On Wednesday, October 12, the Guyanese Foreign Secretary Robert Persaud asked for maps to eliminate Venezuela’s claim to the disputed area around the Essequibo River in order to attribute that area to his own country.
The official wanted to settle an issue that has been disputed for 123 years with just a letter and a tweet, making the unusual request to “use the Twitter reporting function to remove” the publications that indicate Venezuela’s dispute regarding the area.
According to Persaud, maps that show the part of the territory that is subject to a dispute “violate international law.” The official’s message was published as a result of a letter signed by himself and sent to the directors of Facebook (which belongs to Meta) and Twitter to remove the alleged “illegal maps.”
— Robert M Persaud (@PersaudRobert) October 12, 2022
The letter claims that these maps are being used to “propagate a false narrative on the existing issue of the controversy between Guyana and Venezuela on the validity of the 1899 arbitration award that established the land border.” But how true is that statement?
In the letter, Persaud asserts that the proliferation of these maps in which the disputed area appears clearly delimited have the potential to “permanently damage relations between states, incite violence against the territory and the people of Guyana, and derail the current adjudication of the matter before the International Court of Justice (ICJ).”
Likewise, he insists on giving recognition to the International Arbitration process on October 3, 1899 through which, in his opinion, “both parties agreed to respect the results of the arbitration in its entirety, a perfect and definitive settlement of the limit.” However, there are important omissions in his argument.
The 1899 arbitration award was signed when Guyana was still a British colony, but in 1966 it was deemed “null and void” by the Geneva Agreement. The reason? Defects that characterized this process, in which the voice of Venezuela was practically excluded from the negotiations.
The so-called Paris Arbitration Award, which is vehemently defended by the Guyanese official, was a process in which two Britons, two Americans, and a Russian, who announced himself an “impartial third party,” decided to strip Venezuela of a territory that it had held claim to since 1777.
A 123 años del Laudo Arbitral de París, írrita y nefasta sentencia, reiteramos la postura irrevocable de la Patria Bolivariana, en la justa defensa de su soberanía e integridad territorial. Nada nos apartará de ese camino. ¡El sol de Venezuela nace en el Esequibo! pic.twitter.com/n7hRDPDciT
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) October 3, 2022
In fact, only one Venezuelan, appointed by the US, participated in the negotiations, while the rest of the defense team was made up of US lawyers. For this reason, Caracas cites the Geneva agreement and welcomes this mechanism, established within the United Nations, to resolve the historic dispute with a practical and mutually satisfactory settlement.
Earlier this month, President Nicolás Maduro reiterated “his country’s irrevocable position” in defense of “its sovereignty and territorial integrity,” and against the “irritating and disastrous sentence” of the Paris Arbitration Award. “Nothing will separate us from that path. The sun of Venezuela rises in the Essequibo!” the president tweeted.
In addition to this new request to eliminate the maps containing the disputed area, Guyana has been taking decisive steps to try to keep the disputed territory. In 2018, Guyana unilaterally went to the ICJ to ask it to study and resolve the dispute with Venezuela over the Essequibo.
Two years later, in December 2020, the ICJ declared itself “qualified” to analyze “the validity of the arbitration award of October 3, 1899.” The resolution was rejected by Caracas, considering that it was a “weaponization” of the ICJ “to resolve a dispute that demands a negotiated solution.”
Turning up the volume
Persaud’s request comes at a delicate moment in regards to relations between Caracas and Georgetown. Earlier this month, Venezuela denounced Washington’s interference in the historic territorial dispute, following a tweet posted by the US State Department’s Undersecretary for Latin America, Brian Nichols.
In his tweet, Nichols wrote that the land borders between Venezuela and Guyana, stipulated by the 1899 arbitration award, should “be respected at least until a competent legal body determines otherwise,” and emphasized that Washington would support the “peaceful resolution” of the matter.
El laudo arbitral de 1899 determinó la frontera terrestre entre Guyana y Venezuela y debe respetarse a menos o hasta que un órgano legal competente determine lo contrario.
Los Estados Unidos apoya una resolución pacífica a este tema.
— Brian A. Nichols (@WHAAsstSecty) October 5, 2022
The statement was immediately answered by the Venezuelan vice president, Delcy Rodríguez, who stressed that “the Geneva Agreement is the only legal instrument, in force and duly presented at the UN, to resolve the territorial dispute over the Guayana Essequiba through negotiations.”
“It is the Geneva Agreement and not the arbitration award that governs this controversy,” Rodríguez wrote on Twitter, after accusing Washington of wanting to fuel friction between the two countries to “favor its energy hegemony and that of its transnationals.”
Tensions had already been escalating since the end of September, when Caracas accused Georgetown of wanting to misrepresent the historic territorial dispute over the Essequibo in order to forge a “self-interested and publicity-seeking matrix” that would seek to “facilitate the dispossession of Venezuela of the controversial territory” that stretches for 160,000 kilometers.
According to the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry, the objective of the Guyanese Executive would be to carry out the dispossession of the territory, to “implant a transnational emporium that wishes to seize the riches of the sea, just as they have been doing abusively with the lands subject to friendly negotiation by the legal mandate of this signed treaty to resolve the territorial dispute.”
Although it is too early to accept the accusations as true, Persaud’s request suggests that not only is the official unaware of the Geneva Agreement, but that the dispossession of Venezuela, for the time being, could begin in the vast territory of the World Wide Web.
Translation: Orinoco Tribune
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