The Trail Of Diplomacy

A Documentary History of the Guyana-Venezuela Border Issue
by Odeen Ishmael
© Copyright 1998


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The Allegations of Mallet-Prevost

It was clear that Venezuela had accepted the 1899 Award as a final settlement of the border dispute. Even as late as 1941, as stated earlier, the Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Affairs had agreed that the frontier with British Guiana was well defined and was a closed issue.

However, in February 1944, forty-five years after the Arbitral Award, Severo Mallet-Prevost, one of the four lawyers who had appeared for Venezuela before the Arbitral Tribunal, wrote a memorandum in which, for the first time, he attacked the Award on the alleged grounds that it was the result of a political deal between Great Britain and Russia. However, he refused to make the memorandum public and instructed that it should be published until after his death. He added that publication of the memorandum must only be done at the discretion of his associate, Dr. Otto Shoenrich, a junior partner of his law firm. It must be noted that Mallet-Prevost wrote his memorandum just one month after he was awarded the highest Venezuelan national award, the Order of the Liberator, for his work on behalf of Venezuela before the Arbitral Tribunal.

Mallet-Prevost eventually died on the 12 December 1948, and in July 1949 Dr. Shoenrich published the memorandum. By this time all the other persons who participated in the case in 1899 had all long died, and those whom he attacked in his statement could no longer refute the charges that he made against them.


The memorandum of Mallet-Prevost, dated 8 February 1944, was published in the American Journal of International Law, Volume 43, Number 3, of July 1949. It stated:

Justice Brewer and I sailed for Europe in January 1899 in order to attend the first meeting of the Arbitral Tribunal which was to meet in Paris for the purpose of deciding the boundary between Venezuela and Great Britain. The terms of the Protocol which had been signed between Great Britain and Venezuela required that the Tribunal should meet at that time. However, as it was found inconvenient for all those who should be connected with the arbitration to meet on that date it was decided to hold merely a preliminary meeting, so as to comply with the terms of the Protocol, and then adjourn to a more convenient date.

Before going to Paris, Justice Brewer and I stopped in London. While there Mr. Henry White, Charge d'Affaires for the United States, gave us a small dinner to which Lord Chief Justice Russell was invited. I sat next to Lord Russell and, in the course of conversation, ventured to express the opinion that international arbitrations should base their decisions exclusively on legal grounds.

Lord Russell immediately responded saying: "I entirely disagree with you. I think that international arbitrations should be conducted on broader lines, and that they should take into consideration questions of international policy." From that moment I knew that we could not count upon Lord Russell to decide the boundary question on the basis of strict rights.

When we assembled in Paris the following June, I met Lord Collins for the first time. During the speeches by Sir Richard Webster, the Attorney General, and by myself (the two of which consumed 26 days) it was quite obvious that Lord Collins was sincerely interested in getting at the full facts of the case and in ascertaining the law applicable to those facts. He, of course, gave no indication as to how he might vote on the subject, but his whole attitude and the numerous questions which he asked were critical of the British contentions and gave the impression that he was leaning toward the side of Venezuela.

After Sir Richard Webster and I had concluded our speeches, the Tribunal adjourned for a short two weeks' holiday. The two British Arbitrators returned to England and took Mr. (de) Martens with them.

When we resumed our sittings at the end of the recess, the change in Lord Collins was noticeable. He asked very few questions, and his attitude was certainly different from what it had been. It looked to us (by which I mean the counsel for Venezuela) as though something must have happened in London to bring about the change.

When all the speeches had been concluded in the month of August or early September, the court adjourned so as to allow the arbitrators to confer and render their decision. Several days passed while we anxiously waited, but one afternoon I received a message from Justice Brewer saying that he and Justice Fuller would like to speak with me and asking me to meet them at their hotel. I immediately went there.

When I was shown into the apartment where the two American arbitrators were waiting for me, Justice Brewer arose and said quite excitedly:

"Mallet-Prevost, it is useless any longer to keep up this farce pretending that we are judges and that you are counsel. The Chief (Fuller) and I have decided to disclose to you confidentially just what has passed. Martens has been to see us. He informs us that Russell and Collins are ready to decide in favor of the Schomburgk Line, which starting from Point Barima on the coast would give Great Britain the control of the main mouth of the Orinoco; and that if we insist on starting the line on the coast at the Moruca River he will side with the British and approve the Schomburgk Line as the true boundary.

"However, he added that he, Martens, is anxious to have a unanimous decision; and if we will agree to accept the line which he proposes, he will secure the acquiescence of Lord Russell and Lord Collins and so make the decision unanimous.

"What Martens then proposed was that the line on the coast should start at some distance south-east of Point Barima so as to give Venezuela control of the Orinoco mouth; and that the line should connect with the Schomburgk Line at some distance in the interior leaving to Venezuela the control of the Orinoco mouth and some 5000 square miles of territory around the mouth.

"That is what Martens has proposed. The Chief and I are of the opinion that the boundary on the coast should start at the Moruca River. The question for us to decide is as to whether we shall agree to Martens' proposal or whether we shall file dissenting opinions. Under these circumstances, the Chief and I have decided that we must consult you, and I now state to you that we are prepared to follow whichever of the two courses you wish us to do."

From what Justice Brewer had just said, and from the change which we had all noticed in Lord Collins, I became convinced and still believe that during Martens' visit to England, a deal had been concluded between Russia and Great Britain to decide the case along the lines suggested by Martens and that pressure to that end had in some way been exerted on Collins to follow that course.

I naturally felt that the responsibility which I was asked to shoulder was greater than I could alone bear. I so stated to the two arbitrators and I asked for permission to consult General Harrison. This they gave and I immediately went to General Harrison's apartment to confer on the subject.

After disclosing to General Harrison what had just passed, he rose in indignation and pacing the floor, described the action of Great Britain and Russia in terms which it is needless for me to repeat. His first reaction was to ask Fuller and Brewer to file dissenting opinions, but, after cooling down and considering the matter from a practical standpoint, he said: "Mallet-Prevost, if it should ever be known that we had it in our power to save for Venezuela the mouth of the Orinoco and failed to do so, we should never be forgiven. What Martens proposes is iniquitous but I see nothing for Fuller and Brewer to do but to agree."

I concurred with General Harrison and so advised Chief Justice Fuller and Justice Brewer. The decision which was accordingly rendered was unanimous, but while it gave to Venezuela the most important strategic point at issue, it was unjust to Venezuela and deprived her of very extensive territory to which, in my opinion, Great Britain had not the shadow of a right.


These allegations made by Mallet-Prevost were carefully examined in an article by the American historian, Clifton Child in October 1950 in Volume 44, Number 4 of the American Journal of International Law.

Child, a former Commonwealth Fund Fellow at the University of Wisconsin, consulted all the volumes in the British Foreign Office, the verbatim records of the Tribunal, as well as the dispatches passing between London, Petrograd (St. Petersburg) and New York during the relevant period. The conclusion which he drew from this study was that there was "not a single document which, by the widest stretch of the imagination, could be considered to indicate a deal between Great Britain and Russia of the sort suspected by Mr. Mallet-Prevost".

The following is the text of Child's article:


In his note on "The Venezuela-British Guiana Boundary Dispute," (this JOURNAL, Vol. 43 (1949), pp. 528-680), Judge Otto Schoenrich publishes a memorandum by the late Severo Mallet-Prevost which, if it were the only evidence upon which the fairness of the arbitration of 1899 could be judged, would bring the justice of the award seriously into question. Fortunately, however, it is not necessary to rely either upon the recollections of Mr. Mallet-Prevost or upon the construction placed upon these and other facts relating to the boundary dispute by Judge Schoenrich in order to learn the truth of how the Tribunal came to make its award. There are the voluminous files of the British Foreign Office on the arbitration to which reference may be made and there is the verbatim record of the Tribunal, taken down by six shorthand writers, printed day by day as the Tribunal sat, and then issued in 54 parts. There are also the files-often most informative-of contemporary newspapers (for the arbitration took place at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs under the watchful eye of the press).

It was perhaps only to be expected that some day, after turning the matter over in his mind for so long, Mr. Mallet-Prevost would eventually produce a theory to justify the attack which he and General Harrison, the senior Counsel for Venezuela, launched upon the Tribunal immediately after the award was announced on October 3, 1899. On that occasion Mr. Mallet-Prevost and General Harrison made a statement to Reuter's correspondent which, after claiming "victory" for Venezuela in terms which will be referred to later in this paper, concluded as follows:

The President of the Tribunal . . . had in his closing address today commented on the unanimity of the present judgment and referred to it as a proof of the success of the arbitration. It did not, however, require much intelligence to penetrate behind this superficial statement and see that the line drawn was a line of compromise and not a line of right. If the British contention had been right, the line should have been drawn much further west. If it had been wrong, then it should have been drawn much further east. There was nothing in the history of the controversy, nor in fact in the legal principle involved, which could adequately explain why the line should be drawn as it was now found. So long as arbitration was to be conducted on such principles it could not be regarded as a success, at least by those who believed that arbitration would result in an admission of legal rights and not in compromises really diplomatic in their character. Venezuela had gained much, but she was entitled to much more, and if the arbitrators were unanimous it must be because their failure to agree would have confirmed Great Britain in the possession of even more territory. [The Times (London), Oct. 4, 1899]

In view of the charges which have now been ventilated in Mr. Mallet-Prevost's memorandum, the language of this attack is significant. For it will be noted that, although he and General Harrison did not spare the Tribunal, nor, indeed, the two American judges who were members of it, the only suggestion of impropriety which they made in connection with the award was that it was essentially a compromise, rather than the admission of right on the part of one side or the other, and that it consequently deprived Venezuela of territory to which her Counsel (naturally enough) believed her to be legally entitled.

There was no complaint that this compromise resulted from undue pressure upon the judges by the Russian President of the Tribunal, M. de Martens, or from a "deal" between Russia and Great Britain, as alleged in Mr. Mallet-Prevost's memorandum. Nor was there any appeal to the American judges, as there might reasonably have been, if Mr. Mallet-Prevost's present charge is true, to enter a protest against the false position in which they had supposedly been placed by the President of the Tribunal and to let it be known that, if they had concurred in the unanimous award of the Tribunal, they had done so against their own better judgments. In fact, apart from the resentment which the Counsel for Venezuela apparently felt against the verdict, there were none of the elements of the story as Mr. Mallet-Prevost now tells it - a circumstance which makes it tempting to assume that, in nursing his grievance against the Tribunal through the years, Mr. Mallet-Prevost allowed his imagination to supply a number of details which were missing from the statement which he and General Harrison made in 1899.

This was not the only extent to which the picture apparently changed in Mr. Mallet-Prevost's mind between 1899 and 1944, when he dictated his statement; and thus, before proceeding to examine his principal allegation regarding the "deal" between Great Britain and Russia, it becomes necessary to consider some of the major errors which he allowed to creep into the story and, above all, to call attention to the tricks which his memory apparently played with the facts which he adduces in support of his statement.

The first error in Mr. Mallet-Prevost's account relates to the role of Lord Chief Justice Russell, one of the British judges, in the arbitration. After recording the conversation which he had with Lord Russell at dinner in January, 1899, Mr. Mallet-Prevost observes that, from that moment, he knew that he "could not count upon Lord Russell to decide the boundary question on the basis of strict rights." The fact is, however, that, in January, 1899, when Mr. Mallet-Prevost dined with him, the Lord Chief Justice was in no way connected with the boundary dispute and had no prospect of being involved in the arbitration. At that time the arbitrators were M. de Martens, Chief Justice Fuller, Justice Brewer, Lord Justice Collins and Lord Herschel - as provided for in Article II of the Anglo-Venezuelan Treaty of February 2, 1897. As the first British arbitrator nominated by the Judicial Committee of the British Privy Council, again in accordance with Article II of the Treaty, Lord Herschel was, in January, 1899, actively concerned with the preliminaries of the arbitration, although he was prevented by other business (as was Chief Justice Fuller) from attending the brief and formal first meeting of the Tribunal on January 25. And it was only with his sudden death, after a fall in the street in Washington, D C. on March 1, 1899 (i.e., two months after Mr. Mallet-Prevost's conversation with Lord Russell), that it became necessary to bring in another arbitrator to replace him. It was then, and only then, that Lord Russell became involved in the arbitration, and it is consequently sheer nonsense for Mr. Mallet-Provost to suggest that, from the moment when he dined with the Lord Chief Justice in January, he knew that he could not count upon the latter to be fair, and for Judge Schoenrich to adduce this "circumstance" as having led Mr. Mallet-Prevost to the opinion that a "deal" was concluded behind the scenes between Great Britain and Russia.

In the case of Lord Justice Collins, the other British arbitrator, Mr. Mallet-Prevost's memory seems to have been equally at fault. Of Lord Justice Collins Mr. Mallet-Prevost says that, at first, "his whole attitude and the numerous questions which he asked were critical of the British contentions and gave the impression that he was leaning toward the side of Venezuela"; and that, after the "short two weeks holiday" of the Tribunal (when he and Lord Russell allegedly took the President of the Tribunal with them to England and when the "deal" between Great Britain and Russia was allegedly concluded) the "change in [him] was noticeable," i.e., "he asked very few questions and his whole attitude was entirely different from what it had been."

Now, as Mr. Mallet-Prevost must have known in 1899, even though he apparently overlooked the fact later, every word spoken by Lord Justice Collins as long as he sat on the Tribunal, and every word spoken by every other judge and counsel participating in the arbitration, was entered in the verbatim record which was printed at the end of each day's proceedings; so that, had Mr. Mallet-Prevost checked his statement against the record, the following facts could not possibly have escaped his notice:

1. Taking his recorded remarks as a whole, Lord Justice Coffins gave no tangible indication that he was ''leaning toward the side of Venezuela" or, indeed, toward the side of Great Britain, either before or after the crucial recess. He allowed Lord Russell to do the greater part of the questioning during Sir Richard Webster's opening speech for Great Britain (June 15-July 18). He followed Mr. Mallet-Prevost with a number of critical questions and observations during the latter's opening speech for Venezuela (July 21-August 10), mildly rebuking him on July 24 for the manner in which he presented his evidence. He gave the same alert attention to the ensuing speeches (Mr. Soley, August 12-29; Sir Robert Reid, August 30-September 4; Mr. G. R. Askwith, September 5-7; General Tracy, September 7-15; Sir Richard Webster, September 15-19; and General Harrison, September 19-27). He questioned the British Counsel, Sir Robert Reid and Mr. Askwith, as frequently as he questioned General Tracy, with whom he had long exchanges on September 12 over the latter's interpretation of the Treaty of Munster. Both he and Lord Russell continued to put searching questions to Sir Richard Webster during the latter's summing up. On the other hand, his interruptions during General Harrison's final speech were on the whole not unhelpful to the latter in rounding off the case for Venezuela.

2. Lord Justice Collins' questions and interjections varied in number from 0 to 30 per session before the recess, except on July 31 and August 3, when they numbered 36 and 72 respectively (during Mr. Mallet-Prevost's own speech). They varied from 0 to 29 per session after the recess, the total reaching 29 during the first session after the recess, when the change in him would presumably have been most noticeable had he suddenly become ''taciturn and listless" (as Judge Schoenrich puts it).

3. After the recess, as indeed before, Lord Justice Collins tended to ask as many questions as Chief Justice Fuller and Justice Brewer, who were presumably not "taciturn and listless."

Apart from these errors in regard to the roles of Lord Russell and Lord Justice Collins, there are minor misstatements of fact in Mr. Mallet-Prevost's narrative which also show how badly his memory must have served him. For instance, he states that after he and Sir Richard Webster had concluded their speeches "the Tribunal adjourned for a short two weeks holiday." Now had he deemed it worth his while to refresh his recollection by reference to the printed record, Mr. Mallet-Prevost would have been reminded that the Tribunal did not adjourn after hearing Sir Richard Webster and himself, but went straight on to hear the "argument" of Mr. Soley. It was then, in the very middle of Mr. Soley's "argument", that the Tribunal did adjourn, but only for nine days (August 16-25), and not for "two weeks", as stated by Mr. Mallet-Prevost. (This was only one of the Tribunal's ten adjournments, but as it was the longest, although not by very much, we must assume that it was the one which Mr. Mallet-Prevost had in mind.)

As for Mr. Mallet-Prevost's cardinal allegation that a "deal" was concluded between Great Britain and Russia in 1899 to decide the arbitration in the manner described in his statement, it ought perhaps in the first place to be pointed out that the very suggestion that the British felt it necessary to negotiate such a "deal" implies that by the end of Mr. Mallet-Prevost's speech the proceedings were going so badly for them that they felt that they had to resort to subterfuge in order to make their position more secure. The fact is, however, that Mr. Mallet-Prevost's case gave the British no cause for anxiety. At one stage in his "argument" the President of the Tribunal [at the meeting of July 31] had felt constrained to suggest to him that, in the interest of brevity, he might make certain changes in his method of presenting his evidence; and, after he wound up on August 10, the British Agent, Mr. George W. Buchanan, was able to report to Lord Salisbury that the Tribunal had not, in his opinion, been very profoundly impressed by his performance. He wrote:

The speech which Mr. M-P thus brought to a close has not, I believe, made any real impression on the Tribunal. It has attacked the British position too much in detail, and any success which he may have obtained has been of a purely negative character. [Mr. Buchanan to Lord Salisbury, on 10 August 1899.]

Nor did Mr. Buchanan feel at any time that the case was going badly for Great Britain. On the contrary, he continued to send in optimistic reports throughout the proceedings. At the end of Mr. Soley's speech he thought that the Tribunal was impressed by the fact that Point Barima lay within the British sphere of influence [Mr. Buchanan to Lord Salisbury, 29 August 1899]. He considered that General Tracy, who had "wearied his listeners by reading out a written speech full of endless repetitions," had "made no impression whatsoever on the Tribunal" [Mr. Buchanan to Lord Salisbury, 15 September 1899]; and of General Harrison's final speech he wrote:

In spite of the force and eloquence with which General Harrison has supported the contention that Venezuela as successor to Spain is invested with a prior and paramount title to the territory in dispute, the speech which he has today brought to a close has, I think, failed to make any serious impression on the Tribunal. [Mr. Buchanan to Lord Salisbury, No. 156 of September 27, 1899.]

It is consequently not surprising, perhaps, to find that, in the fifteen bound volumes of British Foreign Office papers relating to the arbitration and in the almost equally voluminous dispatches and telegrams which passed between London and St. Petersburg during this period there is not one single document which by the widest stretch of the imagination could be considered to indicate a "deal" between Great Britain and Russia of the sort suspected by Mr. Mallet-Prevost.

How, in any case, do the steps which were allegedly taken to conclude that "deal" during the crucial recess of the Tribunal in August fit in with what is otherwise known of the movements of the leading figures in the drama? If we are to believe Mr. Mallet-Prevost, "the two British arbitrators returned to England" during the recess "and took Mr. Martens with them." In the case of Lord Russell the first part of this statement is certainly true, for there is confirmation in the London Times of August 18, 1899, Court Circular (page 4), that "the Lord Chief Justice (Lord Russell of Killowen) returned from Paris yesterday to his country house, Tadworth Court, near Epsom." There is, however, no mention of the movements of Lord Justice Collins. Nor is it recorded that M. de Martens accompanied Lord Russell. In fact there is no mention of M. de Martens having visited Great Britain at all, although M. de Martens was very much in the public eye at the time, not only as President of the Tribunal, but as a prominent figure at the First Hague Conference; so that it seems hardly likely that the Times [of 23 August 1899] would have ignored him if it had been known that he was returning with Lord Russell. The absence of any mention of the movements of Lord Justice Collins is also remarkable because there is a full account of the movements of the others concerned in the arbitration. For instance, the Times of August 19 (Court Circular, p. 7) reported that Sir Robert Reid, one of the Counsel for Great Britain, had "returned to his country house at Kingsdown, near Walmer, from Paris"; and the Times of August 18 (Court Circular, p. 4) likewise reported that the Attorney General, Sir Richard Webster, had "left Paris for Switzerland for a short holiday."

But supposing that M. de Martens was taken to England unnoticed by the press in order to participate in a "deal" between Great Britain and Russia, is it likely that the leading British Counsel and the Law Officer of the British Crown most intimately concerned with the handling of the British case - Her Majesty's Attorney General-would have chosen this particular moment to go off in the opposite direction to Switzerland for a holiday? And would Lord Salisbury, who was following the proceedings with the utmost interest, also have chosen this particular time to retire to Walmer Castle in order to be with the Marchioness (then recovering from a serious illness) [The Times, 16 August 1899], so that he was right out of the picture until the Queen summoned him to Osborne on August 24? [The Times, 25 August 1899].

Had Mr. Mallet-Prevost reflected for a moment upon the state of relations between Great Britain and Russia in the summer of 1899 he must inevitably have realized how difficult, if not impossible, from a political point of view, a "deal" between the two countries would have been. One agreement-the Exchange of Notes of April 28, 1899, defining spheres of influence for the construction of railways in China-had admittedly been reached earlier in the year, but this had done so little to relieve the tension between the two countries in the Far East that this was still at its height when Mr. John Hay, the United States Secretary of State, stepped in to proclaim his "Open Door" policy. Such, indeed, were the relations between Great Britain and Russia in the summer of 1899 that the First Secretary at the German Embassy in St. Petersburg, von Tschirschky, was constrained to report:

I do not believe that there is scope within the framework of Russian policy-or, as far as I can imagine, within that of English policy-[for the two countries] to reach agreement and bind themselves in writing on general political questions of this nature. Moreover, it seems to me that the basis for such an agreement between these States is lacking because, in view of the inability of Russia in practice to oppose British claims to the Persian Gulf, Russia's undertaking to give up her own pretensions to the Persian Gulf would have little value for England. [Report of von Tschirschky, First Secretary of the German Embassy in St. Petersburg, 3 July 1899.]

Nor did the attitude adopted by the Russians in the Transvaal crisis bring any improvement in the situation. Indeed, so violent were the pro-Boer outbursts in the Russian press that the British Chargé d'Affaires at St. Petersburg, Mr. Charles Hardinge, was moved, on October 18, 1899, to write a long and impassioned despatch to Lord Salisbury, drawing the British Foreign Secretary's attention to the "bitterness and hostility" which was being displayed towards Great Britain, and pointing out that, in view of the control normally exercised over the Russian editors, these were undoubtedly receiving official blessing and support.

If, therefore, there is no real evidence of a "deal"-and, indeed, no conceivable basis for one-between Great Britain and Russia on the Venezuelan Boundary question, how in fact are the peculiar circumstances which Mr. Mallet-Prevost seeks to attribute to the award to be explained? Is it not necessary here to take into account the attitude of the President of the Tribunal, whose desire to have a unanimous award seems to provide the key to the whole situation? Indeed, was it not M. de Martens' desire for unanimity which caused him, in bringing both parties to accept a compromise, to put pressure upon the British judges, as well as upon their American colleagues? And did he not thereby sacrifice the British "right" to a boundary starting at Point Barima and following the Schomburgk line, just as much as he sacrificed the Venezuelan "right" to a boundary starting at the Moruca River? Surely if M. de Martens' sole concern had been to accommodate the British, who clearly at no stage in the arbitration cared whether the final decision was to be unanimous or not, he would have voted with Lord Russell and Lord Justice Collins (assuming, that is, that both favored the British claim) in support of the full Schomburgk line, thereby overruling Chief Justice Fuller and Justice Brewer, who allegedly preferred a line beginning at the Moruca River.

The thoughts which were uppermost in M. de Martens' mind as the Tribunal reached its final verdict are patent from the speech which he delivered after announcing the award on October 3, 1899-a speech which is recorded verbatim in "Protocol No. 56" of the Tribunal. In that speech the President devoted the emphasis of his remarks to the place which he thought the arbitration might have in the development of international law and to the significance which he attached to the Tribunal's unanimity; and from this it becomes clear how much he himself had labored to secure that unanimity. If, he pointed out, one recalled the cases submitted to international arbitration from the Alabama Case of 1873 to the Bering Sea Fisheries dispute of 1893, one saw that the awards were always rendered by a majority vote, and that there were always dissenting opinions among the arbitrators. In the Venezuela-British Guiana Boundary Arbitration, however, the parties had had "the satisfaction of having unanimity among the arbitrators on all sections of the award, without any reservation whatsoever." This unanimity was the paramount achievement of the present Tribunal. "C'est un fait qu'il est nécessaire d' affirmer et de proclamer, c'est un idéal vers lequel il faut tendre. . . La force morale d'une Sentence Arbitrale unanime est d'une valeur incalculable." [Translation: It is a fact that it is necessary to affirm and proclaim, it is an ideal toward which we must strive. . . The moral strength of a unanimous Arbitral Award is of incalculable value.]

In view of Judge Schoenrich's contention that "the award created general surprise and disappointment" and that "students of the Venezuelan side of the controversy were shocked at the excessive grant of territory to British Guiana", it may be worth while, in conclusion, to consider some of the contemporary reactions to the verdict of the Tribunal.

At the beginning of their interview with Reuter's correspondent already quoted, Mr. Mallet-Prevost and General Harrison spoke of the award as a "victory" for Venezuela. They stated:

Within the Schomburgk line lay the Amakuru River and Point Barima, the latter forming the southern entrance to the great mouth of the Orinoco. No portion of the entire territory possessed more strategic value than this, both from a commercial and a military stand-point, and its possession by Great Britain was most jealously guarded. This point had been awarded to Venezuela, and along with it a strip of coast about 50 miles in length, both giving to Venezuela the entire control of the Orinoco River. In the interior another long tract to the east of the Schomburgk line, some 3,000 square miles in extent had also been awarded to Venezuela, and thus, by a decision in which the British arbitrators had themselves concurred, the position taken up by the British Government until 1896 had been shown to be without foundation. This in no way expressed the extent of Venezuela's victory. Great Britain had put forward a claim to more than 30,000 square miles of territory west of the Schomburgk line, and it was this territory which in 1890 she was disposed to submit to arbitration. Every foot of this territory had been awarded to Venezuela. [The Times, Oct. 4, 1899.]

In a despatch to Lord Salisbury, in which he was at pains to explain, inter alia, why the full British claim had not been recognized, Mr. George W. Buchanan, the British Agent, reported that the result

may, I think, be considered highly satisfactory, more especially as it has been arrived at by a unanimous decision of the Tribunal of Arbitration. No serious British interests have been sacrificed, though it would no doubt have been more satisfactory had the mouth of the Barima been left in the absolute possession of Great Britain. . .[Mr. Buchanan to Lord Salisbury, 3 October 1899.]

From Caracas the British Minister, Mr. W. H. D. (afterwards Sir W.) Haggard, reported to Lord Salisbury on October 7, 1899, that:

The news of the decision of the Guiana Boundary Commission has been received here with the greatest apparent indifference by the public. It is hardly even a matter of comment, and with the exception of an article in the semi-official paper, I have not as yet seen any newspaper article on the subject. I have, on the other hand, been told privately by Venezuelans of education that they regretted extremely that Barima has been awarded to them as now they can never hope for the wealth and prosperity of the region of the Orinoco which would have resulted from that river being open to our commercial influence. . . Thoughtful Venezuelans realise that they have gained a tract of land which will be of no more value to them than the many thousand square miles of unoccupied wilderness which they now possess; whereas, had this been in English hands, they would have indirectly benefited to a large extent by the settled, orderly government and consequent prosperity of their neighbour - from proximity to whom they will now continue to be to a great extent cut off. [Mr. Haggard to Lord Salisbury, 7 October 1899.]

On October 19 the Minister added that more accurate information on the nature of the award from English and American sources had "made no change in the indifference and apathy of the public here towards the whole question"; and he went on to draw the attention of the Foreign Office to an editorial which had appeared in the Tiempo, the leading newspaper in Caracas, as confirming, notwithstanding its "notoriously anti-English bias," the impressions which he had conveyed to Lord Salisbury [Mr. Haggard to Lord Salisbury, 19 October 1899.]

The course of the Venezuela-British Guiana Boundary controversy had been followed with great interest, and, in the case of Mr. Cleveland, with much anxiety, by successive Presidents of the United States. It had been the good offices of President Cleveland which had prepared the way for the Treaty of 1897 and thereby helped to bring the dispute to arbitration in 1899; and it was his successor, President McKinley, who, of all heads of state whose own national interests were not immediately concerned, had probably taken the greatest pains to ensure that the arbitration was successful. For that reason it is perhaps not inappropriate to refer in conclusion to the observations on the award which President McKinley addressed to Congress in his Message of December 5, 1899. For the opinion delivered in that Message was presumably not formed without careful consideration of all the facts relating to the arbitration. After stating that:

The International Commission of Arbitration, appointed under the Anglo-Venezuelan treaty of 1897, rendered an award on October 3rd last, whereby the boundary line between Venezuela and British Guiana is determined, thus ending a controversy which has existed for the greater part of the century,

the President observed that:

The award, as to which the arbitrators were unanimous, while not meeting the extreme contention of either party, gives to Great Britain a large share of the interior territory in dispute and to Venezuela the entire mouth of the Orinoco, including Barima Point and the Caribbean littoral for some distance to the eastward.

The decision, he concluded, "appears to be equally satisfactory to both parties."


In summary, the Mallet-Prevost memorandum had numerous inaccuracies which were exposed by Clifton Child. These inaccuracies were:

1. Mallet-Prevost claimed that he spoke with Tribunal member Lord Chief Justice Russell, one of the British judges on the Arbitral Tribunal at a dinner in January 1899, and from that time knew that he could not count on the judge to decide the boundary question on the basis of strict rights.

However, Justice Russell in January 1899 was not a member of the Tribunal. He only became one in March 1899 when he was appointed as a substitute following the death of one of the original jurists on the Tribunal, Lord Herschell, on the 1 March 1899.

2. Mallet-Prevost contended that Lord Collins (the other British member of the Tribunal) had asked many questions critical of the British position; but after a two-week recess during which period the alleged "deal" with Russia was made, he asked very few questions.

Child's examination of the records of the Arbitral proceedings revealed that most of the questions during the first few days were asked by Justice Russell when the British lawyer, Sir Richard Webster, made his presentation. Lord Collins, therefore, could hardly show partiality towards the British cause.

Actually, it was Mallet-Prevost, during his presentation on behalf of Venezuela, who received critical questioning from Lord Collins. On the seventeenth day of the proceedings (24 July 1899) Lord Collins rebuked Mallet-Prevost for the poor presentation of his arguments. In his memorandum, Mallet-Prevost suggested that the same Lord Collins was involved in the "deal" against Venezuela.

Further, Mallet-Prevost was inaccurate to claim that Lord Collins asked very few questions after the recess. The judge asked a varied amount of questions during every session, with the highest amount-twenty-nine questions-being asked during Mallet-Prevost's post-recess presentation.

3. There was never any two-week recess as claimed by Mallet-Prevost. Of the several recesses, the longest one lasted for nine days.

4. There was no record-newspaper article or otherwise-to show that the alleged "conspirators" were together in London during any of the recesses. Newspapers reported the movement out of France of all those concerned with the hearing, even down to the lawyers who presented the British case, and it would have been difficult for them to miss reporting the movement of three of the judges.

5. Mallet-Prevost's contention that the two American judges felt that the boundary line should run along the Moruca (Moruka) River was not supported by one of the very American judges, Justice Brewer, who had said that if the judges were asked individually to give a border line, "each would have given one differing in extent and character".

In relation to the alleged "deal" between Britain and Russia, as claimed by Mallet-Prevost, no evidence was put forward by him to verify his allegation. Even if the allegation were true, it was strange to learn from a report from Petrograd by Charles Harding on the 18 October 1899, two weeks after the Arbitral Award, that the Russian press was attacking Britain with "bitterness and hostility" over British policies in the far East and the Transvaal. In the summer of 1899, the First Secretary of the German Embassy in Russia, Von Tschirshky, had also reported: "I do no believe that there is scope within the work of Russian policy-or as far as I can see within that of English policy-(for the two countries) to reach agreement and bind themselves in writing on general political questions of this nature."

In a footnote to his article, Child wrote:

It ought perhaps to be noted here, if only in fairness to the judges, that we have only Mr. Mallet-Prevost's word for it that the Tribunal divided as he states; i.e., that the two British arbitrators were disposed to award Great Britain all the territory east of the Schomburgk line, starting from Point Barima on the coast, and that the two American arbitrators, on the other hand, favored a boundary which would start at the Moruca River and give Venezuela all the territory west of this. This simple division between the judges does not accord with the statement of Mr. Justice Brewer's which Judge Schoenrich himself quotes in his note (although the fact apparently escapes Judge Schoenrich's notice).

According to Justice Brewer, if any of the judges had been asked to give an award "each would have given one differing in extent and character." In other words, there were not two conflicting views as to where the boundary ought to be drawn, but four or even five. Consequently, as Justice Brewer observes, the judges had to "adjust" their differing views and "finally draw a line running between what each thought was right." (Italics added.)

Nor does Justice Brewer suggest that there was any pressure brought to bear upon him to acknowledge a decision in which he did not concur. On the contrary, he states that ''it was only by the greatest conciliation and mutual concession that a compromise was arrived at.'' (Italics added.) This was presumably a source, not of resentment, but of satisfaction to him in that, as he himself states, he had believed until the last moment that a decision would be quite impossible.

The implication of Mr. Mallet-Prevost's statement that the British judges were more anxious to secure a decision favorable to Great Britain than to see that justice was done to both sides, is not in any way borne out by remarks which Justice Brewer let fall to Mr. George W. Buchanan, the British Agent. In the course of a conversation with Mr. Buchanan on July 23, 1899, Justice Brewer apparently "expressed great admiration for the impartial and strict sense of justice shown by the British arbitrators during the proceedings of the Tribunal, adding that he hoped that the Court would not find it difficult to agree as to the award."


The Mallet-Prevost memorandum, however, received support from another American historian, William Cullen Dennis in the same issue of the American Journal of International Law that carried Child's article. In his article, Dennis attacked Child's statement that the story was based upon imagination, and revealed that much of the details of the memorandum had been displayed to him by Mallet-Prevost since 1910. However, he suggested that Mallet-Prevost did not realise that de Martens probably used the same tactics on the Americans and the British in order to force a unanimous decision.

Despite their difference in opinions, both Child and Dennis agreed that the 1899 Award was valid, but the latter hoped that the methods of "political compromise" should not be applied to any future arbitral procedure.


It must be noted that the Mallet-Prevost memorandum was published at a time when Venezuela had started to expand on its exploitation of mineral resources including petroleum, iron ore and manganese in its Guayana region immediately to the west of the Guyana border. Much of the expansion works were being carried out by American companies and, thus, a very large amount of American capital was involved.

With the discovery of huge deposits of petroleum, iron ore and manganese in the region, many rightist Venezuelan politicians, hoping to gain cheap popularity, began to use the Mallet-Prevost allegations to whip up nationalist fervour and anti-Guyanese and anti-British feelings among the Venezuelan people. At the same time, they commenced publicly to call for the "reclamation" of the western Essequibo on the grounds that since, according to them, the 1899 Award was invalid, then Venezuela must reclaim all the territory it was claiming before the signing of the Washington Treaty of Arbitration in 1897.

A number of Venezuelan newspapers also took up the issue by saying that Venezuela could become even more prosperous by seizing the western Essequibo since that region was already known to possess abundant mineral and other natural resources. These newspapers, like the right-wing politicians, also used as evidence of the nullity of the 1899 Award the allegations of Mallet-Prevost. Significantly, these allegations of Mallet-Prevost were to remain the only "evidence" of the Venezuelan claimants to Guyanese territory. Even though the Venezuelan Government refused to accept that the border was in dispute, (at least up to 1962), nevertheless, an official delegation of Venezuela raised the issue of nullity of the 1899 Award and Venezuela's claim to western Essequibo, at the Fourth Conference of American Chancellors held in the United States of America in 1951.

In Venezuela itself, rightist political groupings with strong pro-American tendencies, began a systematic campaign to capture American interest in the situation since they expected that, should Venezuela take control of the western Essequibo, American capital and companies would be involved in the exploitation of the resources there. No doubt, too, American Government agencies were taking an interest in the yet unofficial claim to the western Essequibo, a claim which was gradually growing in proportion among the Venezuelan people. In his book, Forbidden Freedom, (published in 1954 in London), Dr. Cheddi Jagan, Leader of the People's Progressive Party (PPP) of Guyana, quoted the British journal, Church Times, of the 16 October 1953 as commenting on the growing American interest in the situation:

Iron ore deposits covering 75 square miles have been discovered in Venezuela near the British Guiana border. On the British Guiana side of the frontier, iron ore deposits have also been discovered which may well be a continuation of those in Venezuela. They are claimed to be the biggest in the world.

The frontier between British Guiana and Venezuela, moreover, in the region where the new iron ore deposits have been discovered, is in dispute. This is one reason for the American interest in the deterioration of the situation. . .


In the period following the publication of Mallet-Prevost's allegations, Venezuela experienced a number of political crises, with the result that in many cases, right-wing politicians holding extremist positions gained the upper hand.

On the 24 December 1948, President Rumulo Gallegos of the Accion Democratica (AD) party was overthrown by a strong right-wing section of the army, and a military junta under Carlos Delgado Chalboud (who was later declared President) took control of the country. The junta carried out a number of retrogressive policies and its main blows were directed against the Communist Party (CPV) which it eventually outlawed in the 13 May 1951. The political and economic situation deteriorated rapidly and this eventually led to popular demonstrations and riots in Caracas on the 13 October of the same year. The junta brutally smashed this revolt after alleging that it was fomented by the illegal Communist Party and the liberals of the Accion Democratica. One month later, on the 13 November, President Chalboud was assassinated and he was succeeded by another member of the junta, Suarez Flammerich.

On 30 November 1953, there was eventually a return to constitutional rule when Presidential elections were held, but despite widespread allegations of fraud, Marcos Perez Jemenez, the army's nominee, was nevertheless declared the winner. The National Assembly shortly after named him as provisional President.

Jemenez's term as President was marked by severe repression on liberal and left-wing forces, particularly the Communist Party. On 4 November 1957 he cancelled the Presidential elections scheduled for 15 December of that year and announced that a plebiscite would be held instead. But following allegations of fraud during the plebiscite which permitted Jemenez to rule for another four-year term, an uprising broke out on the 31 December against him. Finally, on 23 January 1958, a Patriotic Junta led by Wolfgang Larrazabal ousted Jemenez. The new junta which included progressive elements of the military forces, held elections on 7 December 1958, and Rumulo Betancourt of Accion Democratica was elected President.


The resuscitation of the claim to the territory of British Guiana, even though unofficially, by anti-communist politicians and nationalistic sections of the media in Venezuela, coincided with the growing popularity of the socialist-oriented Political Affairs Committee (PAC) in British Guiana. The PAC, formed in November 1946, was led by Dr. Cheddi Jagan who was already becoming well-known throughout the Caribbean for his pro-socialist and anti-colonialist views. In 1950, the PAC transformed itself into the People's Progressive Party (PPP), and under the leadership of Dr. Jagan and Forbes Burnham, its Chairman, soon won mass support among the people. The PPP agitated for political, social and economic reforms and vigorously attacked colonialism, the state under which British Guiana still languished. By 1951, it was apparent that the rapid growth of the popularity of the PPP was of severe annoyance to the British colonialists and other anti-communist elements, including those in Venezuela where there was an intensification of the call by sections of the media and extremist forces for the Venezuelan Government to officially press the claim for the western Essequibo.

It might reasonably be argued that the aim of the Venezuelan extremist elements (who had already influenced the banning of the Communist Party of Venezuela) was to coerce the Guyanese people to reject the socialist-oriented PPP and make them believe that any future PPP Government would cause the Venezuelans, not only to claim Guyanese territory, but to seize it by force. However, such an argument was never raised in the 1953 election campaign in British Guiana, and if it were, the Guyanese people, who by this time held strong faith in the PPP, would have regarded it as a colonialist plot to undermine the influence of the Party and, therefore, it would have been rejected completely.

The Guyanese people gave full support to the PPP and in April 1953 they voted a PPP Government into power under a colonial constitution that ushered in universal adult suffrage. Universal adult suffrage itself was one of the political gains achieved by the people through the struggle of the PPP during the period 1950-1953. However, despite the victory of the PPP, the British Government, heavily influenced by the US Government and working in close alliance with local anti-popular anti-PPP organisations, suspended the constitution on the 9 October of the same year and removed the PPP Government from power. In doing this, British troops and warships were sent to British Guiana to enforce the British decision. The reason given by the colonial power, Great Britain, was that the PPP was planning to establish a communist regime in the country.

Following the overthrow of the PPP Government and the subsequent imprisonment of many of its leaders, including Dr. Jagan, there followed a period of an appointed interim Government made up of mainly the anti-socialist politicians who were defeated in the April 1953 elections. Many of these persons had helped to engineer the removal of the PPP administration.

In February 1955, the PPP, now the opposition force, was split when the rightist section led by Forbes Burnham, broke away to form a separate political party. This group had initially tried to seize the Party's leadership during a special conference held at that time. It was strongly anti-socialist and it also called itself the People's Progressive Party and carried out a vigorous campaign against the original PPP and its leaders, particularly Dr. Jagan. Despite this, at the general election held in August 1957, the original PPP won a resounding victory. Burnham's party shortly after changed its name to the People's National Congress (PNC) after it was heavily defeated in the election.

In 1958, Dr. Jagan as head of the new PPP Government, which functioned under a constitution which gave it limited powers and with greater control vested in the British Governor, paid a courtesy visit to Venezuela. During this visit, he held talks with all the leading Venezuelan political parties on a number of issues including the claim to the western Essequibo which was being championed by sections of the Venezuelan media and a number of politicians. In the course of the discussions, all the parties stated that while they would never renounce the claim, they, on the other hand, would never resurrect it.

Two years later, in February 1960, both Dr. Jagan and Forbes Burnham, the Opposition Leader, attended the Inter-American Conference for Democracy and Freedom in Caracas, Venezuela. There they held talks with various political parties but not a word about Venezuela's claim to Guyanese territory was raised by the Venezuelans.

At about the same period, Jai Narine Singh, a former leading member of the PPP who had joined with Burnham to form the PNC, from which he shortly after resigned, formed his own political party, the Guiana Independence Movement, which he later renamed the Democratic Party. Both Singh and his party had virtually no support locally, but he became a constant visitor to Venezuela where he became a strong spokesman for anti-communism and constantly attacked the PPP and called for a closer alliance of the PNC, the United Force, a big-business party formed in 1959, and his party for the removal of the PPP Government. The Guiana Times Magazine (Volume 9, Numbers 1 and 2 of 1960), a journal critical of the Government, claimed that Singh worked in close alliance with certain Venezuelan politicians who had their eyes on "70,000 square miles of land" in Guyana.

In the general election held in August 1961, the PPP again won a resounding victory under a new constitution that ushered in internal self-government. The main issue for this election was independence which the PPP championed, and its victory was widely viewed as a mandate to lead the country to full independence. The Government, under the leadership of the Premier, Dr. Cheddi Jagan, immediately instituted programmes to prepare the people for this new stage of political development.


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As the movement towards independence gathered momentum in British Guiana, the clamour of the expansionist voices in Venezuela for their Government to officially resurrect its claim to the western Essequibo grew louder. This the Venezuelan Government eventually did in February 1962 when the United Nations Fourth Committee, which dealt with matters of decolonisation, was discussing the issue of independence for British Guiana. Venezuela, basing its case on the Mallet Prevost memorandum, officially raised the contention that the Arbitral Award of 1899 was invalid, and put forward the claim that the region west of the Essequibo River was Venezuelan territory. While Venezuela supported independence for British Guiana, it objected to the western Essequibo being included as Guyanese territory. Venezuela also insisted that since it was of the view that the Award of 1899 was invalid, it reasserted its claim to the western Essequibo, alleging it owned that territory before the Washington Treaty of Arbitration of 1897.


The Venezuelan claim was in the form of a memorandum which was presented to the UN Secretary General and which was later distributed to member states of the UN as an official document. It was accompanied by a copy of the Mallet Prevost statement. Later that month, the Venezuelan Government published the following statement about its memorandum:


Venezuela assumed, from the time of its declaration of independence, the sovereignty over the territories under Spanish dominion constituting the Captaincy General of Venezuela.

The boundary of the province of Guayana's administrative division of the Captaincy General extends to the western bank of the Essequibo River. On the 13th August, 1814 the Dutch ceded to Great Britain the establishments of Essequibo, Demerara and Berbice. In the Treaty of Transfer, it was not decided with exactitude which were the boundaries of the territories ceded, but it can be proved by documents of that time that these territories did not extend in any case beyond the banks of the Essequibo River.

Almost simultaneously with the occupation of the establishments of Essequibo, Demerara and Berbice, the English started a series of actions, tending to extend its possessions in territories which belonged to Venezuela. The territory which the British received from the Dutch was approximately 20,000 square miles.

After the successful explorations and demarcations made unilaterally by the British, the territory of the colony had increased by the middle of the century to 60,000 square miles. By 1855, it had reached 76,000 square miles. Subsequently, the British aspirations extended to 109,000 square miles.

The reiterated protests of successive Venezuelan Governments and a request that the boundary problem be submitted to an impartial arbitration were always evaded with diplomatic excuses.

In 1886, the Venezuelan Government solicited or requested of Britain the evacuation of territory illegally occupied. In view of the British negation, Venezuela broke diplomatic relations with her on 20th February, 1887. The pretensions of Great Britain's dominion continued, nevertheless, until it reached the very mouth of the Orinoco, the most important river of Venezuela.

It was at this time, alarmed by British expansion in the Americas, the President of the United States, Grover Cleveland, exercised all his political and diplomatic influence with the object of reaching and carrying out an agreement for Venezuela and Britain to submit the question to arbitration. Following the Arbitration Award, and with the move towards independence by the Guyanese people many years later, the Venezuelan Government, in a memorandum to the United Nations stated that "by virtue of the General Assembly of the United Nations examining problems related with the independence of British Guiana, the Venezuelan Government, in defence of the rights of its people, has thought it fit to request that it also takes account of Venezuela's just claims and that the injustice committed be rectified.

Venezuela's Government views with great sympathy the independence of British Guiana in conformity with its well known sentiments and with its reiterated anti colonial doctrine. The Venezuelan Government warmly supports the aspirations of the people of British Guiana to obtain their total political independence and formally declares its support for such a just aspiration.

In reaffirming before the United Nations its irrefutable rights, Venezuela aspires that international law safeguards it, and in accordance with the principles and objects of the United Nations Charter to see how it can resolve, through negotiation between interested parties, the old issue between Venezuela and the United Kingdom in relation to the boundary with British Guiana.


Immediately after Venezuela presented it memorandum to the UN, it began to make overtures to the British Government for cooperation in the joint development of the western Essequibo. This matter was first raised in March 1962 by President Romulo Betancourt to the British Ambassador to Venezuela, Sir Douglas Busk. The President suggested that Britain and Venezuela, without the involvement of the British Guiana Government, should jointly administer an area along the frontier to provide a security cordon. In his report to the British Foreign Office, the Ambassador expressed his opposition to such an idea since this would mean carrying out an activity "behind Jagan's back". He was adamant that Dr. Jagan should not be excluded from any discussion between Venezuela and Britain on the border issue. As a result, the British Foreign Office refused to discuss "joint development" with Venezuela.


In reply to the Venezuelan memorandum, Sir Patrick Dean, a special British representative to the UN, took the position that the border dispute had been settled by the 1899 Award and that the question could not be reopened on the posthumous word of an aged lawyer who had nursed grievances against the Tribunal for the whole of his life. In his lengthy address to the Special Political Committee of the UN on the 19 September 1962, Dean repudiated all Venezuelan claims to Guyanese territory. With specific reference to the allegation that Britain and Russia had a "political deal" in 1899, Dean showed that the two countries were not on friendly terms during that period and it was, therefore, improbable that they would have joined to conspire against Venezuela. He further pointed out that the Russians saw the Award as "substantially in favour of Venezuela". Dean also explained that by the Treaty of London of 1814 signed by Britain and the United Netherlands, the latter surrendered the colonies of Berbice, Demerara and Essequibo to Britain, and even though the boundary of the area was not defined by treaty, it was held to be the area totally occupied by the Dutch, an understanding which remained unchallenged by Spain or by the Republic of Great Colombia with which Venezuela merged in 1819. Dean showed that Venezuela waited until thirty six years after the Treaty of London was signed to request that the boundary be defined by treaty.

He concluded: It has always been the key stone of British policy that respect for international agreements is not only essential for world stability, but axiomatic if the rule of international law is to survive. If we allow a departure from these principles, I submit that we shall soon be inundated with claims from all over the world for reopening of questions which have been regarded as settled for generations.


The border issue was further discussed at another meeting of the UN Special Committee on the 12 November 1962. At that meeting, Dr. Marcos Falcon Briceno, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Venezuela, said that his country was not asking the UN to pass judgement on the substance of the boundary dispute. He was merely putting on record the reasons why Venezuela could not recognise the 1899 Award as valid. He agreed that Venezuela had signed the arbitral treaty with Great Britain in 1897, but insisted that "Venezuela had nevertheless signed it hoping for a solution on the rule of law".

In his concluding remarks, Dr. Falcon Briceno said that his Government was seeking a friendly solution of the problem with Great Britain and added that Venezuela was totally in support of independence for British Guiana.


The British Deputy Permanent Representative at the UN, Colin Crowe, replied that it was unfortunate that the issue should have been raised at this time when the British Government was preparing the people of British Guiana for full independence, but he accepted the assurance of the Venezuelan Government "that there is no intention... to affect or delay the independence of British Guiana". He added:

Our hope is, however, that the matter can be disposed of once and for all so that British Guiana can enter into her independence without any doubts about her territory or her frontiers. It would be easy for Britain to leave the matter in abeyance, but we consider that as wrong.

The British Government does not accept that there is any frontier dispute to discuss. There is no reason why the Government of British Guiana would accept it either: nor do they, and we cannot urge them to discuss it. Our hope is that this problem can be fairly disposed of now so that this question mark can be removed from British Guiana's future. . .

The experts of my Government have conducted a very thorough examination of the records available to them and are completely satisfied that there is no justification whatsoever for reopening this frontier question. They are also convinced that a thorough examination of these records cannot lead to any other conclusion. I am, therefore, authorised to say that my Government, with the full concurrence of the Government of British Guiana, are prepared to discuss with the Venezuelan Government, through diplomatic channels, arrangements for a tripartite, Venezuela British Guiana United Kingdom examination of the voluminous documentary material relevant to this question. For our part, we would naturally expect to examine any Venezuelan records and documents too. In making this offer I must make it very clear that this is in no sense an offer to engage in substantive talks about the revision of the frontier. This we cannot do, for we consider that there is no justification for it. The offer on this part of my Government simply reflects our anxiety, having regard to our friendly ties with Venezuela, to dispel any doubts which the Venezuelan Government may still have about the validity or propriety of the Arbitral Award….

We believe that this offer represents the best means of removing once and for all the misunderstanding which has arisen between us. . . .

Crowe concluded that the Award was not challenged for sixty three years and stipulated that ". . . if after such a lapse the question could be reopened, there will be no frontier agreement which cannot be questioned and no international agreement which cannot be brought into doubt..."

The offer by Great Britain for an examination of the documents was accepted by Venezuela and endorsed by the Special Committee of the UN. The joint examination of the documents was carried out both in London and Caracas between 1963 and 1965 and the reports of the experts appointed by each side were exchanged. Nevertheless, Venezuela refused to be convinced even though it could not produce any document to support its contention.

Meanwhile, Venezuela continued to push its proposal for joint development. In June 1963 the Venezuelan Ambassador in London, Dr. Ignacio Iribarren Borges, proposed to British Foreign Secretary, Lord Home, that the World Bank should be asked to send a mission to survey the minerals and other resources of the frontier area with a view to their joint-development by Britain, Venezuela and the World Bank. Lord Home assessed that the proposal had been made "somewhat perfunctorily" and refused to give it any consideration.


During the period of the examination of the documents, Venezuelan spokesmen and sections of the Venezuelan media constantly made aggressive statements against British Guiana and maintained a verbal war in voicing their country's claim to the western Essequibo. Some Venezuelan Government officials even interpreted the examination of the documents to mean that the Government of British Guiana was willing to reopen the question of the frontier. The PPP Government of British Guiana refuted these false statements on numerous occasions, but despite the fact that the Venezuela misrepresentations were given full publicity in the Chronicle, the Graphic and the Argosy, three strong anti PPP newspapers in the country, very little publicity was given to statements of the British Guiana Government.

The PPP made a strong condemnation of the Venezuelan claim in an editorial in the December 1963 issue of Thunder, its official monthly newspaper. The editorial stated:


Alas, Venezuela is belatedly claiming 40,000 (sic) square miles of British Guiana's territory.

All that portion of the country from the present border with Venezuela right up to the left Bank of the Essequibo River - the North West, Pomeroon, the Rupununi - is now being brazenly and amazingly claimed as Venezuela's.

Guianese were jolted by this claim first made within recent times in October 1962 on the eve of the country's Independence Talks. This was a most unfriendly act to have carne from a neighbouring country with whom we had always lived in peace and for whose peoples, tradition and culture we bore high regard. The independence Talks ended abortively in November 1962 and nothing further was heard of the Venezuela's speculative claim.

New Independence Talks were fixed for October 1963 - and concurrently with the fixing of these talks the Venezuelan reactionaries revived their claim to British Guiana's territory.

Venezuela's claim has no merit whatever. Based on bogus grants from the King of Spain the claim was originally made in the last century and was finally settled by arbitration in 1899 with the consent of all the parties including Venezuela, and was accepted by all parties as justly and impartially settling the issues. Thereafter, Guianese lived on the land in question peacefully. The British system of rule of law, of democracy, and British administration and currency ruled supreme and undisturbed and unquestioned.

Sixty three years later, however, on the eve of Guyana's independence and after the Arbitrators had passed to the "Great Beyond", Venezuela made a "posthumous" claim to an area long settled as being British Guiana's.

Thunder would not have considered this spurious claim worthy of editorial comment but for the strange events that have since taken place.

In 1962 the Government as well as the Opposition were fully apprized of Venezuela's claim, and the parties were alerted to take part in any talks that may have taken place. The Government was kept fully posted with the British point of view on this matter, which, incidentally, was then strongly opposed to Venezuela's claim.

In 1963 after the "Independence" Talks in London, secret talks took place between the British Government and the Venezuelan Government.

On this occasion, the PPP Government delegation were not informed nor were they invited to the talks (even as observers). The British Foreign Secretary and the British Governor in Guiana participated. They have agreed, it is reported, to examine documents in Venezuela alleged to be in support of Venezuela's claim.

We have grown to learn how British treachery works. We will not be surprised to learn that what one year ago they considered amorphous they will now find reason to acclaim meritorious.

The result of British perfidy in this matter will be their handing over Guiana's territory to the Venezuelans, when they are in a position not only to successfully rebut the claim before any international forum, but also to enter a successful counterclaim.

The fact that the claim was made on the eve of Independence is pungent evidence of the Venezuelan reactionaries being goaded by their American masters. Since the US cannot contain Guiana's march to socialism, then they must reduce the area over which socialism will triumph.

The PPP will not recognize this barefaced British self out to the Venezuelans. Guiana's sons will retrieve every square inch of land that the British traitors will shamelessly hand to the Americans, under the guise of giving it to the Venezuelans.


The Venezuelan claim to the western Essequibo was strongly rejected by the British Guiana Government which set out its main policy statement on the issue on 28 February 1964 when Dr. Cheddi Jagan, the Premier, addressed the Legislative Assembly. His speech which was broadcast on radio also gave details of the developments related to the issue for the period 1962 1963. Dr. Jagan said:

The Government has been perturbed by the misleading and erroneous statements published on the British Guiana Venezuela boundary question. We have attempted to correct these misrepresentations, but our releases have not been given the same publicity that have been given the inaccurate statements made by Venezuelan spokesman. We have been very patient in the face of Venezuelan propaganda. But the time has now come for me to tell the nation the facts of the case and state the Government's stand on the matter.

The boundary between British Guiana and Venezuela was in dispute for the greater part of the nineteenth century. On the 2nd February, 1897, a treaty, the Treaty of Washington, was concluded between the Venezuelan and British Governments. This Treaty provided for an Arbitral Tribunal to be set up to decide upon the common boundary between the two countries. It laid down the composition of the Tribunal, and under it both Governments pledged themselves to accept the Tribunal's award as "a full, perfect and final settlement".

The Arbitration Tribunal commenced its sittings on the 21st June, 1899 and gave its decision on the 3rd October, 1899. The decision was substantially in favour of British Guiana, but Venezuela got the territory between the Wenamu and the Upper Cuyuni, and also the territory between Point Playa and Point Barima, both of which had been claimed by Britain as part of British Guiana. As regards the territory between Point Playa and Point Barima, that is, the lower Barima area, Venezuela had stressed that it was of great strategic and commercial importance to her and it was given to her.

Venezuela accepted the Award, took part between 1901 and 1905 on the demarcation of the boundary in accordance with the Award, and agreed in 1905 to a map resulting from this demarcation. Venezuela has always shown in the past that she regarded adherence to the decision of the Arbitration Tribunal as part of her international obligations. Indeed in 1941, the Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Affairs himself told the British representative in Caracas that his Government was definitely of the opinion that the boundary question was a chose jugeé, that the Venezuelan British Guiana frontier was final and well defined, and the author of articles which had appeared in the Venezuelan press about that time questioning the 1899 Award "had obviously never had access to the archives of his Ministry".

And then, in 1962, sixty three years after the Award, the Venezuelans raised the matter again at the United Nations. The Venezuelans base their case for reopening the question on a memorandum written in 1944 by Mr. Mallet Prevost, an American lawyer and one of the junior counsel who had conducted the Venezuelan case in 1899. This memorandum was published in 1949 after Mr. Mallet Prevost's death, and claimed that the Arbitral Award was the result of a "political deal" between Britain and Russia.

The British representative pointed out in reply that Mr. Mallet Prevost had argued the Venezuelan case with great passion, that he had nursed grievances against the Tribunal during the whole of his life, and that the frontier issue could not be reopened on the posthumous word of an aged lawyer written forty five years after the question had been settled. Mr. Mallet Prevost had adduced no real evidence for his allegation that the Award was the result of a political deal, and the British experts who had looked at the records of the Tribunal had said that they did not contain a single document which by the widest stretch of the imagination can be considered to indicate a deal between Britain and Russia. The British representative pointed out that the boundary question had been finally settled and the British Government could not agree to reopen it.

The British representative stated that the British Government with the concurrence of the Government of British Guiana was prepared to agree to a tripartite examination of the documents relating to the question "to dispel any doubts which the Venezuelan Government may still have the validity or propriety of the Arbitral Award". He made it clear that the proposal was "in no sense an offer to engage in substantive talks about the revision of the frontier", as neither the British Government nor the British Guiana Government accepted that there was any frontier dispute to discuss.

In accordance with the agreement reached at the United Nations, Venezuelan experts examined British documents in London from 30th July to 11th September, 1963. Arrangements had originally been made for the examination to begin in March 1963, and a British Guiana representative went to London for this purpose. He was available from March to May but the Venezuelans did not turn up. They finally agreed to begin the examination at the end of July. Sir Geoffrey Meade, retired Foreign Service Officer, who was appointed to represent the United Kingdom also represented the Government of British Guiana at the latter's request. On the 5th, 6th and 7th November, 1963, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Venezuela met the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom to review the progress in the examination of the documents. The Foreign Ministers agreed that the British expert, Sir Geoffrey Meade, who was also acting on behalf of the Government of British Guiana, should go to Caracas to examine any documents which the Venezuelan Government might wish to produce to support their allegation that the Award was improperly arrived at. Sir Geoffrey Meade was in Caracas from 3rd to 12 December, 1963, and examined the relevant documents produced by the Venezuelan Government. It is learnt that Venezuelan experts have just returned from London. The purpose of their visit appears to be the production of references asked for by Sir Geoffrey Meade during his visit to Caracas.

I wish to emphasize that there are no substantive talks on the revision of the frontier. What is taking place in London is an examination of the documents relating to the Arbitration of 1899, which, it is hoped, will dispel doubts which the Venezuelan Government may still have about the validity of propriety of the Arbitral Award.

And now to conclude. . . I have set the matter out fully and I hope that this Government's stand is quite clear. Every few weeks some Venezuelan claiming to speak on behalf of the Government of his country makes a claim to our territory. We have so far maintained a dignified silence. But I wish to say now clearly and unequivocally that the Government of British Guiana does not accept that there is a frontier dispute. The nineteenth century frontier dispute with Venezuela was settled more than sixty years ago by a Tribunal, whose Award the Venezuelan Government agreed to accept as "full, perfect and final" settlement. We have agreed to a document examination in order to convince the Venezuelans that the Award of 1899 was not fraudulent or improperly arrived at.

But we are not prepared to reopen the frontier issue; we are not prepared to engage in substantive talks on the revision of the frontier. The Government of British Guiana is not prepared to yield to Venezuela or any other country a single rivulet or creek; we are not prepared to surrender a single inch of soil of this country.


There were two factors that influenced Venezuela in 1962 to dispute the 1899 Arbitral Award.

In the first place, around this time left wing guerrillas were in open war against the Venezuelan Government and certain army units were threatening to mutiny. Allegations were even expressed in some sections of the Venezuelan Government that since the PPP Government in British Guiana was giving political and economic support to the Cuban Revolutionary Government, then British Guiana could be used as a trans shipment point for weapons to the guerrillas, who were not only operating near to the border of the two countries, but were also allegedly obtaining weapons from Cuba, some of which might be channelled through British Guiana. However, this allegation was promptly dismissed by the Government of British Guiana.

During this period, too, President Betancourt of Venezuela was rapidly becoming unpopular and he really needed to create a situation to ease the pressure off him and to create a sense of unity among the Venezuelan people. For him, the resurrection of the border claim, which whipped up nationalistic sentiments, was a blessing in disguise.

But according to the PPP, there was a more important reason. British Guiana in 1962 was on the road to independence. This created fear in imperialist circles since it was clear that following independence a socialist government under Dr. Jagan's PPP would be established. Accordingly, the USA, therefore, pressured Venezuela, then a pro American state, to reopen the claim to the western Essequibo, while at the same time instigating disturbances in Guyana with the aid of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and local anti PPP forces from 1962 to 1964. During this period, Forbes Burnham's People's National Congress (PNC), as a useful ally of US and British imperialism, played a leading destabilising role. This was also a time of vehement anti Cuban campaign by the USA, in particular; and the PPP Government, as an open ally of Castro's Cuba, was forced to defend itself from scathing anti communist attacks by the British and American Governments and from local anti Government forces, particularly the PNC and the United Force (UF). Forbes Burnham, the leader of the PNC, in a speech to the Washington Press Club on a visit to the USA in May 1962, released one of his anti Cuban and anti communist outbursts when he claimed that there were "one thousand Cubans" in British Guiana giving assistance to the PPP. However, at the time of Burnham's visit to the USA there was actually only one Cuban in British Guiana!

Further, the threat from Venezuela was aimed at generating fear among Guyanese so that they would be influenced to choose a Government which would win the support of an American-British alliance against any aggression by Venezuela. Since the American Government, in particular, had no liking for Dr. Jagan and the PPP, it was obvious that the Guyanese people were being indirectly told that Burnham and the PNC were preferred, and that under a Burnham-led Government, an American-British alliance could be depended upon to prevent any aggressive designs by Venezuela.


As a result of the anti-Government disturbances of 1962 1964, the British Government was influenced to delay independence until a suitable pro American Government, subsequently in the form of a PNC UF coalition, was established in December 1964. In the general elections under a new electoral system of proportional representation imposed by the British Government, the PPP won the highest proportion of votes, but the British Governor asked Burnham to form a government with the understanding that the PNC leader would form a coalition with the UF. It was under this pro American coalition Government that just one and a half years later, on the 26 May 1966, independence was granted to the country which from then became officially known as Guyana.

During the 1961 1964 period, the Venezuelan Governments of both Romulo Betancourt and Raul Leoni were antagonistic towards the PPP Government, which was described as "communist". On the other hand, they were very friendly towards the anti communist PNC which was the leading opposition party in British Guiana. For the 1964 elections campaign in British Guiana, thousands of T-shirts on which were printed anti communist slogans urging support for the PNC, were sent from Venezuela to be distributed to PNC supporters. Notably, these campaign T-shirts were sent by organisations supportive of the policies of the Venezuelan Government, including its claim to the western Essequibo. But assistance to the PNC from Venezuela included more than campaign material for elections. Rickey Singh, editor of the Caribbean Contact, writing in the June 1981 on the border controversy, mentioned:

There were persistent reports of reports of arms and explosives, including US manufactured hand grenades, arriving from across Venezuela for the PNC during the political violence of 1963 and 1964 that were designed, with the help of the CIA - as subsequently exposed - to get rid of the Jagan Government, and so prevent "another Cuba" in the western hemisphere.


As a matter of fact, the Venezuelan Government was very much interested in removing Cheddi Jagan's PPP Government and replacing it through a coup by a coalition led by PNC leader Forbes Burnham and UF leader Peter D'Aguiar. The following secret memorandum sent on 10 July 1964 to Secretary of State Dean Rusk by Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs William Tyler explained the Venezuelan plan:

Action Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs (Tyler) to Secretary of State Rusk

Washington, July 10, 1964.

SUBJECT: Venezuela's Interest in British Guiana

A reliable controlled American source reports that Venezuela's Foreign Minister Ignacio Irribaren Borges wishes to talk with you privately during the Latin American Foreign Ministers Conference about British Guiana. He is expected to tell you that Venezuela is prepared to support the overthrow of Cheddi Jagan, and to seek our support for this venture.

Our Ambassador in Caracas has learned from the Minister of the Interior that Venezuela is ready to provide financial support for Forbes Burnham when the time is ripe for Jagan's overthrow.

A report from Georgetown advises that a person with good contacts in Venezuela is urging Burnham and D'Aguiar to form a "Revolutionary Government"; attempt a coup with the assistance of 100 trained men who will have had 30 days special training in Venezuela, and at the same time Cheddi and Janet Jagan will be kidnapped and taken to Venezuela.

You may wish to urge restraint on the Venezuelans, pointing out that plans are underway to seek a political resolution in BG through the democratic process of a Proportional Representation election. We hope that nothing will happen to impede this plan and we cannot support the Venezuelans even though we share their hope that someone other than Jagan will reach the top in British Guiana.

On 16 and 20 July 1964 at the State Department in Washington, Rusk met Iribarren Borges, the Venezuelan Foreign Minister in the Leoni administration. According to a footnote on the secret memorandum (which was finally declassified and released by the State Department in 2004), they confined their discussions on an upcoming OAS resolution on Cuba, and that "no evidence has been found to indicate whether Iribarren Borges raised the Venezuelan proposal to intervene in British Guiana."

With the removal of the PPP Government in December 1964, it was now left to the PNC UF coalition Government to take up the dialogue with Venezuela.

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In an effort to prove the nullity of the 1899 Arbitral Award, the Venezuelan Government in 1964 appointed two Jesuit priests, Herman Gonzalez-Oropeza and Pablo Ojer-Celigueta, to research and advise on the territorial question. The two historians on the 18 March 1965 presented to their Government their findings entitled Report on the Boundary Question with British Guiana, submitted to the National Government by Venezuelan Experts, in which, with the assistance of a number of documents and maps, they outlined Venezuela's contention that west of the Essequibo River was Venezuela's territory. In their Report, they also attempted to show that the Award amounted to a "deal" between Great Britain and Russia. The Report stated:


1. Since the discovery of Guiana in 1499 until the end of the 16th century, Spain, as the first country to discover and occupy it, held Guiana territory as far as the Amazon, and this was recognized by other Powers.

2. At the time of the Treaty of Munster signed in 1648, there was as yet no Dutch settlement West of the Essequibo River.

Under the Treaty of Munster, Spain merely recognized Holland's right to the Posts which she held in Guiana at that time, but she did not allow Holland to settle beyond the lands she then occupied. The insignificant and ephemeral Dutch Posts which subsequently appeared West of the Essequibo River, were considered as transgressions of the Treaty of Munster.

3. When Great Britain acquired British Guiana in 1814, Guiana's boundary with Venezuela was the Essequibo River. This is the frontier which appears on various maps printed in London and in particular that of Cruz Cano, published by the Venezuelan General Francisco de Miranda under the auspices of the British Government.

4. Gran Colombia, of which Venezuela was part until 1830, notified Great Britain that her frontier with British Guiana was the line of the Essequibo by declarations made by her diplomats, Zea (1821), Revenga (1823), Hurtado (1824) and Gual (1825). Great Britain raised no protest to the declarations by Gran Colombia.

The declaration of the Plenipotentiary Minister Hurtado, in 1824, is of special importance, as it was formulated when he negotiated and obtained from the United Kingdom the recognition of Gran Colombia as an independent nation.

When on March 30, 1845, Spain signed in Madrid the Treaty of Peace and recognition of the sovereignty of our country upon its territory "known under the old name of Captaincy General of Venezuela", included in it was the Guiana Province bordered to the East by the Essequibo River.


5. The Essequibo line as far as the frontier between Venezuela and British Guiana is the Original Schomburgk Line of 1835, as shown on the map which the Prussian naturalist drew before he showed partiality for Great Britain's interests. Neither the Royal Geographical Society of London nor the Colonial Office, which also sponsored Schomburgk's first expedition, objected to this map.

6. The first time that Great Britain aspired to the territory West of the Essequibo River was when the pseudo Schomburgk Line of 1840 was published in the known "Sketch Map" of "Parliamentary Papers" that year. This line was protested by Venezuela. This is the origin of the controversy between Venezuela and Great Britain. Fresh evidence from the original British archives clarifies the following facts:

(a) Both the Foreign Office and the Colonial Office rejected Schomburgk's arguments in favour of his pseudo-line of 1840. Those two Ministries arrived at the conclusion that the Prussian naturalist had misinterpreted the historical documents and had used them with partiality and sectarianism.

(b) In spite of that, the British Government commissioned the same naturalist to undertake a new expedition (1840-43) and to draw a fresh map of British Guiana conforming with that pseudo-line. Exceeding his instructions, the naturalist set up posts, marked trees and carried out acts of possession which gave rise to formal protests by Venezuela.

(c) The minutes of Lord Aberdeen of 1841 qualify Schomburgk's actions as "premature" and assert, that as his mission was to make a "survey", he had no reason to take possession.

(d) It is a well-known fact that the British Government disavowed Schomburgk when it ordered the withdrawal of posts and frontier marks at the demand of Venezuela, as expressed to the Venezuelan Minister in London, in a note dated January 31, 1842.

7. Inner and interministerial documents of the British Foreign and Colonial Office and the Government in Demerara disclose that the publication of the maps showing the pseudo Schomburgk Line of 1840 was of an official nature and represented Britain's maximum claims vis-a-vis Venezuela. Thus we now know that it was on the instructions of the British Government and from the Colonial Government in Demerara that the following maps were prepared:

(a) The map in the Foreign Office memorandum of 1857 on the Guiana dispute.

(b) The map attached to the memorandum by Chalmers, "Crown Surveyor of the Colony" (1857).

(c) The Schomburgk-Walker map of 1872.

(d) The Brown map of 1875.

(e) The Stanford map of 1875.

By these official maps, Great Britain recognized from the beginning of the controversy until 1886 all the upper Barima and all the Cuyuni, from their sources to the mouth of the Otomong as undisputed Venezuelan territory.

8. In 1850, Great Britain and Venezuela each undertook not to occupy the disputed territory, which naturally included that lying between the pseudo Schomburgk Line of 1840, extreme claim of the United Kingdom, and the Essequibo River, border claimed by Venezuela. This is what came to be called the 1850 Agreement, which remained in force until the Arbitration.

9. The pressure brought to bear by the mining interests in British Guiana induced the metropolitan and colonial governments to push forward the so-called "Schomburgk Line" to include Venezuelan territory which was not in dispute. In 1887 the British Government published a map by one Hebert of 1842 with a new "Schomburgk Line" and finally declared that it had always been the line referred to in their diplomatic correspondence, when the fact was that the British Foreign Office became aware of that line for the first time in June 1886.

10. The mining companies in British Guiana continued to bring pressure to bear, and a few months after the publication of the Herbert Line as their extreme claim against Venezuela, the British Government declared it to be the frontier of strict right and advanced its ambitious colonialist claims even further, almost as far as Upata, a few kilometres from the Orinoco, with the name of "Line of the extreme British Claim".

11. The efforts made by Venezuela to reach a peaceful solution of the frontier dispute, which was prematurely started by the Prussian naturalist, are also facts which are perfectly well known. The fresh evidence reveals that Great Britain rejected the proposals continually made by Venezuela for submitting the question to arbitration because she considered that her Government lacked arguments and that a fully legal decision would be unfavourable to her.

As Great Britain had no confidence in her claims, she successively changed her position regarding the frontier with Venezuela. The Aberdeen (1844), Granville (1881), Rosebery (1886), etc., lines were designed to meet the current interests of the colonialists in British Guiana.

By contrast, as Venezuela was sure of the validity of her claims she was always prepared to submit the dispute to the legal decision of impartial arbitrators and maintained her claim to the Essequibo line.


12. In spite of the successive requests forwarded to the British Government by numerous bodies and States requesting that the question be submitted to arbitration, Great Britain resisted until the last and the decisive intervention of the United States in 1895.

In 1896 the British Government and the American Secretary of State, Richard Olney, started the negotiations which were to lead to the Arbitration Treaty.

When Venezuela requested the mediation of the United States before Great Britain, the Caracas Chancellery clearly stated that she be consulted on whatever happened in the course of the negotiation. Moreover, it explicitly urged that any arbitral treaty arrived at, had to be based on the following two understandings: (1) That all the Disputed Territory were to be submitted to Arbitration; (2) That the question had to be resolved by a strictly judicial decision based on law and right.

Actual research proves that during the course of the negotiation, Venezuela was left aside, particularly during its final and most important stage. It was indeed consulted once whether she was ready to accept a prescription clause, but negotiations were continued in the same line in spite of and against the objections of the Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Relations. Even more, Richard Olney agreed with Great Britain about the exclusion of Venezuela from the Arbitral Tribunal.

14. The scope of various clauses of the Arbitral Treaty, particularly the clause of prescription, was given to understand to Venezuela in a sense different from the one confidentially agreed between Olney and the British Government.


15. Even with the substantial objections presented to the Arbitration Treaty of 1897, Venezuela trusted that the Tribunal would decide the question based on law and right. On May 5, 1899 Plenipotentiary Jose Andrade requested instructions from the Caracas Chancellery in case that Great Britain should propose an amicable arrangement of the boundary dispute.

"It could also be possible," he wrote, "for England to prefer to propose to us a friendly agreement regarding the border which the Tribunal will determine. Our lawyers will not be surprised if Great Britain makes this proposition to Venezuela; they think that it will be convenient if I authorise them to be deciding on it, in case England should make such a proposition."

In May 17, 1899 the Venezuelan Chancellery replied that it could not in any case grant that power and that "it will not be possible to give instructions since the Government does not have authority concerning territorial negotiations". It added: "Outside the arbitration, prescribed for every matter by Article 142 of our Constitution, the Venezuelan authorities do not have any recourse towards amendments referring to any cession or modification in relation to territorial control".

Consequently, the Venezuelan Government could not delegate to the Arbitrators the lawyers before the Tribunal faculties, which it lacked itself, for the settlement of the controversy, except a decision based on law and right.

Historical research verifies the existence of serious vices, of form and substance, in the procedure and the decision of the Tribunal.

16. The first defect of the Award of 1899 is that it purported to attribute legal value to a line falsified by Britain, the so-called "expanded line" of the Hebert Map of 1842.

Venezuela possesses proof that the British Foreign Office had no knowledge of this line until June 1886. This already is a serious indication pointing to a recent corruption of the original map filed at the Colonial Office since 1842. Venezuela now has proofs that the lines shown in the following maps filed by Great Britain before the Tribunal have been adulterated by the Colonial Office:

(1) The Schomburgk map on six sheets entitled "Map of the limits of British Guiana" (1841).

(2) The Schomburgk map entitled "Map of the limits of British Guiana. . . General Map No. 1" (1841).

(3) The Hebert Map of 1842.

Also Great Britain led the arbitrators into error by submitting to them the so-called "Physical Map" of Schomburgk of 36 square feet without border lines, as if it were the map of 90 square feet with border lines which the explorer presented in 1844 to the Colonial Office.

17. Failure to give a reasoned decision. There is no doubt whatsoever that, with the exception of some sentences by Royal Arbitrators of the nineteenth century and various decisions of mixed commissions of previous times, the decision of a jurisdictional authority must be reasoned and objective, that is, it must give sufficient reasons for the solution given to the conflict.

The statement of reasons seems, therefore, essential in ordinary arbitrations, and it has been so since a long time. The statement of reasons is the part of the verdict which permits to know whether it was dictated in accordance with international law. This is particularly the case of the Arbitration Treaty between Venezuela and Great Britain which required a judicial decision consistent with the principle of the uti possidetis juris. The statement of reasons is, therefore, an integral part of the verdict. According to the prevailing opinion in the legal doctrine, the failure to give reasons, except through an agreement to the contrary between the parties, vitiates of nullity the verdict.

We are able to affirm that the Arbitral Tribunal which dictated the verdict in the British-Venezuelan border conflict did not comply with its duty, and, therefore, giving a decision without the corresponding statement of reasons, did not proceed in accordance with the norms of international law. Therefore, the decision of the Arbitral Tribunal lacks any validity in international law, at least from the moment in which this validity is invoked.

18. Excess of jurisdiction. Nevertheless, next to the failure to give reasons in the Arbitral decision, there is another no less important vice which can be adduced against the Arbitral decision of 1899. The Arbitration Treaty, signed in 1897, had provided that the decision had to be based on the principles of international law, and particularly on the principle of the uti possidetis juris of 1810.

Moreover, Rule (a) of Article IV in the Arbitration Treaty is expressed by the following stipulation: "Adverse holding or prescription during a period of fifty years shall make a good title. The Arbitrators may deem exclusive political control of a district, as well as actual settlement thereof, sufficient to constitute adverse holding or to make title by prescription."

Therefore, the decision of the Arbitral Tribunal took into account neither the principle of the uti possidetis juris nor the stipulation contained in Rule (a) of Article IV, and even in the most favourable interpretation for Great Britain, the Tribunal exceeded its jurisdiction as it did not explain the reasons why it granted to this country the ownership of that territory (that it occupied) during the 50 years preceding the decision, in spite of the only true fact that these territories pertained before 1810 to the Captaincy General of Venezuela, a future independent state.

On the other hand, the Arbiters went beyond their jurisdiction when deciding upon and regulating a question whose examination had not been foreseen in the arbitral Treaty; that is to say, it decided on and established rules for the free navigation on the Barima and Amacuro Rivers.

The non-application of the rules provided for by the Arbitration Treaty and the fact that the Arbitral Tribunal had decided questions on which it had no jurisdiction constitute by themselves new reasons for the nullity of the verdict.

This point of view is in accordance with the best doctrine on international law. In the absence of precedents of cases of this kind, namely, those vitiated by failure to give a reasoned decisions, the authors and the practice of international law generally admit the nullity of verdicts in two instances: incompetence of the judge (absence of a compromise or a valid Arbitration Treaty), or in the case of excess of jurisdiction (extension of the decision over matters which were not included in the arbitral or judicial agreement, or application of rules such as those of equity for instance, which had been explicitly or implicitly excluded by the parties). This definition of excess of jurisdiction has been affirmed by the Permanent Arbitration Tribunal (1910) mainly in the well-known affair of the Orinoco Steamship Company between the United States and Venezuela. On this matter the judgement rendered by the King of Spain on December 23, 1906 and the judgement of November 13, 1960, ICJ 1960, p. 215 and ff. may also be consulted.

In both cases, in the illicit extension of jurisdiction as well as in the application of rules not agreed upon in the compromise or treaty, we have a case of exercise of power by the Arbiters which can only be verified after the decision has been rendered.

19. Another defect of the Award consists in that it was not a legal decision, in accordance to the Treaty, but just a compromise. So it was interpreted by:

(a) The Press of America and Europe,

(b) Members of the Tribunal,

(c) Counsel at the Tribunal.

The force of this evidence is such that Mr. C.T. Crowe, delegate of Great Britain, had to acknowledge at the United Nations Special Committee in 1962, that the Award was the result of a compromise.

20. The Award was a compromise obtained by extortion, according to convergent testimony from American, British, Venezuela and French sources such as:

(a) Mallet-Prevost

(b) Buchanan (British Agent at the Tribunal)

(c) Perry Allen (Mallet-Prevost's secretary)

(d) Sir Richard Webster (Chief British Counsel)

(e) Lord Russell (Chief British Arbitrator)

(f) J.M. de Rojas and Jose Andrade (Venezuelan Agent and Plenipotentiary Minister, respectively)

(g) L. de la Chanonie (French writer)

(h) Georges A. Pariset (French Jurist)

21. Besides the Award was the result of a political deal:

(a) Mallet-Prevost in his Memorandum describes it thus: the Award was a "farce" and "a deal... concluded between Russia and Great Britain".

(b) Harrison's wife refers to it in similar terms in her diary: "Rusia (sic) was the fifth in the Tribunal; and it is her diplomacy to be on England's side, balance of power... etc."

(c) Charles Alexander Harris, an officer of the Colonial Office, confirms it when he affirms that the decision of the Paris Tribunal was a "farce". (The same word used by Justice Brewer, according to the Memorandum of Mallet-Prevost, and by General Harrison as quoted by Perry Allen): "The thing is a farce."

(d) A.L. Mason's memorandum quotes the testimony of General and ex-President Harrison: "... settled as a political expedient."

(e) R.J. Block, Lord Russell's secretary, in his diary on the eve of the Award recorded the deal of de Martens which gave victory to Great Britain: "VENEZUELA. MARTENS' DEAL HAS GIVEN US VICTORY."

22. Lord Russell of Killowen, chief English arbitrator, expressed in a private letter in 1896, the opinion that the Guiana case should be solved by allowing the arbitrators to determine the frontier through a diplomatic compromise.

In the same year, he expressed the same criterion in a speech delivered in Saratoga Springs, which deserved from The Times of London a brisk commentary revealing with singular frankness what was implicit in Lord Russell's opinion about international arbitration. The London newspaper comment came to be prophetic for the case of the "Anglo-Venezuelan Tribunal" of 1899:

The secret history of congresses and conferences is generally unedifying and little to the credit of human nature. The diarist of the times who is behind the scenes never fails to note down evidence of intrigues. Of lofty professions of disinterestedness being contradicted by private action, and of the courteous language of diplomacy being compatible with the presence and dominance of very ugly passions. . .

But when the diaries of some of those who took part in those proceedings (arbitrations) are published it will probably be found that the same passions which never failed to appear at congresses are not unknown in international arbitrations, and that if the discussion is protracted there is a temptation to make use of extrajudicial means of influencing the Tribunal. . .

Again in January 1899, as revealed in Mallet-Prevost's Memorandum, Lord Russell explained his theory that international arbitrations should not be exclusively based on right, but that they "should also take into consideration questions of international policy".

23. The accuracy of Mallet-Prevost's Memorandum is supported by numerous contemporary documents to the so-called Award of October 3, 1899. The objections raised by Great Britain against it are irrelevant and contrary to all the documentary evidence, as when it denied the historical possibility of the Anglo-Russian deal on the Guiana frontier, alleging that in 1899, the relations between these two powers were strained.

This objection implies a hardly acceptable principle, namely, that deals between countries are not possible when the relations between them are strained, a fact which does not meet with reality, since precisely in 1899 various Anglo-Russian agreements were concluded, responding to vital needs felt then by these two powers.

24. The Venezuelan Government had some knowledge of the irregularity of the Award and did not lose opportunity to protest against it. Its Agent at the Tribunal, J.M. de Rojas, qualified the decision as "derisory and a manifest injustice". Venezuelan President, Ignacio Andrade, affirmed that the Award had only restored part of the usurped territory.

25. When the British Minister explained his criterion on the fairness of the so-called Award in a note dated in Caracas, December 4, 1899, the Venezuelan Chancellor a few days later answered that he could refute his arguments.

The Venezuelan Chancellery reached the conclusion that the Arbitral decision contained such vices that she had the right to invoke its nullity. It decided not to denounce it outright as it could not face the formidable power of its adversary without the support of the United States which had reached an "entente" with the United Kingdom. The day after the "Award" the British press published, in the style of a threat, the following: "No doubt the United States will oblige their protege' to act fairly, if there is any trouble about the enforcement of the decision."

26. Venezuelan public opinion immediately criticized the Award, as did, among others the influential newspaper El Tiempo of October 17, 1899.

27. A note from the British Minister in Caracas to his Government of December 5, 1899, records that the Venezuelan Government wished to delay the demarcation of the frontier. In July 1900, the British Minister notified the Venezuelan Government that if it did not despatch the Demarcation Commission before October 3, the British Government would begin the demarcation alone. On October 8, the Minister notified the Venezuelan Chancellery that the Governor of British Guiana had been given instructions to commence demarcation. On October 19, the British Commissioners had already set up the Punta Playa boundary post. Under such an open pressure as this, Venezuela had not another alternative than to proceed to send its Demarcation Commission.

28. In the "Confidential Instructions" issued to the leader of the Venezuelan Boundary Commission, Sr. Felipe Aguerrevere on October 22, 1900, the Chancellery, after analyzing the nature of the Award which it qualified as "more the result of a compromise than of an essentially juridical examination", and with respect to the frontier imposed by the Arbitrators, said: "It is a line de facto, determined without any support or reason neither historical, geographical or political." Consequently, and because the "Award" had been overtly unjust towards Venezuela, the Venezuelan Commissioners were instructed to refer everything "to the most severe procedure".

29. If Venezuela concurred with Great Britain in the demarcation of the so-called border of the "Award", it was for the tremendous pressure of the circumstances and to prevent greater evils. The work of this Commission, evidently of a purely technical character, did not imply the assent to the so-called sentence of the Arbitral Tribunal.

30. In the Venezuelan Arbitration of 1903, before the International Court of The Hague, the Venezuelan lawyers did not hesitate to affirm that the Arbitration of 1899 "left a feeling of bitterness in the mind of Venezuela", and added, inter alia, that the Award was such that "the memory of it would be embittered with a sense of injustice".

31. Venezuela's internal and international situation during the first half of the twentieth century influenced her in postponing denunciation of the Award. But the press, Venezuelan writers, Venezuelan scholars, taught successive generations uninterruptedly that the "Award" frontier did not correspond to Venezuela's legitimate rights.

32. From 1915 till 1917 when Venezuela insisted in vain before Great Britain to make anew the demarcation of some parts of the frontier, the British Government offered resistance, on the ground of the painful circumstances of the war which its country was then enduring.

33. Venezuela, as other Latin American countries, did not want to raise the border question when the United Kingdom was running through the hard test of the last world conflicts, and waited for the new era of International Justice which followed the age of colonialism. Prior to the San Francisco Conference (1944), Dr. Diogenes Escalante, Venezuela's Ambassador to Washington, invoking the new spirit of equality between nations, demanded "amicable reparation" of the injustice perpetrated by the Award.

34. The Chamber of Deputies, meeting on June 30, 1944 took up the traditional Venezuelan attitude towards the Award through the voice of the Deputy Dr. Jose A. Marturet, requiring "the revision of her frontiers with British Guiana".

At the same time, the President of the Congress, Dr. Manuel Egana, at the closing session on July 17, 1944, in endorsing the attitude of the Executive, said:

... And here I wish to restate and confirm the earnest desire for revision announced to the world and in the presence of the Citizen President of the Republic, by Ambassador Escalate and, before this Congress, categorically, by Deputy Marturet; I wish, I repeat, to restate and confirm the earnest desire for the revision of the verdict whereby British imperialism despoiled us of a large part of our Guayana".

In statements to the press on July 18, 1944, members of the Permanent Foreign Relations Committee of Congress, representing the different political parties, also made themselves clear as to the need for revising the Award of 1899.

35. The United Nations Charter (1945), which laid down the principles of international equality invoked the previous year by the Venezuelan Ambassador, having been promulgated, Venezuela hastened to profit by the Inter-American Conference in Bogota in 1948, to remain steadfast to the opinion which her Government had upheld regarding the Arbitral decision of 1899. The leader of the Venezuelan delegation, Sr. Rumulo Betancourt, declared:

... we do not in any way deny the right of certain American nations to secure definite portions of hemispheric territory which may rightly belong to them, nor do we renounce what the Venezuelans, in the event of a peaceful and sincere historical and geographical revaluation of what is American, may be able to assert for the benefit of its territorial aspirations, in areas which are today under colonial tutelage and which were previously inside our original boundaries.

36. In 1949, Venezuela became cognizant of the famous Mallet-Prevost Memorandum which disclosed the secrets of the Paris farce. Venezuelan historians, under instructions from their Chancellery, at once hastened to search the British archives for fresh documents which would clarify still further the details of that farce. Fifty years had gone by and it was possible for the first time to study these documents in the Public Records of Great Britain. These researches were carried out between the years 1950 and 1955.

37. The publication of the Mallet-Prevost memorandum coincided with the release of British records and private American archives. These circumstances explain the fact that Venezuela had waited until now to formulate the denunciation of the Award.

38. In 1951, the Venezuelan Chancellor, Dr. Luis Emilio Gomez Ruiz, again expounded at the Fourth Conference of American Chancellors the opinion of the Government on the Award line, and demanded the "equitable rectification of the injustice" perpetrated by the Arbitral Tribunal. Meanwhile, Senor Rafael Gallegos Medina, in charge of the Chancellery, declared to the Caracas press: "The Chancellery has never renounced this just Venezuelan aspiration."

39. The Venezuelan Government expressed the same opinion at the Tenth Inter-American Conference gathered in Caracas in March 1954, in a statement read by the Legal Adviser of the Chancellery, Dr. Ramon Carmona, which ended thus: "According to the above, no decision which might be taken in the matter of colonies in this Conference, may lessen the rights corresponding in this respect to Venezuela, nor be interpreted, in any case, as a waiving of such rights."

40. Close to the creation of the British Caribbean Federation, notwithstanding that British Guiana was not included, the Venezuelan Chancellor, Dr. Jose Loreto Arismendi, in February 1956, ratified the traditional Venezuelan position about the boundaries with that colony, in the sense that it would not be affected by any change of status which might take place in the adjoining territory.

41. Dr. Rigoberto Henriquez Vera, in March 1960, expressed before a Parliamentary delegation of the United Kingdom the criterion of the Venezuelan Lower House:

A change of status in British Guiana would not invalidate the just aspiration of our country, to have amended in an equitable manner, and through cordial understanding the great injuries suffered by the nation by virtue of the unfair sentence of 1899, in which peculiar circumstances prevailed resulting for our country in the loss of more than sixty thousand square miles of its territory.

42. When Venezuela was finally in possession of the copious documentation which substantiated her traditional opinion as to the nullity of the Award, she again upheld it before the Committee on non-self-governing territories and trusteeship questions of the United Nations (February 1962), through her Ambassador, Dr. Carlos Sosa Rodriguez.

43. The Chamber of Deputies, in the sessions of March 28 and April 4, 1962, after hearing representatives of all the political parties in support of the attitude of the Venezuelan Chancellery to the Award, approved the following resolution:

To endorse Venezuela's policy on the boundary dispute between the British possession and our country insofar as it refers to the territory of which we were deprived by colonialism; and on the other hand, unreservedly to support the total independence of British Guiana and its incorporation in the democratic way of life.

44. Dr. Marcos Falcon Briceno, then Venezuelan Chancellor, in his statement before the Special Committee of the Seventeenth Assembly of the United Nations on November 12, 1962, extensively expressed the traditional position of Venezuela regarding the Guiana boundary question and invoked the nullity of the Award of October 3, 1899.

As a result of conversations held between the representatives of the Government of the United Kingdom and Venezuela, an agreement was reached between the two countries, with the concurrence of the British Guiana Government, in the sense that the three Governments shall examine the documentary material relevant to this question and will inform to the United Nations about the results of these conversations. It was thus stated, with authorization from the interested parties, by the Chairman of the Special Political Committee, Sr. Leopoldo Benitez (Representative of Ecuador) on November 16, 1962.

After the arrangements were made through diplomatic channels and in conformity with the above resolution, the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Venezuela and the United Kingdom, Dr. Marcos Falcon Briceno and the Honourable R.A. Butler, respectively, met in London in November 1963. In this opportunity, the Venezuelan Chancellor filed on the 5th of the same month and year to the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Her British Majesty an Aide-Memoire with the Venezuelan viewpoints about the dispute, the conclusion of which is as follows: "Historical truth and justice demand that Venezuela asks the full restoration of the territory of which she has been deprived."

To sum up, as a result of the tripartite examination of the documentary material presented to Great Britain which has just been briefly commented on, and which supports each one of the affirmations herein contained, Venezuela has arrived at the following conclusions:

(1) Venezuela was compelled to accept the Arbitration Treaty of 1897 under undue pressure exercised upon her by the United States and Great Britain. These two countries negotiated the bases of the compromise with the exclusion of the Venezuelan Government, which was given explanations inducing into error.

(2) Venezuela was left aside in such a way, that the United States and Great Britain agreed from the beginning of the negotiations that no Venezuelan jurist was to form part of the Arbitration Tribunal.

(3) Although substantial Venezuelan objections to the treaty were not taken into account by its direct negotiators, Venezuela interpreted the arbitration compromise in the sense that the decision of the Tribunal was to be one of strict judicial character.

(4) The so-called Award of October 3, 1899 is null. This nullity is based on the following facts:

(a) The failure to give a statement of reasons for the decision.

(b) The fact that the arbitrators did not take into account, for their verdict, the applicable rules of right and particularly the principle of uti possidetis juris; neither did they make any effort to investigate and ascertain "the extent of the territories belonging either to the United Provinces of the Netherlands or to the Kingdom of Spain" at the time of the so-called acquisition. (Art. III of the Arbitration Treaty).

(c) The fact that the arbitrators did not establish how the 50 years terms of prescription were to be computed, nor did they apply it according to what had been agreed in the Arbitration Treaty.

(d) The fact that, without being empowered to do so by the Arbitration Treaty, the arbitrators established rules in their verdict for the free navigation of the two bordering rivers, and as a matter of fact, against Venezuela.

(e) The fact that the so-called Award was a result of a diplomatic compromise explains why the arbitrators did not take into account the rules of law embodied in the Arbitration Treaty. Contemporary documents, while revealing that the arbitrators were aware of that, at the same time prove the fact of a political compromise when they speak of a "deal" or "farce".

(5) Great Britain's representatives submitted to the Arbitration Tribunal maps considered to be of a decisive importance but which were tampered with in the Colonial Office.

(6) The line of the so-called Award was prepared at the Colonial Office in July 1899, that is, several months before the sentence. This boundary line was forced upon the American arbitrators by the President of the Tribunal, the Russian Professor de Martens, through undue pressure.

(7) Venezuela has never assented to the so-called Award of October 3, 1899. The Venezuelan participation in the demarcation of the frontier had a purely technical character. The country was forced to it by unsurmountable circumstances. Both the Government and the people of Venezuela protested always the so-called Award of 1899 a much and as far as it was possible to them.



Caracas, 18 March 1965.

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Following the December 1964 elections in British Guiana, a coalition Government of the PNC and the UF was formed, with Forbes Burnham, the PNC Leader appointed Premier. The PPP, which had emerged as the most popular party, winning the highest proportion of votes amounting to 24 of the 53 seats in the House of Assembly, now took up the role as the Opposition.

As Premier, Burnham almost immediately after his accession visited Venezuela on 11 and 12 January 1965. He met with President Raul Leoni and other Venezuelan Government officials, and matters relating to trade and developmental assistance were discussed.

As a consequence of this visit, a Venezuelan trade mission arrived in British Guiana in mid February and, at the same time, the first industrial exhibition to be sponsored by Venezuela in the British colony was opened in Georgetown.

Venezuela and the PNC UF coalition Government established closer relations in July 1965 when a team of Venezuelan medical specialists arrived in British Guiana to examine forms of assistance that could be granted to health services. Subsequently, the Venezuelan Government sent several boxes of medicine as a gift to the British Guiana Government which also continued to accept a Venezuelan offer to provide specialist treatment of ailing Guyanese in leading Venezuelan hospitals.

It was apparent that with close relations developing between the two countries that secret talks were going on in an effort to settle the border issue. But the PNC UF efforts to make Venezuela withdraw its claim to the Essequibo region proved to be unsuccessful. Venezuela continued to propose "economic cooperation" and "joint development" and insisted that there should be meetings at ministerial level, even though that country, after an examination of documents, failed to produce any evidence to support the contention that the Arbitral Award of 1899 was null and void.

The PNC-UF Government's position was that the border issue and economic cooperation with Venezuela should be kept separate. The British Foreign Office was informed of this policy by Deoroop Maraj, Minister without Portfolio, when he visited London in June 1965. When the new British Ambassador in Caracas was advised of the policy of the new British Guiana administration, he informed the Foreign Office in August 1965 that the Venezuelan proposal of joint-development, as mooted in 1962-1963, would no longer satisfy Venezuela since that country wanted "near de facto sovereignty" of the western Essequibo.

The Venezuelan Government's insistence of having ministerial meetings between Venezuela, on the one hand, and Great Britain and British Guiana on the other, was never opposed by the PNC UF Government. On the 11 July 1965, Premier Burnham stated in the House of Assembly that despite the talks which had already taken place, not a single inch of territory would be yielded to Venezuela.

However, on the 4 October 1965, Burnham announced that ministerial talks on the border issue would take place in London on the 7 November 1965, just before the constitutional conference, aimed at obtaining independence for British Guiana, was to be convened.

Meanwhile, Dr. Jagan raised his party's concerns about the border problems and how they would be handled after independence, when he met with Burnham on 4 October 1965 to discuss outstanding issues related to forthcoming independence conference in London. That meeting made little progress owing to Burnham's refusal to end the existing state of emergency in the country and the release of a number of PPP members from detention. On the following day, Dr. Jagan issued a statement which, inter alia, dealt with the border issue:

"Our border problems are likely to become more vexed in the near future. At the present time we do not have resources to defend our border adequately. The Guyanese people must know what steps the government proposes to take to guarantee its territorial integrity. The leases for the US deactivated naval and air bases must be terminated, as experience has shown that foreign bases in independent sovereign countries are always a source of subversion and sabotage of national sovereignty. They were approved neither on the advice of, nor after consultation with, the elected representatives of the Guyanese people."

He also called upon the Government to inform the Guyanese people as to what plans it had to protect the borders and the territorial integrity of Guyana. This crucial issue was one of the matters he felt should be settled even before the beginning of the independence conference.


While the preparations for the ministerial meetings were going on, the Venezuelan Congress passed the following resolution on the 13 October 1965:

The Congress of the Republic of Venezuela considering:

1. That the National Government in safeguarding and defending the Supreme National Interest has actually placed before the Government of Great Britain the formal reclamation for the recuperation of the territory Guyana Essequibo, unjustly taken away from Venezuela by the Arbitration Award on 3rd October, 1899.


2. That in accordance with the numerous and definite documents that exist, the said Arbitration Award consists of substantial fraud and that it be converted into a void act.


3. That the gestures initiated by the National Government, in the name of the Venezuelan State, deserve a just act of solidarity and support, not only of the country's public opinion, but also of the Congress of the Republic which represents the free expression of public will:

AGREES that Article I expresses the unanimous and firm support of the Republic's Congress to the just and patriotic diplomatic gesture that is being put forward by the National Government before the Government of Great Britain in its reclamation of Guyana Essequibo, through which it re-vindicates for Venezuela the important parts of its territory over which it has sufficient historic title and jurisdiction.

Article II declares that the territorial claim is not directed against the independence of British Guiana, and reiterates its anti colonialist position as the basic principle of our international policies, and based also on the Inter American judicial system.

Given, signed and sealed in the Federal Legislative Palace in Caracas on the 13th day of October, 1965, the 156th year of its independence and also of its Federation.

An official copy of this resolution, signed by the President of the Congress, Luis Bertram Preito, Congress Vice President Alirio Ugarte Pelayo, Secretary Antonio Hernendez Foneca and another member, Felix Cordero Falcon, was presented shortly after to the United Nations where it was circulated as an official UN document.


Just before the British Guiana independence conference was to be convened in London, Hector Santanella, the Venezuelan Ambassador in the British capital sent the following Note to Anthony Lincoln, the British Ambassador in Caracas on the 2 November 1965:

Dear Sir,

On the occasion of the Conference of the Independence of British Guiana on whose happy and fruitful results the Venezuelan Government presents its sincerest congratulations, I have the honour to reiterate to Your Excellency, on express instructions of my Government, the explicit and constant position of Venezuela with respect to colonialism and of the old dispute with the United Kingdom relating to our boundary with British Guiana.

It will not escape the precept of Great Britain the fact that Venezuela, following its own history as a nation that contributed efficiently, has maintained throughout its existence as a Republic a defined position in favour of the independence of all former colonies and territories which were formerly dependent upon the metropolitan countries. Thus, Venezuela's position has been of special application in the process of declaring (independence for) the American territories with which she is particularly connected by the reason of continental brotherhood.

In the case of British Guiana the reasons which move Venezuela to avidly desire its independence are much more powerful, as it is understood that by its geographic proximity the two countries are called upon to consolidate a lasting friendship which will endure in their mutual benefit and of the continent's.

I am not going to lose Your Excellency's attention by citing of significant and numerous declarations of Venezuela on this matter, nor with the facts of the reclamation which it has maintained, and which it will continue clearly and firmly to maintain as its legitimate boundary with British Guiana. The expressions of Venezuela's willingness are also known to Your Excellency to find a friendly solution to the problem with the cooperation of Your Majesty's Government. By the aforesaid, and while the Conference for the Independence of British Guiana is meeting in this capital, I celebrate in the name of my Government the high objects of those who propose the concession of independence to this territory tied by various forms of affection with Venezuela.

Nevertheless, the inalienable right to maintain intact the sacred right of Venezuela in any contingency obliges my Government to renew, at the same time, in a very clear and profound manner, its territorial reclamation.

In consequence, I have the honour to direct to Your Excellency, expressing the voluntary wish of the authorities and the people of Venezuela, to affirm in the most formal manner and category the position of my Government in the sense that no change of status that may occur as British Guiana is concerned, arising out of the declaration of independence or whatever cause, shall in no way affect the territorial rights of Venezuela in the Guyana Essequibo. I ask Your Excellency to have this Note made known to the British Guiana Independence Conference which is meeting in this city after the 2nd of November.

I renew to Your Excellency my highest esteem, etc.

(Signed) Hector Santanella


Meanwhile, the British and Venezuelan experts met in both London and Caracas to examine the records of the arbitration tribunal which settled the boundary between Guyana and Venezuela in 1899. On the eve of the experts' final examination for the year, Dr. Jagan in late October suggested that the United Nations should set up a commission to deal with the issue of the examination of the documents.

At the conclusion of the November 1965 Constitutional Conference, which fixed the 26 May 1966 as the date for the independence of British Guiana, another ministerial meeting occurred on the 9 and 10 December 1965 between the Foreign Minister of Venezuela on the one side and the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs of the United Kingdom and the Premier of British Guiana, Forbes Burnham, on the other.

In these discussions, the Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Dr. Ignacio Iribarren Borges, formerly the Ambassador in London, proposed in December 1965 the cession of territory to Venezuela and the establishment of a Mixed Commission which would formulate plans for collaboration in the development of "Essequiban Guyana and British Guyana." This proposal was immediately rejected by both the British and the British Guiana Governments. The British Government, however, was willing to discuss economic cooperation provided it was separate from the border issue. It concluded that the Venezuelan proposal for economic cooperation, as it was being pushed in the negotiations, was "constructive" and should be pursued.

At this meeting the stand taken by Great Britain and British Guiana was that there was no dispute as regards the frontier, but that the only dispute was that arising out of Venezuela's contention that the 1899 Award was invalid. Great Britain and British Guiana also stated that the examination of the documentary material had produced no evidence whatever in support of the Venezuelan allegation that the Award was the result of a deal or was otherwise invalid. The discussions, however, were inconclusive and the participants decided that the representatives of the three Governments should meet again in Geneva, Switzerland, in February 1966.

The Agenda for the Geneva Conference was not released, but an idea of it could be obtained from the matters discussed at the very meeting held in London on the 9 and 10 December 1965. This meeting made an important concession to Venezuela by raising that country's claim to the status of a "controversy" which needed to be settled.

The meeting issued the following communiqué:

In accordance with what had been agreed in the joint communiqué of 7 November 1963, talks took place in London on the 9 and 10 December, between the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Venezuela on the one side and the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom and the Premier of British Guiana on the other on the basis of the following agenda: -

Agenda for the continuation at Ministerial levels of Governmental conversations concerning the controversy between Venezuela and the United Kingdom over the frontier with British Guiana in accordance with the joint communiqué of 7 November 1963.

1. Exchange of views on the experts' reports on the examination of documents and discussions of the consequences resulting thereof. Necessity of resolving the dispute.

2. To seek satisfactory solutions for the practical settlement of the controversy which has arisen as a result of the Venezuelan contention that the 1899 Award is null and void.

3. Concrete plans for the collaboration in the development of British Guiana.

4. Determination of time limits for the fulfilment of whatever may be agreed with reference to points one, two and three above.

5. Joint communiqué on the present talks.

In addition to considering the experts' reports on the documentary material relating to the arbitration Award of 1899, the two Ministers considered ways and means of putting an end to the controversy which threatened to damage the traditional cordial relations between Venezuela on the one hand and the United Kingdom and British Guiana on the other.

Ideas and proposals for the practical settlement of the controversy were exchanged. It was agreed that some of these should receive further consideration and that the Ministers should continue the present discussions on the week starting the 13th February, 1966 at Geneva in order to consider these proposals as well as others that might be suggested under the said agenda. Neither side having been able to accept the conclusions of the experts appointed by the other side, Item One will not be considered. It was further agreed that preparatory talks between officials should start at an early date.

The text of this communiqué will be made available to the Secretary General of the United Nations.

Meanwhile, in Venezuela, sections of the media, on learning of the date of British Guiana's independence had been fixed, launched a strong emotional campaign at home and abroad in support of their country's territorial claims, while at the same time purporting to welcome the independence of their colonial neighbour.


In British Guiana itself, the publication of the London communiqué brought strong condemnation from Dr. Cheddi Jagan, Leader of the PPP and of the Opposition. He denounced the PNC UF Government for not practising its much touted "consultative democracy" since the Opposition had not been consulted on this vital national issue of Venezuela's claim to the British Guiana's territory. The Premier, Forbes Burnham, then issued a public statement that the PPP would in fact be consulted.

Just a few days before the Geneva Conference was due to be convened, Burnham invited the Deputy Leader of the PPP, Ashton Chase - who was acting for Dr. Jagan then in Moscow attending the Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union - to discuss the Venezuelan contention and to state the views of the PPP on the border questions with Venezuela and Suriname.

Chase, accompanied by Jocelyn Hubbard, acting Chairman of the party, subsequently met Burnham on Friday 11 February 1966. After the discussions, the Government issued the following statement:

Discussions which took place today between the Prime Minister and members of the Opposition represented by Mr. Ashton Chase and Mr. J. Hubbard lasted for thirty five minutes. There was agreement on both sides that the Venezuelan claim was without substance and that there did not exist any valid claim by Venezuela but rather a controversy.

The PPP delegation emphasised that the border issue was one of national importance and requested that this be treated in like manner. They, therefore, suggested that the delegation going to Geneva should include two representatives from the PPP and their nominees would be either Dr. Jagan who is at the moment in Moscow, or the Deputy Leader, Mr. Ashton Chase, together with Dr. Fenton Ramsahoye.

The Prime Minister indicated that he would have first to consult with his cabinet colleagues before giving an answer.

The Government statement was not first submitted to Chase and Hubbard for approval of its text, and since it failed to mention what the PPP considered to be vital issues raised in the talks, the Party on the 12 February, issued this release:

Mr. Ashton Chase, acting Leader and Mr. H.J.M. Hubbard, acting Chairman, represented the People's Progressive Party at discussions held with the Prime Minister on Friday afternoon on matters relating to Venezuelan and Dutch claims to British Guiana territory.

The People's Progressive Party representatives also stated that their Party's view that the claim be resisted and that it was a national issue in which the Opposition should form part of the British Guiana delegation.

The People's Progressive Party was also of the view that there should be no special arrangements with Venezuela over the development of the area since such special arrangements might compromise the Government of British Guiana in regard to the Venezuelan claim.

The PPP delegation also raised with the Prime Minister the question of the Suriname border issue and expressed the view that this should be dealt with as a national question.

In his booklet entitled Venezuela Border Issue and Occupation of Ankoko - A Sellout by the Coalition Government, published by the PPP in 1967, Jocelyn Hubbard had this to add:

The PPP had requested representation at the Conference by the Leader or Deputy Leader and Dr. Fenton Ramsahoye who had been Attorney General in the People's Progressive Party Government on the legal issues involved in the matter. The PPP had insisted, however, that if only one representative could be accommodated, then that representative would have to be the Leader or the Deputy Leader.

It is important to note that the Government had been warned by the People's Progressive Party delegation that the United Kingdom Government appeared to be letting the talks take a dangerous trend. A spurious claim was listed in the Agenda as a "controversy" needing a solution. The Prime Minister who headed the British Guiana delegation was therefore made fully aware, if he did not know it before, that the talks were headed for a catastrophic climax.


The PPP request for representation at the Geneva Conference was refused by the Government which, however, offered to include Dr. Ramsahoye in the Government delegation.

Burnham made this offer to the PPP in the following letter to Ashton Chase dated 12 February 1966:

. . .As promised yesterday, I have consulted my Cabinet colleagues on your request that the Opposition be represented at the forthcoming talks in Geneva on the Venezuela British Guiana boundary.

After careful consideration the Government has decided that it will be prepared to nominate from the Opposition front bench Dr. F.W.H. Ramsahoye as an adviser to the British Guiana delegation. This decision has been taken in the light of the fact that the files and memoranda disclose that Dr. Ramsahoye has been dealing with the matter in great depth during his term as Attorney General and as a result would be a most helpful member of the team.

I confirm my observations of yesterday that there is no difference between the Government and the Opposition on the determination not to yield even the slightest control of any Guyanese territory to the Venezuelans.

Later that same day, Ashton Chase, on behalf of the PPP, replied to Burnham rejecting the offer:

. . .I acknowledge receipt of your letter of today's date.

We made it very clear yesterday that this is primarily a political question, and that the best way to deal with the Venezuelan political manoeuvre was to present a national front in order to cement opinion at home and to influence public opinion.

My Party cannot accept the principle of your Government nominating which member of my party should represent us at the forthcoming talks in Geneva. Your proposal is therefore regarded as a rejection of our wish to have Dr. Jagan (or his deputy) with Mr. Ramsahoye associated with the British Guiana delegation.

It is regretted that following our offer the Government has lost a signal opportunity to demonstrate abroad and at home the united determination of all sections of our community not to yield in any form any part of our territory to Venezuela.

Of interest to note was that the text of Burnham's letter to Chase was released to the press and the radio - without the latter's knowledge and consent - even though that letter was marked "Personal, Secret and Confidential".

No further correspondence or discussion was exchanged between the Government and the Opposition. Subsequently, a PNC UF Government delegation left for Geneva to attend the conference on the 13 February. In great contrast to the British Guiana delegation, the Venezuelan delegation that proceeded to Geneva included representatives from their main Opposition parties, thus presenting a strong united front at the conference.

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