A question for our enlightened readers


I’ve been mulling a post about Venezuela’s centuries-old claim on the lands west of the Essequibo river. But I have a confession to make: the whole topic bores me.

Yes, we were probably robbed. Yes, subsequent actions by various governments probably didn’t help our cause. And yes, chavistas are probably turning a blind eye in favor of maintaining Hugo Chávez’s geopolitical strength in the Caribbean basin.

But the underlying question is this: do we have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting that territory back? And if we do, why don’t we simply go to The Hague and solve this once and for all?

The way I see it from my terribly ill-informed perspective is that this is like a fight between neighbors. If you think your neighbor has illegally moved his fence you talk to him. You bring others and try to convince him. You talk to his relatives. Hell, you might even threaten him. But if months go by and the fence is still there, you either go ahead and move it back, or you go to Court.

Since Venezuelans have long ago decided that invading Guyana might not be such a good idea, the only option that remains is going to The Hague.

Isn’t that what everyone else does? Why are we not there yet?

I’m sorry, but chest-thumping denunciations of acquiescence to Guyanese imperialism, or screaming to the high heavens about the British Empire screwing us over… well, that stuff just bores me to tears.

Enough already. A nation of grownups doesn’t go around painting cute little stripes over its neighbor’s territories. Either it’s ours and we use all the weapons at our disposal to get it back, or it isn’t, in which case we give the whole thing up and focus on the territory that we do have. It’s not the lack of resources that’s holding back our development anyway.

Call me an apátrida, but the whole stalemate is simply childish. Solve it once and for all, and move on.

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  1. Herr Nagel,
    Perhaps this is the purpose: imagine the alternative forces want Chávez to do a Galtieri.
    Or perhaps they want to remind people about the similarity between Christmas trees and the military (son verdes y tienen bolitas de adorno)?

  2. Yes and no (and I am not enlightened so maybe I should not write on that topic. But since this is not my blog maybe I could write here so that would make both of us fools but at a single location).

    Let me first give you a little translation.

    Venezuela was robbed and the Us acquiesce. but that was in the XIX when we were a banana republic. Wait! We are again! I digress.

    What happened is that when the post-colonial period came the UK knew very well that Venezuela has a fair claim against a colonial empire. So quickly independence was given to Guyana, then a perfectly nonviable state (and barely viable today if you ask me). So now the aggressor is Venezuela and not the British Empire, which gets to keep Guyana inside the Commonwealth, a nifty way to keep access to some of its mineral potential…

    Comes along Brazil and Cuba. Brazil sees an exit way for Manaus through some road or railroad across Guyana some day, easier to keep up than an impossible road to Belem. Cuba thinks that someday Guyana will become Marxist courtesy of racial warfare and what not.

    So Venezuela is screwed as it is certainly not Colombia who will side with Venezuela unless Los Monjes archipelago is handed to them..

    Should we give up? No, but what can we do as Venezuela is today more isolated than ever from those who would be inclined to ask Guyana to at least share part of the potential mineral wealth. With a Chavez nationalizing right and left, Guyana is playing it well and will finish to screw Venezuela once and for all. Amen of an army as unready for war as it has ever been, sukhoi and all…..

    Conclusion, the British foreign service works in mysterious ways, like the Vatican, and in the end, it usually wins.

    But if Chavez had any sense left in him the very least it could do is to announce that no off shore will be accepted and that any attempt will be considered a casus belli. At least if I do not get it neither will you, so to speak. But since foreign policy is dictated from Havana and off shore concession bribes will go directly there…..

    • Wait, now I’m all confused. You’re arguing (I think) for the status quo. My question is: why? Who does it benefit?

      • (Here’s a long comment… Sorry) Daniel: Where did you go to School?

        1. Venezuela did not fell asleep on the wheel: we wanted to have a go at the lumber, gold and diamond deposits discovered in the Guyana territory since the 1840s, but was physically unable to do so (we did not have a standing army, we lacked the pioneering population, and we couldn’t muster the necessary financing for such an enterprise), and there was the matter of a legal dispute: the UK had a flimsy claim to the territory based on the agreements between itself and Spain after the Seven Year’s War: given that the two were enemies right up until 1808, this complicated matters for the surviving state (us). Had it not been for our persistent objection to the UK claims, we would have never reached the arbitration process.

        2. We were not exactly “robbed”: The UK wanted to reach around the Monagas Llanos, taking most of the South and East Orinoco shore, including its river mouth’s delta (considered to be the main prize back then, and was what Venezuela wanted to preserve most of all). The current border pretty much stays at the middle of the UK claim (which was backed up by it being the über geopolitical power, and the actual hands-on coloniser of the territories; but Britain agreed to an arbitration -instead of just wiping the floor with us- because of both the Venezuelan legal pressure and its own global concerns: Germany’s influence in the Caribbean, a possible confrontation with the US -back then, pretty much resentful for Britain’s attitude during its Civil War, and not its ally- and its depletion of military resources in the Transvaal and ultimately the Boer War).

        3. The US did not acquiesce: the Venezuelan Republic was represented by a private firm, Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle. Both Mallet-Prevost and Benjamin Harrison (yes, the former US President, who was our counsel) claimed “victory” to the press because the Brits did not get the Delta and McKinley’s government echoed that (but so did the British lawyers, though). Mr. Harrison’s filed an 800-page brief, traveled to Paris, spent several days arguing in court and caught some disease that rapidly killed him. Par for the course of a high stakes lawyer, sure, but his legal arguments became famous and -had he not been a private hired lawyer, he should have a statue right in the Orinoco Delta.

        4. Castro’s Revolucion Liberal Restauradora claimed that anything touched by the liberales amarillos crespistas and Andrade was foul and horrid, and the Paris ruling was much criticised down here. However, the Castro government issued an official map the newly settled borders (the Guyanese, incidentally, show this whenever they can).

        5. The Mallet-Prevost memo, which showed foul play by the Russian and French arbiters, is the main ticket for our current dispute: we could have gotten more from the tribunal had there not been and “entente cordiale” between the arbiters and one of the parties, and those territories are even more valuable now than before. Then the matter has taken on its own strength legally, and there are more and more layers to it: we cannot go to The Hague because this might set a precedent on other disputes (not necessarily to our own advantage) and the status quo clearly benefits Venezuela more than Guyana (which, given the Port-of-Spain agreements, as I was thought to understand them, cannot make an unilateral claim to the ICJ or any other venue). There was also the hope that the Essequibans would secede, and we have put money and effort into the matter (as much as we have propped up Surinamese claims over the Eastern side of Guyana). Moreover, the status quo -in which we are seen as the big country, since we are opposing little Guyana and not the mighty British Empire- favours our Eastern economic life: it gives our sailors and fishermen access to the Atlantic (the Caribbean is so much more complicated) and it might even let us get some of the Essequibo resources. But the upshot of the status quo is that we have to devote military resources to our land and maritime borders (and we did make a good job of that for decades, by the way)

        6. Whenever we have a “Bolivarian” President (say, Monagas or Castro or Lopez Contreras or Chavez) the matter of our Western dispute becomes fuzzy again (they ultimately dream want to reunite the Gran Colombia, so territorial disputes and former settlements soften). Given that the current Government has an “internationalist” streak to it -Socialism, Alba unity and all that- and the Guyanese elite are also in the Patrice Lumumba School mix, Georgetown has tried to expand its wiggle room on the matter at our expense, and we have weakened our security and military operations in the area (to the happy returns of unpoliced traffickers of drugs, persons, and all that, some who might be involved in the red corridors of power).

        I cannot really say why we aren’t moving forward with the matter: but I believe the current Government would like that headache to end (and deliver the Essequibo to Georgetown), but it cannot spare the chance of formally losing even more to the Guyanese.

        • Legally, though, would you agree that more than Castro’s map, more than the laudo itself, more than anything, really, it was that 63-year gap between the 1899 decision and the 1962 reclamación that settles the matter? It seems so obvious to me…

        • “we cannot go to The Hague because this might set a precedent on other disputes (not necessarily to our own advantage) and the status quo clearly benefits Venezuela more than Guyana (which, given the Port-of-Spain agreements, as I was thought to understand them, cannot make an unilateral claim to the ICJ or any other venue).”

          How so? The only other claim we have outstanding, as far as I know, is with Colombia over the Gulf waters. At least that is what the Colombians think. What prevents them from dragging our asses to The Hague whenever they want? Why should our conduct vis-a-vis Georgetown condition what happens on the other side of the border?

          BTW, I’m assuming all pending issues with Trinidad and Tobago, Brazil, and the ABCs have been solved, right? The only other issue I can think of is the one dealing with Isla Aves.

          • I think you’re confused about one thing – to go to the ICJ in The Hague, both parties have to agree to submit the dispute; nobody can “drag” anybody else before the Hague court.

          • Precisely: we cannot make a “compromis” because we would need to refer to some sort of maritime law issues we do not want to deal with…

            As for the wait, it was AD which brought it up in the 19g0s, and they just regained power a few years before that. Obviously, it was not the main priority. I’ve always wondered, on the other hand, why the military government didn’t raise the question in the 1950s.

        • gateveledo

          school ?????

          I never intended to do a literate post, just to convey what was the essence of the problem. If people understood more about the problem and were less willing to nit pick on the details maybe the issue would have been solved earlier.

      • JC

        Not the status quo really. But realpolitik. Venezuela needs to make a stong stand to at least get some crumbs. It is a poltical choice and if Chavez gives up on the Esequibo he will be blamed for that in all future history books. Apparently he does not seem to care, or does not understand what is at stake which is the most probable outcome since it certainly not be Fidel that will explain the issue to him.

        For all practical purposes the UK and Guyana have won 90% of the issue, even from the best angles possible from Venezuela. That does not mean we should give up. It is a political decision, no matter what rights are at issue, a political posturing that is defining in Venezuelan politics even if the Chavez mess obscures it. Heck, we are about to lose our exit to the Atlantic!

  3. Here’s what I know on the subject.
    A) We wuz robbed, just like we were robbed of the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curazao) by the British, who it must be said, have screwed up everywhere they’ve been and left a Royal mess behind. (India/Pakistan, {any fucking ‘stan for that matter}, Palestine, The Malvinas/ Falklands, and so on)
    B) The “commision” that was to carve up the Essequibo was composed of a Russian, two Brits and two Americans (representing Venezuela). The Russian sided with the Brits because it was convenient at the time for Russia given the relationship between the two and thus we were screwed. Then we were screwed again when the line was actually surveyed to favor “British Guayana”

    Now, ask yourselves this. Suppose a miracle happens and the Essequibo is declared part of Venezuela tomorrow. Does anyone really believe those living there will magically incorporate into our culture? You can only sing “Woman del Callao” so many times before you get sick of it. Granted that over time any culture can be assimilated into another, but given that they’ve had their own rule for decades now, I don’t see this coming easily at all

    I think the solution lies in receiving compensation in cold hard cash and in right of first refusal for any mineral, agricultural or other commercial exploitation schema TBD until Kingdom Come.

  4. Quico – all good points. The Guyana lands are a bit of a clusterfuck, as there are two simultaneous bad habits in play. First, this is the made-large version of millions of land claims in South America. There are so many cases where someone sees that his neighbor might start farming or mining or building on some land, and so the less motivated neighbor starts demanding the land or royalties from the mine or whatever, and they squabble a bit, and quite often the aggrieved (or “aggrieved”) party sets up both physical and legal roadblocks, and eventually accepts a payoff and leaves.

    Second, there is the mindless militarism to which almost all countries seem endlessly committed. Standing armies are often ridiculous. Other than tradition, why does Venezuela have land forces? Air forces against drug traffickers and random incursions, fine. A navy to patrol the seas, sure. Border patrols, sure. But a standing army with tanks? For what? It seems to me like militaries — such as the Chile and Peru armed forces you obliquely referenced in your article — like to maintain claims like this and insult the masculinity of anyone who backs down. But it’s all a trap to get countries to keep subsidizing childish army games. (And yes, before anyone flames me, I’m in favor of eliminating 99% of the US military, too.)

  5. I did some research on this a while ago. I don’t have my notes handy, though, so this is from memory:

    1-Venezuela originally accepted the 1899 Arbitration Ruling, raising objections only SIXTY THREE YEARS LATER, in the midst of an arrebato nacionalista by the AD government. That’s the main thing that’s missing from the chest-thumping account of the crisis – the small matter of a 63-year delay in raising objections to the 1899 decision.

    2-Yes, there is some evidence of hanky panky in 1899. (Wikipedia does a fair summary here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guayana_Esequiba#Dispute_renewed ). But the Chest-Thumping account of an outright land-grab is badly misleading. YES the British got most of the land. But Venezuela got the only strategically significant land: the mouth of the Orinoco, and control over Orinoco shipping. The British, on the other hand, got zillions of hectares of inaccessible jungle with (at the time) no strategic value. In other words, the 1899 decision was a salomonic compromise, a splitting of the difference: Venezuela got the 1% of the land with the 99% of the strategic value, and Britain got the 99% of the land with the 1% of strategic value.

    3-To the extent that the 1899 decision didn’t favor the British, that was due – oh irony of ironies – to U.S. Imperialism! Not, of course, that the gringos cared about Venezuela at all, just that they wanted to assert the Monroe Doctrine, and were very worried about a show of British force on the Western Hemisphere. The U.S. were mobilized in favor of the Venezuelan claim, and are the only reason Britain didn’t also get control over Orinoco Shipping as well.

    4-They’ll be Ice Fishing in the Lake of Fire when Venezuela gets that land back. The reason is basically in point 1-. You don’t get to overlook 63 years of sovereign acceptance of the laudo arbitral. International Law just doesn’t work that way. If Cipriano Castro had immediately denounced the Laudo when he took power in 1899, Gómez had followed suit, Lopez Contreras and Medina and the Adecos and Perez Jimenez and then the Adecos again had kept the issue alive, and if Venezuela could say we’ve never accepted the 1899 ruling, then imaginably we might have a case. But the whole notion that successive regimes and governments within a state can accept the laudo and then reverse themselves two generations after the fact is preposterous: if countries were allowed to do that, you could never ever put an international dispute to rest. Imagine the precedent the Hague would be setting for, say, the Balkans. Or the disputes over Kashmir. Or any of 10,000 other international land disputes. It’s beyond unthinkable that an international tribunal could accept this kind of 2-generations-late denunciation of an arbitral decision. The international system just couldn’t function if they did.

    5-By their Essequibo Posturing will you know how de pacotilla your politicos are.

    • It seems that what’s missing is an exit strategy. Hence, let{s go to The Hague, get our asses handed to us, and say “well, we tried, let’s move on.”

    • Wow, I had no idea of the 63 year interregnum. Funny what they teach and don’t teach you in high school.

      Given that point alone, we should not expect diddly, and treat anything we do get out of it as a bonus.

      • The whole thing is ludicrous: the “reclamación” is based on the publication, in 1949, of a memo by Venezuela’s council at the 1899 Laudo in which the by-then-dead lawyer claims the Brits were in cahoots the Panel’s Russian chairman. So the “smoking gun” Betancourt alledged was a memo by the LOSING lawyer expounding a conspiracy theory about why he’d lost the case (conflict of interest much?)

        Good luck trying to interview the principals from 1899 in 1949 to confirm the allegations. But it’s worse than that, because even after 1949, it took Venezuela 13 more years to denounce the laudo!

        It’s a joke, the Essequibo claim…

        • I agree. We have been sixty something years going in circles and I am starting to believe that It’s as simple as we don’t have enough arguments to get it back, but the governments, specially this one, don’t have the gutts to admit it.

        • This is quite an extraordinary essay. I cannot tell you enough how much I enjoyed it.

          “… pero pocos reconocen que en 1905 Venezuela formalmente reconoció la frontera establecida en el laudo arbitral, y que durante 63 años después del laudo, Venezuela no volvió a renovar su reclamo sobre el territorio.”

          I wasn’t particularly versed in the Essequibo matter, and I certainly did not know these facts. As far as I am concern, it looks like it’s game over for us. That territory is lost forever. Time to concentrate of what we have.

          • Thanks! It amazes me how many well-educated Venezuelans sort of assume Venezuela never accepted the 1899 decision.

            It’s a weird issue – weirdly abstract. The Essequibo is just that, really, an abstraction to most Venezuelans. Most of us will never go there, would have no reason to. There are no great episodes in Venezuelan history that take place there. There are no great Venezuelans who come from there. There’s just nothing to bind Venezuelanness to that specific bit of land at all. Why it’s *such* an irresistible lure to nationalists I’ll really never understand.

            But I do know this: when I hear a politico press our claim on the Essequibo in emotive terms, I reach for my wallet.

  6. Isn’t this more of a “Not on my watch” thing? In reality accepting the status quo is just as good as accepting that in reality we have no real chance of getting the laudo reversed without having to deal with the negative perception that you were the guy/gal who was in power when we lost what was once ours.
    What would be interesting would be if people (not the military-see Setty’s comment. Or the media/talking heads) actually give a shit about this.

    • Actually, I think moving on might gain us more access to the wealth in the Esequibo than continuing to block any significant development there. Imagine if we settled this with the Guyanese and the CVG was given permission to exploit some of the riches there, after paying a royalty of some sort.

      • Seriously…there is probably gold ore there that’s closer to the Venrus gold mill than to any other industrial facility. There’s probably bauxite that could feed Venalum. Etc. And just having a single road between Venezuela and Guyana would help both countries develop, as there’s no doubt that increasing (licit) trade in a sparsely populated area like that can help expand markets for local businesses. As is, there are no roads, electricity lines, border stations or other infrastructure on the Guyana-Venezuela border, because Venezuela doesn’t recognize the border. It’s self-destructive.

  7. Just a couple of notes:

    “Rights” are not a result of natural law. The concepts of “Rights” and “Ownership” are human constructs. In reality, a “right” is only that which one has the will and ability to defend (or the will and ability of the society to defend for one).

    If historical precedent were the only criteria, all of the Americas would still belong to indigenous peoples. Britain would still be Roman. Most of Russia would would belong to Mongolia. Etc., etc…

    Whatever the claims and mistakes of the past, it is clear that Venezuela does not have the will or ability to defend it’s claim to this territory. It should cut its losses and make the best deal it can to assure prosperous and cordial relations with it’s neighbor.

  8. Do we have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting that territory back? Honestly, no.

    And if we do, why don’t we simply go to The Hague and solve this once and for all?

    Personally, I think we should but I know that it will never happen, at least in the foreseeable future.

  9. I would sort of like to comment; international relations used to be my field and there is some information lacking in the debate that has nothing to do with chest thumping or apatridism. Maybe if CANTV decides ns restore phone and ABA I’ll chime in. Impossible on clunky htc cell phone.

  10. Hey, if Vz wants to reverse an 1899 decision dominated by those perennial Devils – Yankee Capitalist Imperialist Pigs already seeking oil riches even when the world still ran on steam – then why not swap the Orinoco for all that Western Guyana “potential mineral wealth”? Georgetown may jump at the chance! Then if it doesn’t work out by 2074, you can change your minds. There will still be the old Devil Up North to blame for forcing poor Chavez to deal with the crooks in Georgetown ‘way back there in ’11 when the world was still young and foolish.

    Of course, you could just annex all of Guyana. It’s not cross-hatched on your military maps.
    What idiot nation would bother to defend helpless, worthless Guyana from Chavez today?

    Only one I know of…

    In any case, that sure beats getting your own act together with your own “potential mineral resources”, doesn’t it?



  11. The residents there will *want* to be Venezuelan citizens if you just offer unconditional cash transfers to all Venezuelan citizens. Boy, UCT is a proposal that just keeps giving! 😛

  12. Great post! You only get to read this in a blog full of pitiyankis 🙂

    Let’s be honest here. Borders are the result of war. Guyana was taken by the dutch from the Spaniards. And this was way before we gained our independence. Claiming that this territory belongs to us just because the Spaniards believed they had it 4 hundred years ago is preposterous.

    I’m of the opinion that we take advantage of the little leverage that we have left and ask for a HUGE compensation before they decide to unilaterally exploit the essequibo without our permission. Venezuela “ni lava ni presta la batea”

  13. According to Hernandez’s and Giusti’s CAP:Memorias Proscritas, the last CAP administration had a proposal not to take the Esequibo back, but to have a memo of understanding with Guyana for common exploitation of its resources. This is not far from what some here suggest as a solution.
    CAP had choice words on how the next couple of administrations had dealt with the problem.

    By the way, a somewhat similar proposal had been suggested for the dispute with Colombia, but I suspect that in this case, most would claim bloody murder.

    Pelao Manrique

  14. Yes, there’s the little matter of continued (tacit) acceptance of the status quo for 63 years. In reality we should have long stuffed that claim somewhere dark and moved on. If Venezuelans had wanted the Esequibo territory so badly, we could have had a go at it. When we had money. More or less legally. Peacefully at any rate.

    Venezuelans and their government had a lot of money when I was a little boy. Even then, I, a little boy in grade school, realized that Venezuelans did not want the Guyana Esequiba, that it was all “aguaje” and a hollow claim because Venezuelans did never put their money where their mouth was.

    If we had really really wanted the Esequibo, the whole of Guyana for that matter, and to screw the British peacefully and without risking war, we could have managed it. De facto if not de jure.

    Picture the situation in the 1970s, a newly formed country, by fiat of the UK, not yet recovered from the economic failures of Labour governments. The Guyanese? No resistance, no independence movement, not much of a national identity. And a neighbor, us, flush in oil money with many rich citizens. With universities and schools. With some industry. With some big cities that already (and still do!) enticed and attracted other peoples from the Caribbean basin.

    How about giving Venezuelans every incentive in the world to buy land in Guyana, to build a house there, to invest in Guyana? How about giving foreign aid in great amounts to Guyana? How about giving every Guyanese a chance to have free university education and Spanish classes in Venezuela? How about giving them every opportunity to seek employment and settle in Venezuela, and Venezuelans every opportunity to do the opposite, but as investors? How about building air and sea connections to travel there? How about helping them build ports and airports, Venezuelan owned and operated, of course, towards Venezuelan ports and airports? How about getting the best possible terms for every investment Venezuela could have made for natural resource exploitation? How about turning Guyana, then, into a virtual 21st. State of Venezuela?

    We did not even bother to do the same with the territory to the South we already had. To make it viable for Venezuelans. The rest is history. We preferred to have a big party in Caracas with the oil money, and to have it turn gradually into a crack shack of megalopolis scale.

    • Amen, brother, Coulda, woulda, shoulda…
      Actually I hardly know anyone who has visited Guyana, Suriname, French Guinea.
      Met a few Indians(from India) who were from there..They all say it is poor.Nothing there.

      • Now, it’s less than hopeless.

        The legal claim has always been worth little, and now it’s worth nil. Where was the Venezuelan presence there?

        Invasion is unthinkable. Unless by “invasion” you mean doing what the British did in first place. Or what miners, colonists and farmers do. Say it’s all frontier territory and do strictly as you please and will while government in Caracas winks winks and turns to more serious matters.

        There was a time when Venezuela could have bought the whole of Guyana, by buying it piece by piece and soul by soul. To me, that’s the only possible solution. Maybe somewhere far in the future, if Venezuela were to be wealthy again. Dream on…

        Maybe Venezuelans could still be given every possible incentive to invest in the Caribbean basin. Maybe Venezuelan diplomacy could finally start to be worth something, and try to obtain every possible advantage for Venezuelan investments and nationals in the Caribbean.

        Maybe… we should drop the strips and start behaving like adults. The British did…

  15. With all due respect, I think this debate has generated a certain amount of obfuscation. The precise legal and historical rights and wrongs are complex and I, for one, don’t feel qualified to make a fully informed judgment. But one or two things are crystal-clear. When Chávez came along, Venezuela’s claim had been trundling along for years with no resolution in sight. The chances of ‘recovering’ the Essequibo (two ‘s’s please, in English) territory were nil, short of a full-scale invasion. But Venezuela had one card: its refusal to recognise the existing Guyanese-Venezuelan border. That card could (and might still) be exchanged for something worth having. Something well short of control of the Essequibo. As in almost every other area of national life (por no decir ‘todos’), Chávez and co have pursued exclusively sectarian advantage, to the detriment of the national interest. In other words, we let the Essequibo claim drop, you (Guyanese and Caricom) support Chávez in international forums. At the current rate, the claim will soon be worthless and Venezuelans will be collectively worse off, though the vast majority could apparently not care less. That, folks, is pretty close to ‘traición a la patria’, or treason in plain English. And you don’t need a doctorate in international relations to work that out. Nor does it require a sophisticated analysis of the historical rights and wrongs (which I suspect are mixed on all sides).

    • But Venezuela had one card: its refusal to recognise the existing Guyanese-Venezuelan border.

      But if Venezuela doesn’t act on that refusal through the proper channels, by appealing the original decision within a reasonable period of time (and 20 years is too late imo, let alone 60+ years), then Venezuela has no ace card up its sleeve.

      This issue, resurrected by AD to give Venezuelans a (distorted) sense of largesse during an economic boom, needs to be put to rest. It’s a no-brainer for Madurito & Co.

      The resolution favouring Guyana should not cause any anxiety in the population at large. Reason being, the current government has created a hugely distorted sense of largesse that informs its faithful that there are far bigger fish in the sea: a revolutionary axis way beyond Venezuelan borders.

    • Thanks, bird man, that explains a lot. However, this thing has become such a hot potato among some circles in Venezuela, it makes it almost impossible for any government to sit down and “negotiate” terms with Guyana.

      What you are saying is that a reasonable government should sit down and negotiate with the Guyanese: we drop the claim, and in exchange, we get a piece of the economic pie – first dibs on future development, preferential access to off-shore drilling sites, etc. However, the whole thing has been polluted so much by successive generations of adeco habla-pajas, there is simply no way the Venezuelan government can accept anything but full sovereignty.

      This makes The Hague an intriguing proposition – it provides the government with an exit strategy, one that would allow it to save face and construct a mutually beneficial relationship with Guyana once this episode is over with. The government can always say “we think we are right, and we will go to The Hague to make our case. And if we’re wrong, we’ll grumble but accept the verdict and move on.”

      A todas estas, ordinary Venezuelans are so far removed from this issue I don’t even know why it even remains an issue…

      • Juan: Right on! Well stated, great position. I will give you another reason: We (as in cuarta and quinta) dont know what to do with the good stuff we have, why would we even need some more land to screw up. The people that live there will never feel or say they are Venezuelan, what are we going to do: Kick them out?

        Ask Guyana for some form of silly compensation and let’s worry about the XXII nd. century.

      • Something here doesn’t add up. If no one in Venezuela gives a flying *!#? about the Essequibo, and Chávez has been able to pretty much abandon the whole claim without the protest movement spreading beyond the chattering classes …. then how come there is ‘no way the Venezuelan government could accept anything less than full sovereignty’? Any sensible Venezuelan government would accept waaaay less than full sovereignty, and would get away with it, because the whole issue is so remote from ordinary people’s concerns that there’s pretty much no down-side. And a future chavista opposition is going to have a hard time stirring up nationalist sentiment over an issue Chávez himself has told us was invented by the gringos to divide South Americans against themselves. There already is a form of mediation in place … though admittedly it is ‘good offices’ rather than mediation as such. Both sides are formally committed to that process. All it needs is the political will to do some straight talking. A tall order perhaps. But as several people have pointed out here, that’s what grown-ups are supposed to do. I think The Hague is pretty much a waste of everyone’s time.

        • Well, maybe you’re reading the tea leaves differently than I am. I grew up thinking that the Essequibo claim was the third rail of Venezuela politics, something you simply could not afford to do away with. I even got the impression that the government was backtracking after getting caught looking the other way a few weeks ago while Guyana exercised its sovereignty. Note how many opposition hotheads have called out the government for “entregusimo,” as if you could “entregar” something that isn’t even yours. That’s why I’m basically arguing for an escape clause.

          I remember getting my first notion of the Essequibo issue when I was 11. My music books had a stamp on the cover that read “El Esequibo es tuyo, defiéndelo.” I didn’t know what they meant and asked my father, and he explained the whole thing to me.

          • I remember that, roughly around that same age, I also wondered about it and asked myself, how much does this territory we’re “reclamando” represent for the guyanese? When I saw in the map that it was about 3/4 of the whole territory of Guyana and that it hadn’t been ours for more than a hundred years (if ever, apart from theory) I quickly concluded the whole thing was absurd.

            I dismissed the whole posturing towards Guyana as a need to appear consistent and firm when dealing with the disputes with Colombia which was a very hot and touchy subject at the time.

          • , how much does this territory we’re “reclamando” represent for the guyanese? When I saw in the map that it was about 3/4 of the whole territory of Guyana and that it hadn’t been ours for more than a hundred years (if ever, apart from theory) I quickly concluded the whole thing was absurd -Amieres you were smart -even as a child!
            That is absolutely correct. Venezuelans should drop this nonsense.

  16. “Chávez and co have pursued exclusively sectarian advantage =ie..join ALBA
    -and Guyana-“support Chávez in international forums=join ALBA.

    Behind the scenes -??corruption,,,

  17. A nation of grownups doesn’t go around painting cute little stripes over its neighbor’s territories.

    Well said Juan. The whole Essequibo saga is, and has been for years as FT put it, an absolute joke.

  18. “It’s a weird issue – weirdly abstract. The Essequibo is just that, really, an abstraction to most Venezuelans. Most of us will never go there, would have no reason to. There are no great episodes in Venezuelan history that take place there. There are no great Venezuelans who come from there. There’s just nothing to bind Venezuelanness to that specific bit of land at all. Why it’s *such* an irresistible lure to nationalists I’ll really never understand.”

    Quico, you are wrong, there is something important in the esequibo, you are forgetting that every venezuelan was taught in school, sure that the world is round, but most important venezuela is elefant shaped, Just the same way that italians are taught that italy is boot-shaped, a one legged elefant simply doesnt do the trick.

  19. Yes but what about the time when the Norwegian Province of Herjedalen was stolen by Swedish imperialism? Or when Peru was deprived of its southernmost region by those Chilean dastards? You can imagine how important this all is, can’t you?

  20. The cultures are far apart-and not much trade in past. Now some large companies from
    Venezuela are interested. And too many Venezuelans- think about taking the resources
    under the ground in Guyana-now that Venezuelans know they are there.
    I believe Venezuelans get nothing.

    • About the only thing Venezuela could do about the Essequibo is being done by Venezuelan companies, not by government. (Or are they State companies)?

      Claims. Mineral, forestry and water claims should be pursued and bought by Venezuelans. These are worth something.

      Maybe they will be able to get something for Venezuelans. To make up for the expenses in red and white ink and crayons over a century, at least. The claim to the right to draw white and red stripes on the maps shall surely hobble their efforts.

  21. How can one be robbed of something one never had?

    By my reading of the history given in this post, neither Venezuela nor the Spanish crown ever exercised any authority over the Essequibo territory. When British settlers moved in, they encountered no Venezuelan settlers, or officials.

    Not one Venezuelan was driven from his home or forced to adopt a foreign nationality.

    There is a famous story by French author Alphonse Daudet, called “The Last Lesson”. It tales place in the French province of Alsace just before its annexation by Germany in 1871. The “Last Lesson” is the last lesson the village schoolteacher will be able to give in French. Hereafter they will have to study German. The teacher exhorts his students to remember their French heritage, and to resist assimilation, in the hope of eventual liberation.

    “The Last Lesson” was a key work of French irredentism in 1871-1918. It epitomized the real injury done to millions of French by their forcible incorporation into Germany.

    There is no simllar root for Venezuelan irredentism.

    • French in Alsace? That’s a nice way of rewriting history. Alsace was mostly German (or Franconian) speaking up to the end of the XIX century. The Frenchization took part then in Alsace, just like for Brussels in Belgium, which up to that moment was mostly Flemish. If there were some people exhorting their peers to remember their French heritage, they were back then definitely in the minority.

      British settlers? What British settlers are you talking about? I agree it’s a wasted time to care about Guyana now, but in any case British encountered native Americans in that territory. If anything, the territory belonged to those native Americans. In the sixties of the XX century there were actually some groups of Carib tribes who declared themselves Venezuelans IN THE GUYANA part and were forced to leave Guyana and are now in Venezuela with the Pemones (they are very related but not the same)

      • Regardless of previous ethnic flavoring, the population of Alsace considered themselves of French nationality. Roughly 10% of the population emigrated to France rather lhan live under German rule. During the period of German rule, Alsace did not have its own state government. Unlike the rest of the Empire, Alsace was ruled directly by the imperial government in Berlin – for the obvious reason that Alsatians did not willingly accept German rule and an Alsatian “Landtag” would be a focus of resistance.

        As late as 1913, the Saverne Affair demonstrated that Germans still regarded Alsace as a conquered province, and their presence was deeply resented.

        “What British settlers?” The ones José Rafael Revenga complained to Boliver about in 1819. The territory was empty. Venezuela’s claim of sovereignty was nominal and never actually exercised. No one previously governed by Venezuela ever came under British or Guyanese rule.

  22. One question to ask is what is happening to the people who live there currently?

    What nationality does a person who is born there have?
    Where does he go for a passport?
    Who’s president does he vote for?
    Are these people stateless?

    If there exists an historical precedent for these people then I would say that that answers the question. There must be at least 1 person who has needed a passport in the last 60 years.

  23. Recent speech by Bharrat Jagdeo (President of Guyana) at UNASUR meeting this year:
    “As we meet here, we can draw satisfaction from South America ’s place in the world today. We are no longer a continent associated with dictatorships. We are no longer seen as the region that precipitates repeated economic collapse and crisis. We are no longer just a commodity producer that powers the industries of the rest of the world”
    Obviously, Mr. Jagdeo -you are turning a blind eye to what is happening next door-Venezuela
    and across the pond- Cuba. Also, heaping praise of Rafael Corerra-Ecuador..

    “Despite being impacted by the greatest global financial crisis in almost a century, we have managed to avoid unbearable harm to our economies or our peoples. Our agriculture sector and industries are sources of innovation and economic expansion”-again, look next door, Mr. Jagdeo.
    [Guyana has a Prime Minister-Mr. Samuel Hinds, (a black) and a Prime Minister-Mr.Bharrat Jagdeo-an Indian (heritage from India-not native american.
    THe reason I mention the latter-Mr. Kepler is- it may be confusing to some “indios”
    Point is- politicians lie -just becuase- they want to do business and be friends with their
    neighbors .

  24. Interesting story just popped up on the El Universal website

    Guyana recibe facilidades por $285 millones en 5 años

    One small item in the story refers to a $500 donation by Venezuela to some campesinos that riled the Guyanese government.

    “Por otra parte en el año 2008 75 campesinos de Buxton -localidad a 19 kilómetros de Georgetown- recibieron del Gobierno venezolano 500 dólares en harina, arroz, aceite y cebolla.

    La donación venezolana inconsulta provocó la molestia del Gobierno guyanés que llamó la atención del embajador venezolano Darío Morandy. “

  25. Exactly what brought up this subject? Someone mentioned it is a hot topic right now. Doesn’t this whole issue strike anyone else as a distraction from current real political issues in Venezuela?

    Isn’t that how Argentina found itself engaged in a no-win situation against Britain over the Falkland Islands (Malvinas)? Are Venezuelan’s going to be swayed and blinded by cheap jingoism?

    Ans: Probably.


  26. I don’t know… giving up a claim on land… just because one’s never made a stink about it before… even if the neighbor is growing his vegetables, there… seems to me counter Venezuelan interests.

    Ending the dispute just to get it off a to do list is not a valid goal for a nation. Venezuela should make whatever moves (or lack of them) that may increase the possibilities of winning the dispute, however slight. It’s better to have 10% of a claim than none. And if now is not the best time to negotiate, stall until you can increase it to 11%, or more. A nation is bigger than us.

    • Drop it. Venezuela should stop printing these types of maps and leave this subject to history. Guyana is the master of their own territory.
      Best Venezuela can do is be a good trading partner and friendly neighbor.-AND
      leave the government alone -re. Chavez=ALBA…

      • One thing is to look at it like an impartial judge, another to look at it as an invested party. Venezuelans, at least its politicians, should be trying to get the land, not drop it. We should make the case as best we can if there is any chance at all of getting that piece of land accepted as part of our land. It may behoove a president to provide incentives for Venezuelans and Venezuelan businesses to move there, en masse. Perhaps provide medical personnel …

  27. We should drop the claim, because it’s D.E.A.D.

    Petty nationalism and notions of national honor of the kind practiced by Latin Americans might not be as harmful as the suicidal kind thereof. But it surely wins first place for obnoxiousness and uselessness.

    Real love for your country looks for lasting results. The kind that in losing, does not go around nursing sterile grievances. But prepares something nice for next time.

    In fact Venezuela should have dropped the claim in say, 1967, and seen the British disengagement as the golden chance it was. To welcome the new nation of Guyana, right into Venezuelan arms. In order to weave a better web, to completely envelop Guyana economically, politically and culturally, in every sense but military.

  28. a territorial difference between states is nothing like a problem between neighbors (I mean, do you really think that is a good comparison???) And just because the reclamation process is stagnated right now does not mean it should be abandoned, if only because it would send the wrong signal in other disputes…


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