The Esequibo Game: Guyana Is All In, Venezuela Refuses to Play

As Venezuela rejects the possibility of solving the Esequibo dispute in The Hague, Guyana fully embraces the issue while taking advantage to mobilize public opinion back at home.

Photo: The Washington Post

A lot has happened since the last time we took a look at the situation regarding the historic dispute between Guyana and Venezuela over the Esequibo. Recently, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) announced that it will, for the first time, address whether if it has or not jurisdiction over the case and set dates for both countries to present their written arguments in full.

The Co-operative Republic of Guyana must present its Memorial by November 19 this year, while the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has until April 19, 2019 for its Counter-memorial. Guyanese Foreign Minister Carl Greenidge said his legal team is already working on it.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) announced that it will, for the first time, address whether if it has or not jurisdiction over the case.

But the ICJ also says Venezuela is formally declining to participate in any proceedings. A letter sent by Nicolás Maduro (delivered personally by VP Delcy Rodriguez and FM Jorge Arreaza) argues that there’s no formal consent from Venezuela to move on with the case.

A couple of weeks earlier, a written statement from the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry opened the door to participate in the ICJ; but the government went back to avoiding The Hague at all costs. Instead, they pushed for bilateral talks that could be… eternal.

Guyana’s response to the Venezuelan refrain is that they could ask the ICJ to rule in their favor by applying the Article 53 of its statute, which reads:

“Whenever one of the parties does not appear before the Court, or fails to defend its case, the other party may call upon the Court to decide in favour of its claim. The Court must, before doing so, satisfy itself, not only that it has jurisdiction in accordance with Articles 36 and 37, but also that the claim is well founded in fact and law.”

In the meantime, Georgetown released a couple of new videos to continue promoting its position and educate its population about the controversy. One is above and the other is below:

It’s easy to mock them for their production values or their simplistic approach, but it’s more than what the Venezuelan government is currently doing. The closest I found online are a couple of videos made by State broadcaster VTV back in 2015, when the issue heated up. Even if they are more succinct, their main theme is “We lost the Esequibo because of U.S. imperialism.”

And there’s this documentary by PDVSA TV, which fits right on the same page:

It’s curious how both governments approach the PR dispute: For Guyana, it’s a matter of the highest national interest (for a good reason, the Esequibo makes the majority of its territory), while the ideological aspect dominates the Venezuelan perspective.

And before you blast your keyboards in the comment section, let me explain myself.

For many Venezuelans like me, the Esequibo issue is one that we’re somewhat aware of just by looking at maps of the Zona en Reclamación. But let’s not fool ourselves, it hardly gets the same level of attention that similar claims have in other countries, like the Malvinas/Falklands issue in Argentina, or the access to the Pacific Ocean in Bolivia.

Even if the subject unites our political spectrum at some degree, many Venezuelans cannot see beyond the geopolitical jargon. Whatever the position on the Esequibo (and the chance that the ICJ could end the dispute) may be, more has to be done to expand Venezuelans’ core understanding of the issue.