Venezuela Asserts Sovereignty Through Essequibo Referendum Backed by Supreme Court
Venezuela’s stance on its claim over the Essequibo territory has been further solidified following a crucial decision by the nation’s Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ). The Vice President of Venezuela, Delcy Rodríguez, announced the Court’s decision to safeguard the consultative referendum on the disputed region as a reassertion of the country’s sovereignty.
TSJ Protects Upcoming Consultative Referendum
On the 17th of November, 2023, in a significant development reported by Sputnik Mundo, the TSJ granted the protection requested by the National Assembly regarding the referendum. Venezuela is scheduled to hold this event on December 3 in defense of the Essequibo territory. The Court declared that any attempts by national or international actors to undermine this process will be deemed legally invalid.
Contesting External Interference
The decision by the TSJ comes after Guyana’s actions to commence oil production in the undemarcated area, which prompted Venezuela to schedule the referendum comprising five key questions for its citizens. As Venezuela proceeded with its plans, Guyana sought the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ’s) intervention to halt the referendum process, a move considered by Caracas as interference in its internal affairs.
Tension Over Resource-Rich Territory
The Essequibo region, which spans some 160,000 square kilometers west of the Essequibo River, is known for its substantial oil reserves. This resource-rich area has been the subject of a lengthy dispute between Venezuela and Guyana, dating back over a century. The disagreement intensified when, in 2018, Guyana approached the ICJ to validate an 1899 arbitration award that granted it full control over the territory.
In a move viewed as a violation of international law by Venezuela, the Guyanese Government awarded drilling contracts to major oil corporations such as ExxonMobil, TotalEnergies, and China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), among others. The Venezuelan administration under Nicolás Maduro has stated firmly that such actions are illegitimate unless conducted through an agreement with Caracas.
A Historical Look at the Venezuela-Guyana Dispute
Relations between the two nations have not always been on edge. In 1966, both countries reached an accord aiming for a peaceful solution to the territorial conflict. However, attempts at a diplomatic resolution have been challenging, particularly after Guyana’s legal appeal to the ICJ four years ago.
Venezuela’s Firm Stance on Sovereignty
The vice president of Venezuela, Delcy Rodríguez, reiterated the country’s position in the face of Guyana’s efforts to involuntarily involve the ICJ. Through the social media network X, she emphasized that the TSJ’s decision affirms Venezuela’s sovereignty and serves as a message to Guyana against attempts of meddling in Venezuelan affairs. The Venezuelan people’s voices will be expressed unequivocally during the December referendum, she underscored.
This firm stance by Venezuela underscores the ongoing complexities of geopolitical disputes in the Latin American region and the importance of addressing such issues through international law and dialogue.
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