In response to news that Venezuelans had decisively voted in favor of their government’s claim to the resource-rich Essequibo area, Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo of Guyana said his nation would brace for the worst as it works to protect itself “by any means necessary.” Guyana is made up of two-thirds Essequibo.
The goal of the Nicolas Maduro-led Venezuelan government has been to claim possession of the Essequibo. This claim is being contested by Guyana, and the International Court of Justice is now hearing the case (ICJ).
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Ten million Venezuelans took part in the referendum on November 3, 2023, according to government officials. The percentage of voters who supported each of the five issues asserting national sovereignty over the Essequibo and rejecting the jurisdiction of the ICJ ranged from 95.4% to 98.11%. 20 million people were believed to be eligible to vote.
While attending a UN summit in Dubai, Jagdeo gave an interview to the news media. Guyana in which he expressed doubts about Venezuela using force to seize the territory. Nevertheless, he said that his administration was collaborating with foreign partners to enhance Guyana’s standing, among other things.
Jagdeo stated, “We don’t believe they have a mandate for anything and, secondly, that they will invade Guyana.”
He claimed that although evaluations by the media globally and other organizations indicated that Venezuela would not invade, the leadership of Guyana could not accept such guarantees from Maduro’s administration.
He remarked, “Even if that is so, we have to be prepared for any eventuality and we must not let our guard down or let ourselves be less vigilant.
The Vice-President stated, “We have to be very vigilant in this upcoming period because the Venezuelan leadership has shown itself to be very unpredictable and, therefore, that is why we have been working with our partners to ensure that we enhance defense cooperation, so that should the worse outcome happen, that we can defend our country by all means necessary.”
Jagdeo claimed Guyana was not a hostile nation and that it was only taking precautions.
“We are not one that will threaten Venezuela so we are acting purely in a precautionary manner and in a defense capability, but that does not mean that, should they defy the international code of justice, or defy the consensus in the world, we would just sit down and accept it.”
Ankoko Island’s border was crossed by Venezuelan forces in October 1966, five months after Guyana declared its independence from Britain. They took control of the southern half of the island and constructed an airfield. Following the division of the island, Venezuela received half of it.
Jagdeo responded as follows when asked if Venezuela will similarly use the Essequibo: “I don’t want to deal with hypotheticals.
“We don’t to seem as belligerent as Venezuela has been because that’s language for them.”
He shared, “We have made it clear, we are before the ICJ (International Court of Justice).
Guyana would not withdraw its lawsuit from the ICJ, according to Jagdeo.
“The ICJ has made it clear that they intend to hear the case to its finality. We believe we have a strong case.
“Venezuela will have a very hard time proving the 1899 award was flawed, and we believe we’d have an entirely positive ruling in our favor once the substantive matter is concluded definitively by the court.”
The ICJ ruled last week that Venezuela must abstain from taking any steps that may affect Guyana’s sovereignty over the Essequibo.
However, Venezuela has repeatedly rejected the ICJ and does not recognize it.
Rather, it is based on the Geneva Agreement of 1966, which called for a negotiated resolution of the borders—a conclusion that never happened.
Even though about half of the eligible voters cast ballots on Nov 3, 2023, Jagdeo said he thought Maduro “rigged” the results and declared the referendum a failure for the Venezuelan administration.
“People just rejected that. They saw it as a distraction from the electoral problems that Maduro faces at home.”