Maduro's Esequibo Speech: One huge mess (Updated)

CJRlF2aXAAAo0C0After three postponements, Nicolas Maduro finally went to the National Assembly Monday night to deliver his long-awaited “Esequibo speech”.

How was it? It was a three hour-long, rambling, contradictory mess.

The speech showed not only the weak case Venezuela has but the way the government has mismanaged its claim in the last 15 years – and don’t forget, Maduro himself was Foreign Minister from 2006 to 2013 – as well as the fact that it has only been revived thanks mostly to the recent findings of oil reserves under Esequibo waters.

Who’s to blame? ExxonMobil and the Pentagon. But it’s even worst: This is just part of the “political, economic and media campaign against the Bolivarian Republic which wants to create high-intensity conflicts in the country”. What about Guyana? Maduro considered the words of Guyanese President David Granger as “vomitory”. Not joking. He even dared to say that Granger wouldn’t have been elected at all without the assistance of the American oil giant:

ExxonMobil promoted and had a large influence over the campaign of the current Guyanese President, David Granger, who’s a hostage of that oil transnational. That government came to power in the middle of difficult circumstances. It has attacked our people with statements in the last five weeks. This hate campaign, instigated by ExxonMobil, has the objective of dividing us and undermine Latin American integration.”

In the end, what he will do? First up, call the Venezuelan ambassador in Georgetown for consultations, review the size of the delegation established there and order the Foreign Ministry to do “…an integral review of all relations”. Funny that he didn’t mention that days earlier the government pardoned 120 million $ of Guyana’s PetroCaribe debt.

Second, using his Enabling Law powers (yeah, he still has those) he created a new Presidential Commission to deal with all border disputes and replacing the controversial decree 1.787 from late May with a new one (1.859), in order to establish Defense Zones in disputed waters. Behind the changes are “consultations” made to both the Supreme Court and the Council of State.

However, Colombian President J.M. Santos is quite happy about the new decree, given that the old one involved what his country considers as territorial waters and the new one doesn’t.

Third, he requested to the United Nations’ Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon to meet both sides and activate the Good Offices method to settle the conflict. Back in March, Guyana announced that it decided to drop out of this process. Over the weekend, Ki-Moon met in Barbados with President Granger, with the Esequibo affair front and center.

The first reaction from the Cooperative Republic to Maduro’s speech came from Granger himself: “Not surprised by that because he (Maduro) has been confronted with rejection of his Decree by the entire Caribbean Community so he is just increasing the isolation of his government from the region”.

Before that, he was doing its diplomatic homework at the CARICOM Summit last weekend: President Granger said on Thursday that “Gunboat diplomacy has no place in the 21st Century Caribbean, and must be condemned wherever it occurs” and called for solidarity from his regional colleagues. Venezuelan VP Jorge Arreaza was also present in the summit, as the B.R. of V. is one of the eight observant nations of the Caribbean Community.

In the end, even if CARICOM’s statement on the issue recognized “…the longstanding, deep and wide-ranging friendship between CARICOM and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela”, it still supported Guyana by stating that:

Heads of Government called for adherence to accepted principles of international law in relation to the delineation and delimitation of the Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf in the region. CARICOM states do not accept any unilateral proclamation which is inconsistent with international law…

They emphasized that CARICOM states have legitimate territorial and maritime entitlements that conform to international law and that must be respected.”

Individually, the Prime Minister of Barbados Freundel Stuart and Trinidad and Tobago’s PM Kamla Persad-Bissessar were more vocal in backing Guyana’s stance. Looks like that “oil-for-TP” deal wasn’t quite effective as expected…

Even if Maduro insisted during his speech in recovering the Esequibo by peaceful means, his subsequent actions are more inclined to increase the conflict with Guyana. How? Making it all about “ExxonMobil’s lackey” David Granger.

UPDATE: During a “special” interview with Telesur last night, Maduro doubled down on his accusations against Granger and ExxonMobil and affirmed that the Esequibo is filled with “mercenaries and paramilitary groups”. How original…