Guyana Requests the ICJ to Resolve Its Esequibo Dispute with Venezuela

Guyana is making its legal move in The Hague to settle the Esequibo dispute for good. But does Venezuela have any reason to be concerned about the recent actions by Georgetown?

Photo: Guyana Ministry of Foreign Affairs, retrieved

The long dispute between Guyana and Venezuela for the Esequibo entered a brand new stage last week: The Guyanese government formally requested the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague to take over the case and settle this for once and for all.

In late January, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recommended this course of action after the efforts by his personal representative, Dag Nylander, ended without “significant progress”. He opened the door to a “complementary process” based on the powers of his office.

The Venezuelan Government rejected Guyana’s move, saying:

…resorting to the judicial settlement to resolve such dispute is unacceptable, unfruitful and unenforceable, given that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela does not recognize the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice as binding, and in this framework, Venezuela has always been consistent with its historical position of expressly reserving or not signing any international legal instrument containing arbitration clauses that may grant compulsory jurisdiction to such Court.

Right after Guterres’ announcement, Georgetown firmly supported the idea and, since then, it’s been lawyering up, slowly building their case (even in public opinion).

Guyanese Foreign Ministry, Carl Greenidge, is confident enough that the ICJ will admit their case. His Venezuelan counterpart, Jorge Arreaza, insisted in January that going to the ICJ is not the way to solve the dispute, which got heated again after the discovery of substantial oil reserves in Esequibo waters by ExxonMobil. In February, a new major discovery there was announced and ExxonMobil has already committed to start oil production in Guyana by March of 2020.

Here comes the 64,000 lochas question: does Guyana have a case? Mariano de Alba tackled the real possibilities in a recent piece for Prodavinci, indicating that the Co-operative Republic has done the homework that the B.R.of V. has not.

But hold on, dear readers. This case isn’t expected to be decided for years. Right now, the ICJ is hearing the historic sea access case between Bolivia and Chile, and with other cases waiting, it could take a while. And only if Guyana’s request is admitted.