By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS -- The Nicolas Maduro regime on Wednesday reiterated that Venezuela has "legitimate rights" over the Essequibo, a territory over which it maintains a historic border dispute with Guyana, while urging the neighboring country to "negotiate a practical arrangement" for this resource-rich area.
Relations between the neighbors are particularly tense now, after Maduro’s Navy detained two Guyanese trawlers, captains, and crews in January for allegedly fishing in Venezuelan waters. Guyana said the regime had detained three such boats but it was never confirmed by Venezuela.
Boats and crews have since been released but the memory remains of an unprecedented happening in a border dispute that is 120 years old.
Through a statement issued by its Foreign Ministry, the regime reiterated that Venezuela will continue to follow the paths of "Bolivarian diplomacy of peace in defense" of its "legitimate rights" over the Essequibo, a resources-rich 160,000 kilometers-square chunk of land representing two thirds of the Guyanese territory.
At the heart of the dispute is, as with most things involving Venezuela, oil. The Essequibo, including coast and sea, is said to contain oodles of it, and Guyana has since 2015 been developing those deposits – some in waters Venezuela claims – together with Exxon, the US oil giant that was kicked out of Venezuela in 2007 by Hugo Chavez.
Guyana’s President Irfaan Ali, a Muslim progressive, struck a cooperation agreement in 2020 with the US that includes naval military aid. The deal was sealed with a visit to Guyana by Craig Faller, the head of the US Southern Command and perhaps the US military officer most critical of Maduro.
In the text, Venezuela also celebrates the 55th anniversary of the signing of the Geneva Agreement, a tool that regulates the border dispute between the two nations and that Maduro defends as the only one capable of resolving the conflict.
The regime stated that it "maintains its indeclinable struggle for the amicable negotiation that leads to a true, fair and due peaceful solution," to the controversy, still through the Geneva Agreement.
Likewise, Venezuela asked Guyana to desist from incorporating third parties in the dispute, since their "clear geopolitical and economic interests … disturb bilateral relations and threaten regional peace."
The third party the Maduro regime doesn’t want Guyana to get involved is the International Court of Justice, which, after a Guyanese request a few years ago, has already said has jurisdiction over the long, unsolved border matter.
Venezuela and Guyana signed in 1966 the Geneva Agreement, by which they committed themselves to seek an amicable solution to the dispute.