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Venezuelan NGO wants best team to present case to World Court

By Ambassador Odeen Ishmael - Posted February 27th. 2018

The Venezuelan non-governmental organization (NGO), Citizen Control, specializing in national defence issues has accused the government of abandoning the claim to Guyana's Essequibo region during the past eighteen years, a claim which would be at greater risk when the case goes to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), also known as the World Court.

Despite rejection to the Court's involvement by both the government and the opposition, Citizen Control, nevertheless, remained firm on the opinion that Venezuela must present its case to the international court. In a statement published on its website on February 8, it declared: "It is time to look for the best team of Venezuelans, made up of the best prepared, to present this case before the International Court of Justice. That forces us to include and not exclude."

The organization also called on the country and the leadership of the armed forces to demand a public declaration by President Maduro on the strategy the Venezuelan government would follow to defend "Venezuela's rights over the Essequibo territory, which is part of the vital interests of the nation."

It also urged the armed forces, especially the Navy, "until the trial process of the International Court of Justice and its results," to exercise permanent surveillance, visit and examine the registration of any foreign ship navigating the marine areas of the claimed area, including the Atlantic facade of the mouths of "our Orinoco River and Continental Platform of the Delta Amacuro."

But Citizen Control, chaired by Rocío San Miguel, a specialist in military issues, still seemed worried about an eventual unfavourable ICJ ruling, saying: "The risks . . . are enormous, to the point that they represent the threat of an unquantifiable dispossession, for its territorial magnitude and the natural resources that the Essequibo territory possesses, to the heritage of present and future generations." At the same time, it added, the referral (and ultimate legal decision) would be "a geostrategic threat, in the terms of closing in perpetuity the frank exit from Venezuela to the Atlantic."

Meanwhile, the opposition-controlled powerless National Assembly- not recognized by the Maduro government-appointed a joint commission of on February 8 with the aim of preparing a report on the actions and omissions of the government on the Venezuelan territorial claim. This came after it rejected the UN decision to refer the territorial issue to the international court and insisted on the continued use of the UN Good Offices-which has shown no practical result since its application since 1990-as a method of resolution, asserting that the ICJ should not be considering the issue since "the controversy is not within the context maintained in the Geneva Agreement." Just the day before, the government-controlled Constituent Assembly, by a resolution, had also opposed the involvement of the ICJ.

This commission, headed by Unidad deputy William Davila, plans to hold sessions at the tiny border Ankoko Island-the Guyanese half of which is illegally occupied by Venezuela-and has requested the Navy to provide a report on air and maritime patrols in the border area, as well as the mapping of the "Atlantic Front of Venezuela, formed by the Gulf of Paria, the Caribbean Sea, the Orinoco Delta and the Reclamation Zone."

Davila said that the report emanating from the commission's work would be distributed to the UN, the Venezuelan armed forces, the diplomatic corps accredited in the country, and all national and international bodies. But how much influence the opposition commission will have is left to be seen.

In another development, the Venezuelan Minister of Defence, Vladimir Padrino Lopez, stated erroneously on his Twitter account on February 8 that the 1966 Geneva Agreement, "recognized the sovereignty of Venezuela over the Essequibo." He again repeated the mantra that the arbitral award rendered in 1899 as null and void and that it "illegally ceded" territory to Guyana.

"The whole knee-jerk strategy is to begin the dismemberment and fragmentation of Venezuela. We, like the Bolivarian National Armed Forces, demand that we return to the Geneva Agreement, because we are not going to renounce the Essequibo territory," the minister stated.

All of these developments are occurring at a time when Venezuela is experiencing a severe economic crisis. While the political leaderships (of both the government and opposition) show unity in taking a position against the ICJ referral, it is questionable whether the large majority of the citizens-who are more concerned with issued affecting their daily livelihood-want the border issue to remain static, as it has been since the signing of the Geneva Agreement more than fifty years ago. But it is now clearly apparent that the politicians do not want a legal solution since they already show an anticipated dread that such a resolution would not be what they desire.

February 27th, 2018

(Dr. Odeen Ishmael, Ambassador Emeritus (retired), historian and author, served as Guyana's ambassador in the USA (1993-2003), Venezuela 2003-2011) and Kuwait and Qatar (2011-2014). He actively participated in meetings of UNASUR from 2003 to 2010 and has written extensively on South American integration issues.)
(The views expressed in this article are solely those of the writer and not necessarily those of the Government of Guyana.)

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