Aggressive Takeover Threat Posed against Tiny GuyanaDecember 5, 2023
The 95% approval of the disputed territory annex plebiscite in Venezuela, led by dictator Nicolas Maduro, is a dangerous development that could potentially lead to a Venezuelan invasion disguised as an act of popular will. Historically, the dispute over the territory began when Venezuela achieved independence from Spain in the 1820s and the demarcation line with the British-controlled Guyana to the east was contested. This led to ongoing claims by Venezuela for more than two-thirds of the territory.
The involvement of the U.S. under President Grover Cleveland in 1895 invoked the Monroe Doctrine to defend Venezuela from British bullying, and a commission was formed to settle the matter, with the U.S. and Britain represented by prominent figures and a neutral Russian judge as a tiebreaker. The decision mostly favored Britain, but Venezuela continued to stew over the issue.
In 1966, as Britain prepared to grant Guyana independence, a new agreement was reached with Venezuela to have further discussions about the disputed territory. The case was eventually turned over to the World Court, with Guyana seeking to uphold the 1899 border. However, Maduro organized a referendum to reject the World Court’s jurisdiction and seek approval from Venezuelans to declare a new state on the disputed territory held by Guyana.
Questions related to rejecting the 1899 Paris Arbitration Award, rejecting the World Court’s jurisdiction, and declaring a new Venezuelan state on the disputed territory were posed in the referendum. Stakes are high due to ExxonMobil’s discovery of a major oil field offshore, leading to suspicions about Maduro’s motivations.
With Venezuela’s population of 29 million and greater than 7 million refugees, compared to Guyana’s 800,000 people, concerns about potential bullying and the impact of annexation on the economy are raised. The outcome of this territorial dispute remains a critical issue for both countries.