Our Southern Connection

The official visit of Brazil’s Minister of Defence, Raul Jungman, along with the Minister of Justice, Mr Torquato Lorena Jardim, and a large delegation that included several Generals of the Brazilian Army comes at a very opportune moment for our country. After more than five decades of being held to ransom by the Venezuelan claim to two-thirds of our national territory, we have at last being granted our request: that the matter be submitted to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) for arbitration.
The Venezuelans, disappointingly but not surprisingly, have opposed the decision of the UN Secretary-General, who selected the option as was his prerogative, since it was one of the methods of peaceful settlement of disputes as adumbrated by Art 33 of the UN Charter, and was incorporated in the Geneva Agreement which was signed by Venezuela. Even though the ICJ’s decision is binding on Venezuela in the international system, we can expect that country to continue with its attempts to bully us.
The Venezuelans are caught in an artifice of their own making, since from the moment they created the controversy in 1962, all political elements have made their claim a fiercely nationalistic issue, around which they have all rallied. They have incorporated it into their constitution in a clause beyond their amendment powers. As such, when the ICJ issues its decision, it does not matter which party is in power in Venezuela, they will reject the decision, which is sure to dismiss their claim about the invalidity of the 1899 Arbitral Award.
The Venezuelans know that is the most probable outcome, and that is the reason why they have fought tooth and nail to not have the controversy end up in the World Court. In the era when the Arbitral Panel was established, the European powers were sitting in rooms in their capitals drawing lines on maps to divide continents among themselves, and to allege that “deals” were cut to establish boundaries would be to state the obvious. If those borders in the present were to be redrawn to unravel those “deals”, a Pandora’s Box would be opened that would create a global conflagration.
As a matter of the historical record, at the time, the British were attempting to extend the western boundary of their colony all the way to the mouth of the Orinoco, and it was the reason why, on the basis of their Monroe Doctrine, the US intervened on the side of the Venezuelans.
At the time, all parties were quite pleased that the British were stymied. For the Venezuelans to then accept the present borders for sixty-three years and include them in all their maps etc., and then cry “foul” is a non-starter as a basis for redrawing borders. It is for this reason the Venezuelans have always insisted on a “practical”, non-judicial solution. Unfortunately for them, “boat now gone a falls”.
But to counter their belligerence, as we have advised before in this space, Guyana has to replicate the diplomatic offensive it launched in the immediate post-independence period when it repelled their aggressive actions. In this regard, Brazil is a most valuable ally, since it has historically taken offence at Venezuela’s pretentions “Venezuela uber alles” in Latin American leadership. Just as pertinently — as mentioned by Brazil’s visiting Minister of Defence — while Brazil has borders with ten neighbours, it does not have disputes with any. Like it did with our common southern border, these were demarcated quietly, without any fanfare or bullyism.
It is important, therefore, to appreciate the significance of the minister’s words, even couched in polite diplomatese:“We understand that South America, like everywhere else in the world, there is no place for force…what we have to do, we have to reinforce the international rights of the people, sovereignty of the people…Brazil understands that, for the stability of South America, the prevalence of international law, resolution of conflicts, and the compromise of justice, peace and democracy will be required from the people of Brazil.”
Long live Brazil-Guyana friendship!