As Guyana continues to work its diplomatic channels across the international community to rally support against Venezuela and its planned referendum on Guyana’s Essequibo region, Prime Minister Mark Phillips appeared before the Permanent Council of the Organisation of American States today, and highlighted Guyana’s concerns about the referendum and the build-up of Venezuelan military troops close to Guyana’s border.
“Venezuela could be seeking to establish the foundation for actions aimed at the annexation of two-thirds of Guyana’s territory although the matter of the resolution of the controversy is quite properly before the ICJ. Coupled with the decision to conduct this referendum, it is confirmed that Venezuela has significantly increased its military forces and equipment on its border with Guyana. While the position of the Government of Venezuela which was communicated to Guyana is that the security forces have been mobilised on the border to curb illegal mining, there have also been reports of the Venezuelan military building a landing strip in a zone near to the Essequibo region. No explanation about the airstrip has been provided to the Government of Guyana, but it is clear that it is the intention of that state to increase rhetoric on the controversy and drive fear in the Guyanese population”, Prime Minister Mark Phillips said.
The Prime Minister, who is a retired Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force, told the OAS that Guyana is vigilant with the intentions and the implications of the planned Venezuelan referendum.
He explained that Venezuela’s actions may be geared towards abandoning the proceedings at the International Court of Justice, and to resort to its own measures to settle the controversy.
“On the 23rd October 2023, the Government of Venezuela through its National Electoral Council published a list of five questions that it plans to to put before the Venezuelan people in this referendum on the 3rd December 2023. The purpose of these questions, which is obvious from their nature and timing, and the manner in which they have been drafted, is to obtain responses that would support Venezuela’s decision to abandon these proceedings and to resort instead to unilateral measures to resolve the controversy with Guyana by formally annexing and integrating into Venezuela, all of the territory at issue in these proceedings, which comprises more than two-thirds of Guyana”, the Prime Minister explained.
According to Prime Minister Phillips, the actions of Venezuela is threatening the economic development of Guyana, as well as its peace and security. He said the Government of Guyana will continue to update and inform the international community of the developments.
The Prime Minister told the OAS Permanent Council that in wake of the planned Venezuelan referendum, and the actions by the Government of Venezuela in recent weeks, Guyana has turned to the International Court of Justice to block the questions related to the border controversy from being part of the country’s referendum.
In the past few months, Venezuela has been pushing for a return to dialogue to solve the controversy. Guyana was involved in dialogue with Venezuela on the issue for over two decades under the UN Good Offices Process. He said those efforts bore no fruit, and the UN Secretary General eventually referred the matter to the International Court of Justice.
Venezuela initially objected to the Court’s jurisdiction, but that objection was shot down by the Court and the Court and has moved ahead with the case.
The Organisation of American States has been consistent in its condemnation of the actions of Venezuela and was one of the first international organisations to raise worry over recent actions by the Bolivarian Republic.
Prime Minister Phillips said Guyana will continue to strive for a peaceful settlement of the controversy, while thanking the OAS and the international community for their support.