Commonwealth reaffirms support for Guyana in face of Venezuela’s aggression

…says ICJ process to settle border controversy

File photo: Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland, KC, and President Dr Irfaan Ali during a visit in 2022

The Commonwealth Secretariat has expressed concern over the recent actions by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, who enacted laws to establish Guyana’s Essequibo region as a state within his country.
In a statement on Saturday, Commonwealth Secretary General Patricia Scotland disclosed that she received a letter on April 5, 2024 from President Dr Irfaan Ali, who is concerned that Venezuela’s next move would be to implement its plan for the seizure of Guyana’s sovereign territory – the Essequibo.
On Wednesday, President Maduro promulgated “the Organic Law for the Defense of Guayana Esequiba”. Maduro said this “Organic Law” would guarantee that the December 3, 2023 referendum would be fully implemented in the defence of Venezuela and its territory.
According to the Commonwealth missive, with this new law, Venezuela purports to exercise control over two-thirds of Guyana’s sovereign territory. It said this legislation appeared to not only create a new state in Venezuela but also allow the Head of State of Venezuela to have the power to elect a governor, and the National Assembly of Venezuela will have legislative functions in this territory. Additionally, all political maps of Venezuela will now include the ‘state of Guyana Essequiba’ following the Organic Law.
To this end, the Secretariat reminded of the December 1, 2023 provisional measures issued by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which states that pending the Court’s final decision in the case, “the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela shall refrain from taking any action which would modify the situation that currently prevails in the territory in dispute, whereby the Co-operative Republic of Guyana administers and exercises control over that area”.
Against this backdrop, SG Scotland reaffirmed her support for Guyana while also renewing the Commonwealth’s position that the border controversy between the two countries should be settled at the ICJ.
“Venezuela’s latest actions appear to directly contravene the ICJ Order and also the spirit of the 14 December 2023 Joint Declaration of Argyle for Dialogue and Peace between Guyana and Venezuela where both States agreed to use international law and diplomatic means to address the controversy and to refrain from escalating the conflict.
“The Commonwealth affirms that the ICJ process is the appropriate and lawful means to address the matter under international law,” she added.
In 2018, Guyana moved to the World Court seeking a final and binding ruling on the October 3, 1899 Arbitral Award, which settled the land boundary between the two countries.
However, Maduro on Wednesday declared that Venezuela does not and will never recognise the Arbitral Award, and also reiterated the Spanish-speaking nation’s non-recognition of the ICJ.

Commonwealth support
SG Scotland offered her continued support, as well as that of the Commonwealth, to help resolve this matter by peaceful means.
“I am encouraged by the firm and consistent support from the entire Commonwealth family for the Government and people of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana. I also call on member states to give whatever support they may feel appropriate to Guyana in this time of need,” she stated.
The Commonwealth Secretary General went on to urge the Government and people of Venezuela to abide by the principles of international law and to manage the controversy in ways that guarantee the peace and stability of the Caribbean region.
This is the first statement that has come out from an international body to condemn Venezuela’s latest aggression.
On Thursday, Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo had reassured the Guyanese citizenry that the Government remains vigilant on these latest developments coming out of Caracas and has notified its legal team as well as international partners.
“We’ve already notified all our partners. We’ve brought this to their attention – the bad faith negotiations of Venezuela. So, they’re aware of what’s happening. Many of them are expressing concern and also outrage about this approach [of] the untrustworthy nature of the regime there, and we are not going to let our guards down. So, I hope that the country recognises this,” Jagdeo stated during his weekly press conference at the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Freedom House headquarters.
According to Jagdeo, Maduro’s action, though not physical, is clearly a form of annexation by decree and/or by law. He added that this ran contrary to the Argyle Declaration agreed to by President Ali and President Maduro in St Vincent and the Grenadines on December 14, 2023.
At that Caricom/CELAC/Brazil-brokered historic face-to-face meeting, the two South American leaders came to several agreements, including that Guyana and Venezuela, directly or indirectly, would not threaten or use force against one another in any circumstance, including those consequential to any existing controversies between the two States. They also agreed that controversies between the two States would be resolved by international law, including the Geneva Agreement.
In light of this flagrant violation of that peace pact, the Guyana Government has since “put on notice” Venezuela along with other regional and international bodies including the Caribbean Community; the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the United Nations that it will not countenance the annexation, seizure or occupation of any part of its sovereign territory.
Meanwhile, President Ali has noted that while Guyana wants a peaceful coexistence with all its neighbours, the country is not naïve and is being very careful, very watchful about everything that is happening in Venezuela.
Guyana’s parliamentary Opposition, the A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC), has also condemned Venezuela’s actions. (G8)