, by a third State, are very rarely found in an arbitral proceeding and evince a quasi-colonial sovereignty.”
The fifth jurist appointed, Frederick Martens, was chosen as the president of the tribunal. Martens was a Russian diplomat, a permanent member of the Russian Imperial Council on Foreign Relations. His ideas were known to the English, who advocated cooperation between his country and England in Central Asia, arguing that both countries were destined by Divine Providence to “civilize” the region. He too had a negative stance towards countries considered “semi-savage” or “semi-civilized,” including Venezuela.
The Venezuelan government’s 2015 report notes that the fact that Martens was chosen as president of the tribunal was possibly due to his personal background and his ideological stance, which reinforces the perception that the tribunal was biased in favor of British interests and against Venezuelan interests:
It was probably Sir Julian Pauncefote, signatory of the Treaty of Washington in 1897, on the British side, who pushed for the appointment of Martens, with which England achieved and secured a priori the maximum representative of the tribunal, favorable to any settlement between Great Britain and Russia.
The court’s decision, announced on October 3, 1899, determined that the line of separation between the British colony of Guiana and the United States of Venezuela began on the coast at Punta Playa and extended to the source of the Corentin River, also known as the Cutarí River. The report stated:
The arbitrary decision bestowed on Britain 90% of the disputed territory and only attributed to Venezuela the mouth of the Orinoco river and a region of about 5,000 square miles in the southwestern part of the territory.
In addition, the arbitrators decided that, during times of peace, the Amacuro and Barima rivers would be open to the navigation of commercial vessels of all nations, provided they complied with the regulations and paid the tariffs demanded by Venezuela and British Guiana for passage on the parts of the rivers that belonged to them. The same tariff was established for Venezuelan and British vessels.
It was also agreed that no customs duties would be applied to the goods transported in the ships transiting the rivers, but they would only be taxed for the goods that were unloaded in the territories of Venezuela and Great Britain, respectively.
Venezuela did not denounce the ruling until the first half of the 20th century due to domestic and international circumstances. In 1944, Venezuela demanded amicable reparation for the injustice committed by the ruling. In 1949, after coming to know about the Mallet-Prevost Memorandum, which revealed the conspiracy behind the Paris Arbitration Award, Venezuela initiated an investigation of the British archives to obtain more details. All this led to the signing of the Geneva Agreement in 1966, which is still valid, and which directs Venezuela and Guyana to settle the territorial dispute through negotiation.
Translation: Orinoco Tribune
Misión Verdad is a Venezuelan investigative journalism website with a socialist perspective in defense of the Bolivarian Revolution
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