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Tags: venezuela | guyana | nicolas maduro | referendum | essequibo | united nations

Venezuela Threatens Tiny Guyana as Vote Nears

Venezuela Threatens Tiny Guyana as Vote Nears

Friday, 01 December 2023 10:06 AM EST

The United Nations' top court Friday ordered Venezuela not to take any action that would alter Guyana's control over a disputed territory, but did not specifically ban it from holding a referendum Sunday on the territory's future.

Guyana had asked the International Court of Justice to order a halt to parts of the planned referendum. The court verdict did not refer to the referendum, but it ruled that Venezuela must "refrain from taking any action which would modify that situation that currently prevails" in the disputed Essequibo region, which makes up some two-thirds of Guyana.

The legally binding ruling remains in place until a case brought by Guyana against Venezuela on the future of the region is considered by the court.

Venezuela does not recognize the International Court of Justice's jurisdiction in the decades-old dispute over the Essequibo region and is expected to press ahead with the referendum regardless of what its judges decide.

At urgent hearings in November, lawyers for Guyana said the vote is designed to pave the way for annexation by Venezuela of the Essequibo — a territory larger than Greece that is rich in oil and minerals. They called on the world court to halt the referendum in its current form.

But Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodríguez defiantly told the court: " Nothing will prevent the referendum scheduled for Dec. 3 from being held.”

Venezuela has always considered Essequibo as its own because the region was within its boundaries during the Spanish colonial period, and it has long disputed the border decided by international arbitrators in 1899, when Guyana was still a British colony.

President Nicolás Maduro and his allies are encouraging voters to answer “yes” to all the questions in Sunday's referendum, one of which proposes creating a Venezuelan state in the Essequibo territory and granting Venezuelan citizenship to the area’s current and future residents.

After years of fruitless mediation, Guyana went to the world court in 2018, asking judges to rule that the 1899 border decision is valid and binding. Venezuela argues that a 1966 agreement to resolve the dispute effectively nullified the original arbitration.

The court has ruled the case is admissible and that it has jurisdiction but is expected to take years to reach a final decision. In the meantime, Guyana wants to stop the referendum in its current form.

“The collective decision called for here involves nothing less than the annexation of the territory in dispute in this case. This is a textbook example of annexation,” Paul Reichler, an American lawyer representing Guyana, told judges at last month's hearings.

Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.


Newsfront
The United Nations' top court Friday ordered Venezuela not to take any action that would alter Guyana's control over a disputed territory, but did not specifically ban it from holding a referendum Sunday on the territory's future.
venezuela, guyana, nicolas maduro, referendum, essequibo, united nations
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2023-06-01
Friday, 01 December 2023 10:06 AM
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