Venezuela’s international hypocrisy

Ever since the end of WWII, there have been attempts to bring some kind of order in the international arena… exemplified by the “naturalness” of that description as an “arena”; an area of competition which should follow some agreed-upon rules. But, as usually happens after wars, the victors dominated the process so that, in the UN and other institutions launched, like the IMF, ICJ etc., they arranged that they had an advantage, rather than creating a democratic system writ large.
However, the UN Charter did stress the importance of nations engaging each other when their interests conflicted – as would inevitably happen. This approach was summarized by the term “multilateralism”, and became the centrepiece of the UN’s ethos. Just last year, in a UNSC meeting on “Effective Multilateralism Through the Defence of the Principles of the United Nations Charter and the 1970 Declaration on Principles of International Law”, the UN Secretary-General said: “Multilateral cooperation is the beating heart of the United Nations, its raison d’être and guiding vision.”
Three years before, Venezuela had taken the lead at the UN to launch a “Group of Friends in Defense of the United Nations (UN) Charter,” (GFUNC) to promote a multipolar international order and respect for international law. The group included Algeria, Angola, Belarus, Bolivia, Cambodia, China, Cuba, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Iran, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Nicaragua, the State of Palestine, Russia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Syria, and of course Venezuela. They were later joined by Equatorial Guinea, Zimbabwe and Mali.
The 1970 Declaration mentioned last year by Secretary-General Guterres had been ratified by the General Assembly in the Declaration on Friendly Relations 1970 GA res 2625: “Every State must refrain from the threat or use of force to violate the existing international boundaries of another State or as a means of solving international disputes, including territorial disputes and problems concerning frontiers of States.” As such, it was quite hypocritical of Venezuela to be leading an organization that purports to defend the UN Charter while it has simultaneously been working assiduously to annex two-thirds of our national territory Essequibo.
It is of note that the so-called GFUNC was launched by Venezuela two years after 2018, when we resorted to the terms of the Geneva Agreement they had signed in 1966 to settle the border controversy precipitated by their claim. The Geneva Agreement had explicitly stated that upon a failure to arrive at a consensual agreement via bilateral negotiations, either party could submit the controversy to the UN Secretary General to select one of the dispute resolution options adumbrated by Art 33 of the UN Charter. The Secty General chose the “judicial settlement” option, and transferred the controversy to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which is an institution of the UN.
In 2018, Venezuela immediately declared that the Court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case, and announced that it would not be participating in the proceedings. The Court held that, in the circumstances of the case, it was necessary first of all to resolve the question of its jurisdiction; and that, accordingly, it should rule on this question separately before any proceedings on the merits. In December 2020, the Court found that it had jurisdiction to entertain the Application filed by Guyana in so far as it concerns the validity of the 1899 Award and the related question of the definitive settlement of the land boundary dispute between Guyana and Venezuela. Yet Maduro hypocritically went ahead to annex Essequibo.
Yet Venezuela, which only months before had formed the GFUNC, again refused to accept the ICJ’s decision, and last year was to thumb its nose at the UN Charter and the ICJ by unilaterally declaring it was annexing Essequibo and establishing it as a Venezuelan Province.
It was therefore not surprising when, last week, Russia’s Foreign Minister Lavrov – whose country had unilaterally invaded Ukraine – praised Venezuela’s leadership as a founder of the GFUNC “in the fight for multilateralism.”