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Statement by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) on the Guyana-Venezuela border controversy

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) notes the decision of the Venezuelan National Assembly to conduct a popular referendum on defending Venezuela’s claim of the Essequibo.

CARICOM further notes that two of the questions approved to be posed in the Referendum, if answered in the affirmative, would authorise the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to embark on the annexation of territory, which constitutes part of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, and to create a state within Venezuela known as Guyana Essequibo.

CARICOM reaffirms that international law strictly prohibits the government of one State from unilaterally seizing, annexing or incorporating the territory of another state.  An affirmative vote as aforesaid opens the door to the possible violation of this fundamental tenet of international law.

It is to be emphasised that the land and water in question — the Essequibo Region of Guyana — comprises more than two-thirds of the whole of Guyana itself.

CARICOM notes that the language of two questions approved to be posed in the Referendum seeks an affirmation and implementation of  Venezuela’s stance on the issue “by all means, according to/with the Law.”  It is open to reasonable persons to conclude that “by all means”, includes means of force or war.

CARICOM earnestly hopes that Venezuela is not raising the prospect of using force or military means to get its own way in this controversy over territory.  After all, it has been the long-standing position of Latin American and Caribbean countries, including Venezuela, that our Region must remain a Zone of Peace.

Meanwhile, CARICOM insists that the Referendum proposed by Venezuela has no validity, bearing, or standing in international law in relation to this controversy; the Referendum is a purely domestic construct, but its summary effect is likely to undermine peace, tranquility, security, and more, in our Region.

CARICOM reiterates its support for the judicial process and expresses the hope that Venezuela will engage fully in that process before the International Court of Justice which has determined that it has the jurisdiction in the case brought before it to determine the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award which Venezuela questions. The Court’s final decision will ensure a resolution that is peaceful, equitable and in accordance with international law.

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