Trinidad tells Venezuela: Respect Guyana’s territorial integrity

Last Updated on Friday, 5 April 2024, 11:37 by Denis Chabrol

Trinidad and Tobago’s Foreign and CARICOM Affairs Minister, Amery Browne.

Trinidad and Tobago’s Foreign and Caricom Affairs Minister Dr. Amery Browne has called on Venezuela to respect the territorial integrity of Guyana, the Trinidad Guardian reported on Friday.

He says Caricom remains united on this issue. Browne made those statements on Thursday as Guyana expressed concern over what it viewed as the latest threat by Venezuela to annex its territory of Essequibo.

The dispute over the sovereignty of the region is currently before the International Criminal Court of Justice (ICJ).

The new concerns raised by Guyana arise from statements made on April 3 by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to implement a law entitled “the Organic Law for the Defense of Guayana Esequiba” which would allow Venezuela to add Essequibo to its territory.

In a statement on the same day, Guyana’s Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation Ministry said, “This attempt by Venezuela to annex more than two-thirds of Guyana’s sovereign territory and make it part of Venezuela is an egregious violation of the most fundamental principles of international law enshrined in the UN Charter, the Charter of the Organisation of American States (OAS) and customary international law.”

The ministry also said this latest action by Venezuela contradicts the letter and spirit of the Joint Declaration of Argyle for Dialogue and Peace which both countries agreed to on December 14, 2023.

On that date in St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), Guyana President Dr. Mohammed Irfaan Ali and Maduro signed the Argyle Declaration, rejecting any threat of violence in their dispute over Guyana’s Essequibo region and to refrain from any escalation of the disagreement. Both countries agreed not to escalate any controversy between them but to report any incident arising to Caricom, CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) and Brazil.

The declaration also called for the establishment of a joint commission between Guyana and Venezuela to deal with the Essequibo dispute within three months.

The declaration noted Guyana’s support and Venezuela’s rejection of the role of the ICJ in adjudicating the dispute. On December 1, the ICJ ruled that Venezuela should refrain from seizing the Essequibo from Guyana.

Ali said the ICJ’s ruling was an opportunity for Venezuela to join Guyana in demonstrating respect for international law and the principles that govern peaceful co-existence.” Ali also urged all peace-loving nations to encourage Venezuela to respect the UN and the ICJ.

The ministry said, “This unlawful act calls into question Venezuela’s obligation to abide by the principles of that declaration.”

The ministry said Guyana was putting Venezuela, Caricom, the UN and the OAS on notice that it would not agree to the annexation, seizure or occupation of any part of its sovereign territory. “Guyana has always stood by the principles of the UN Charter, the rule of law and the peaceful settlement of disputes.”

The ministry recalled that as a result of the 1966 Geneva Agreement, Guyana and Venezuela were before the ICJ to resolve this matter.

“The ICJ has ruled that it has jurisdiction to make a decision on the case brought before it by Guyana regarding the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award which definitively settled the land boundary between the two countries.”

There was no evidence on Thursday of any official position by Caricom on the latest Guyana-Venezuela tensions.

In a post on X on April 3, Maduro said, “The decision of December 3 (2023 referendum) has now become a law of the republic, to form part of the legal structure of the internal political and institutional movement of our country.”

He added, “Today we receive a law ratified in its organic nature by the TSJ (Venezuela’s Tribunal Supremo de Justicia- Supreme Tribunal of Justice; and with the power given to me by the constitution, the decision made by the Venezuelans in the consultative referendum will be fulfilled in all its parts, and with this law, we will continue the defense of Venezuela on international stages.”