On Sunday, Venezuela’s President Nicolas announced that the government delegation will ask the opposition to speak out in favour of the defense of the Essequibo during the negotiations taking place in Mexico City.
In recent years, since the discovery of important oil deposits in that selvatic region, Guyana has intensified actions aimed at appropriating an area with abundant natural resources.
One of the main legal antecedents related to this territorial dispute is the 1899 Award of Paris, whereby the U.K. seized Venezuelan territory and delimited borders between Venezuela and British Guyana. Because of this arbitrary action, 70 per cent of the territory currently occupied by Guyana belongs to Venezuela.
“After its independence in 1821, Venezuela took the Essequibo River as its eastern border. The U.K recognized it… However, as of 1849, London annexed part of the Venezuelan territory and refused to take the controversy to arbitration, without respecting the previous agreements and their due recognition,” political scientist Carlos Romero recalled in an article published in Nueva Sociedad.
In 1966, Venezuela and Guyana signed the “Geneva Agreement” whereby they committed to the bilateral resolution of any conflict in the Essequibo area. In 2015, however, the U.S oil company Exxon discovered an important oilfield in the maritime part of the disputed territory.
Three years later, in 2018, Guyana asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to get involved in the resolution of the territorial conflict, thus ignoring the 1966 Geneva Agreement. In Dec. 2020, amid the U.S. attacks against the Bolivarian revolution, the Court declared itself “competent” to analyze “the validity” of the 1899 arbitration award.
In response to this action, the Bolivarian Government established a new maritime territory on its Atlantic coast to “safeguard the country’s territories” and sent a letter of protest to the United Nations.