Commentary: Venezuelan minister urges: Know details of 1899 Award and Geneva Agreement

Commentary: Venezuelan minister urges: Know details of 1899 Award and Geneva Agreement

By Odeen Ishmael

As part of its activities to maintain its claim to Guyana’s Essequibo territory, the Venezuelan government has established an organization it calls the New Frontier of Peace Mission. A press release issued by the Venezuelan foreign ministry on June 2 announced that this organization held a seminar from May 31 to June 2 on the “geostrategic and geopolitical situation of the Essequibo territory” at the ministry.

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Dr Odeen Ishmael, Ambassador Emeritus (retired), historian and author, served as Guyana’s ambassador in the USA (1993-2003), Venezuela (2003-2011) and Kuwait and Qatar (2011-2014). He is the author of The Trail of Diplomacy – The Guyana-Venezuela Border Issue (in three volumes). He also currently serves as a Senior Research Fellow of the Washington-based Council on Hemispheric Affairs.

Interestingly, the release announced the inauguration of the “Essequibo Hall and the unveiling of a bust of Simon Bolívar, a replica of the sculpture located in the city of Puerto Esquivel along the Essequibo River.”

Where this “city of Puerto Esquivel” exists on the Essequibo River remains a mystery since there is no such place-name within Guyana’s 83,000 square miles of sovereign territory.

However, as is known, the Venezuelan authorities a few years ago were instrumental in influencing Google to publish a map of Essequibo (prepared in Venezuela) on which all the towns and villages were shown with Spanish names. Therefore, it may not be strange to find the “peace mission” using a similar map showing a place called Puerto Esquivel on Guyana’s Essequibo River.

The Venezuelan ministry stated that this seminar would be the starting point of several activities aimed at “reaffirming, refreshing and re-sensitizing the officials of the ministries and other institutions of the country” of Venezuela’s territorial claim.

According to Major General Gerardo José Izquierdo Torres, director of the border office of the ministry and minister of state of the New Frontier of Peace Mission and executive secretary of the presidential commission for the border, “new evidence has been found of that vile imperial spoil, which seeks to seize the existing riches, both in terrestrial and aquatic spaces.” He did not reveal the alleged “new evidence.”

Other speakers at this seminar, mainly military personnel, were Colonel Pompeyo Torrealba, described as the founder of the so-called city of Puerto Esquivel; Lieutenant Averell Jhon Nicholas Melville, (of Guyanese ancestry), who spoke on the Rupununi uprising of 1969; Andrea Stefany and Juan Ruiz who discussed the geography, culture and infrastructure; while Brigadier General José Miguel Jaimes Vivas dealt with the Pemon separatist project (of which no details were publicized).

The Pemon linguistic population comprises six Amerindian groups on the frontier region of Brazil, Guyana and Venezuela. Among them are the Arecuna and Macushi of Guyana.

In his presentation, Torres called for Venezuelans’ awareness and patriotic sentiment towards Essequibo, whose inhabitants should no longer be seen or treated as foreigners. For this reason he reported that actions have been initiated to grant Venezuelan nationality to people from Essequibo born in Venezuela. To this end, he announced that approximately 1,000 identification cards were already available for such persons.

He said President Nicolás Maduro, in the search for solutions to the “territorial conflict”, was following the vision of the late Hugo Chávez who had established the High Level Bilateral Commission “oriented towards cooperation with Guyana, which generated bilateral exchanges such as the import of Guyanese rice.”

He added that spirit of mutual cooperation was maintained until the accession of the new Guyanese President David Granger in May 2015, who compared Venezuela with “the discomfort of having a thorn in the throat.” He also alleged that behind the “violations of international laws” there is an “imperial intention to turn the Orinoco into an international space, to seize energy and wealth, plus fresh water.”

Torres also emphasized the importance of knowing the details the Geneva Agreement and the 1899 Paris arbitration award, legal instruments that have no expiration and which he claimed are being violated by Guyana with the support of the American government. However, the press statements did not describe these alleged violations.

Obviously, Torres’ allegation of treaty violations can be easily rebutted by the Guyanese authorities who can point to the resuscitated claim to Guyana’s territory since 1962; the illegal occupation since 1966 by Venezuela of the Guyanese half of Ankoko Island at the Cuyuni and Wenamu border junction; the Leoni decree of 1968 by which Venezuela laid an extended claim to 12 miles of continental shelf off the Essequibo coast; and more recently the Maduro decrees of 2015 claiming almost all of Guyana’s offshore economic zone with its huge yet-to-be-exploited reserves of petroleum.

All of these actions against Guyana’s sovereignty remain as flagrant breaches of both the Geneva Agreement of 1966 and the Paris arbitration award of 1899, especially the latter, which both disputing parties – the Venezuelan and British governments – defined by treaty as “a full, perfect, and final settlement”.

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