BASSETERRE, St. Kitts - THE Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is the latest to come out against a recent decree by Venezuela to ignore the ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) that it has jurisdiction to hear the matter between Guyana and Venezuela in the laying claim to the Essequibo region.
In a statement issued today (Jan 12), CARICOM said it is “deeply disappointed and concerned at the decree and subsequent statements by Venezuela with respect to that country’s border controversy with Guyana, including intimations of the creation of a strategic area of national development called “Territory for the Development of the Atlantic Façade”.
Guyana and Venezuela have been locked in numerous challenges as the latter has laid claim to two-thirds of former country’s land in the Essequibo, under an 1899 order.
The matter went quiet for several years until after the 2015 General Elections in Guyana when major oil discoveries were made in the waters of the Stabroek Block.; an area in which Venezuela has also laid claim.
Guyana moved to the ICJ for a decision to put an end to the long-standing controversy, but Venezuela indicated that it would not participate in the Court’s proceedings, but instead called for diplomatic reasoning.
With the ICJ ruling last December that it has jurisdiction, Guyana is set to present its arguments to the Court.
However, last week, President Maduro issued a decree claiming the contentious area of Guyana, tweeting: “That territory belongs to the Venezuelan men and women and we are going to reconquer it.”
The decree was met with swift condemnation from Guyana’s President Irfan Ali and the Leader of the Opposition, Joseph Harmon.
President Ali summoned Venezuela’s Ambassador to Guyana in Georgetown to a meeting to explain the latest decree, while at the same time chastising Maduro for breaking international laws.
“Regrettably, by decreeing that the seas adjacent to this territory belong to Venezuela, at least two fundamental principles of international law have been violated. The first violation is that no State can unilaterally determine its international boundaries, whether they are land boundaries or maritime boundaries...Therefore, this attempt by Venezuela to attempt, unilaterally, to fix both its land and maritime boundaries with Guyana is a legal nullity...,” President Ali said.
He added: “The second violation of fundamental international law is based on the fact that, under well-established rules of international law, there is a fundamental principle that ‘the land dominates the sea’”.
This means that sovereignty, and sovereign rights in the sea and seabed, emanate from title to the land that forms the coast to which those seas and seabed are adjacent, the President noted.
Since Guyana is sovereign over the coast west of the Essequibo River, as far as Punta Playa, it follows, consequently, that only Guyana can enjoy sovereignty and exclusive sovereign rights over the adjacent sea and seabed.
Meanwhile, CARICOM reiterated its full support of “the judicial process” underway at the ICJ, which it noted “is intended to bring a peaceful and definitive end to the long-standing controversy between the two countries”.
“CARICOM reiterates in the strongest possible terms it's firm and unswerving support for the maintenance and preservation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Guyana. CARICOM firmly repudiates any acts of aggression by Venezuela against Guyana,” the statement added.