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Guyana vows to maintain ownership of Essequibo

April 4, 2024

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, CMC – Guyana has vowed to maintain its position regarding the ownership of the Essequibo region, as the United States dismissed a claim by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro that Washington is building secret military bases there.

Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo said Georgetown will not back down from protecting its land and sovereignty and Venezuela’s latest actions are a form of annexation by decree,  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,” Jagdeo told his weekly news conference on Thursday.

Earlier, Washington had dismissed claims by Maduro that it is building secret military bases in Essequibo, an oil-rich region of Guyana that makes up about two-thirds of the country and is home to 125,000 of its 800,000 citizens.

“There’s no plans for a secret military base,” White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said, urging both sides to abide by an 1899 court ruling on the border “and to do it peacefully”.

On Wednesday, Maduro, campaigning for the upcoming Presidential election,  alleged secret US military bases in Essequibo, calling them “aggression” and saying they were built “to prepare for an escalation against Venezuela.”

“We have information indicating that in the territory of Guyana Essequibo, temporarily administered by Guyana, secret military bases of the US Southern Command, an agency of the CIA, have been installed,” Maduro said.

He also claimed that Guyana’s President Irfaan Ali, “does not govern Guyana” and that “Guyana is controlled by the Southern Command, the CIA and ExxonMobil.”

His remarks follow the Venezuelan Parliament holding a ceremony commemorating a recent law laying out the defence of Guyana Essequibo, four months after a controversial, non-binding referendum overwhelmingly approved the creation of a Venezuelan province in the disputed region, sparking fears of a military conflict.

Guyana called Venezuela’s move to claim Essequibo an “egregious violation of the most fundamental principles of international law.”

Jagdeo said that Guyana has already engaged its international partners on this latest development and they have already expressed outrage at Venezuela’s untrustworthy nature.

“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,” Jagdeo affirmed.

Guyana’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation has also voiced strong condemnation of Venezuela’s actions, reminding that if Caracas wants to contest the title to the territory in question, the proper forum is the ICJ.

Last December, both Presidents Ali and Maduro met in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and later signed the Argyle Declaration

The Joint Declaration of Argyle for Dialogue and Peace between Guyana and Venezuela said that the two countries agreed that “any controversies” between them would be resolved in accordance with international law, including the Geneva Agreement dated February 17, 1966.

The Joint Declaration issued following talks in Kingstown, St. Vincent last December between President Irfaan Ali and President Nicolas Maduro over the disputed Essequibo region, also indicated that the two countries agreed that “any controversies” between them will be resolved in accordance with international law, including the Geneva Agreement dated February 17, 1966.

According to the joint declaration, the two leaders said they are committed to the pursuance of good neighbourliness, peaceful coexistence, and the unity of Latin America and the Caribbean.

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