Venezuela: An Overwhelming Victory of the People

Tala Alayli. Orinoco Tribune, December 5, 2023 —

A constructive report showcasing the struggle of Venezuela and Guyana in the Essequibo case, and the recent victory of the Venezuelan people in Venezuela’s seventh referendum, which was focused on acquiring back Caracas’ colonized lands. 

Venezuela, given its extraordinary educational, cultural, and social developments and its vast energy and natural resources, is called on to become a revolutionary model for the world.

-Fidel Castro

When valuable natural resources were discovered in the Venezuelan lands of Essequibo, the British colonizers manipulated maps and clawed the territories, constituting them into British Guiana, now known as Guyana post-independence. Since then, a regional dispute has emerged, as Venezuela fights for what is rightfully its own, and Western imperialism fights to guarantee the theft of overseas resources.

Post-colonization, still colonized
In the 1800s, German explorer and colonizer for Britain, Robert Schomburgk, revealed that Britain’s incursion toward South America could be done through Essequibo and the Orinico territories. However, as Venezuela had officially been recognized as an independent country, and as Essequibo was found to have gold reserves, maps were quickly drawn altering the official borders and including them into British Guiana’s geography, putting Essequibo under Western rule.

This came in violation of Venezuela’s sovereignty, as the latter appealed to the United States and reiterated the Monroe Doctrine, stating that European efforts of colonization of nations under the protection of the US would be considered as a form of aggression and would be met by US intervention. A treaty, the Paris Arbitral Award, was conceived by the United States and Britain to find a resolution to Venezuela’s complaint.

In a study by Rafael Badell titled “Venezuela’s Claim to the Essequibo“, it was revealed that Venezuela’s participation in the treaty was a mere signature forced by the colonial giants, who had been forming a “special relationship”.

“The circumstances in which this Treaty was reached are the tip of a thread of a skein marked by fraud and deceit, which permitted the irregular constitution of a tribunal lacking in impartiality, which continued with a procedural farce, which culminated in a rigged arbitral award”, Dr. Badell claimed.

Regardless, as American pressure and threats against Venezuela intensified, Venezuela signed the treaty, and Essequibo was officially colonized.

Imperialist capitalism’s foundation in Guyana Essequibo
Later throughout the 20th century, the world saw the United Kingdom turn into an empire characterized by the Commonwealth, a group of countries that were previously British colonies. The Western narrative stated that Commonwealth nations were instituted because they sought political and economic progression, but the colonizer latches onto a nation, not for reform, not for freedom, but for resources. Thus, Guyana was instituted as a Commonwealth nation, rendering the influence of British capitalism possible in the country.

In late 1999, Guyana signed an energy deal with US-based conglomerate ExxonMobil, as a means to bring in more money into the country. In this scenario, and given the West’s colonial history that seeks out internal exploitation of poor countries and the export of rich resources, a clear ploy was being devised in which the US gains and manipulates accounting sheets with taxes, exploration, and labor costs, leaves Guyana with a proportion of the proportion of profits, and Guyana loses.

At the heart of Western deals that are thought to boost Guyana’s economy, it remains one of the poorest countries in Latin America with a life expectancy of 66, an unemployment rate of 21.7%, and an infant mortality rate of 33.5 per 1,000 live births.

Therefore, imperialist capitalism secured its economic foundations in the region within Guyana, something Venezuela criticizes as foreign interference in domestic and regional affairs, and constituting a destabilizing factor in the region.

Venezuela recognizes what is rightfully hers
Despite rigged treaties and colonial maps, Venezuela remained steadfast in its recognition of its lands, backed by maps and evidence confirming Guyana’s status as part of Venezuela when the country gained independence in 1811. Historian Jesus Conari emphasizes that historical maps show the region under Spanish control, not British.

Venezuela held meetings with British representatives to annul what was done by the colonialists. In 1963, the Venezuelan Foreign Minister sent an aide with Venezuela’s arguments and demands to reinstitute Essequibo back to Venezuelan lands. In 1964, Venezuelan President Rómulo Betancourt took to the National Congress and reiterated the efforts done by Venezuela in front of the British, and stated, “Negotiations have continued and, for the good of the Republic and to repair an injustice done to Venezuela, they must be continued. The culmination of these negotiations must be the incorporation to the national territory of an area that, from a legal historical point of view, never ceased to belong to Venezuela”.

This meeting built the foundations of the Geneva Agreement of 1966, a milestone in Venezuela’s journey to taking back its usurped lands. The Geneva Agreement was the first of its kind to recognize Venezuela’s disputation of the Paris Arbitral Award and thereby provided that the conflict be resolved with both Venezuela and Guyana present, rather than their colonial counterparts, the US and Britain respectively. The agreement would persist until 2015.

2015: A turning point
ExxonMobil had found oil reserves in Essequibo, marking the stirring of the dispute between Venezuela and Guyana anew.

ExxonMobil continued drilling in Venezuelan territorial waters, disregarding any maritime or land demarcation. Venezuela unified, with both the government and opposition unprecedentedly supporting the cause. Despite internal political divisions, most opposition leaders endorsed the government’s decision not to abandon Essequibo and supported conducting a referendum.

In parallel, President Nicolas Maduro met with representatives of religious leaders who declared their support for Venezuela’s just demands.

In April this year, Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez said Venezuela’s armed forces maintain the country’s territorial integrity and will continue to defend Caracas’ claims to the Guyana Essequibo territory, which has been challenged by neighboring Guyana for over 100 years.

He tweeted that “the armed forces reaffirm their commitment to guarantee the territorial integrity of Venezuela. We have historical and legal reasons and all the will of the state of Venezuela to keep defending our legitimate claim over Guayana Esequiba. Esequiba is ours!”

Venezuela’s seventh referendum
Venezuela held its seventh referendum with a focus on the Essequibo case. The government, led by President Nicolas Maduro, demonstrated its commitment to the principle of returning decisions to the people when necessary.

The referendum presented five questions to Venezuelan citizens:

1- Do you agree to reject the arbitration decision made in Paris in 1899, which, through deception, seeks to deprive us of our Essequibo in violation of the law?
2- Do you support the Geneva Agreement of 1966 as the only legal tool for achieving a practical and agreed-upon solution for Venezuela and Guyana regarding the Asicobo dispute?
3- Do you agree with Venezuela’s historical position of not recognizing the International Court of Justice’s jurisdiction in resolving regional conflicts related to Essequibo?
4- Do you agree to oppose Guyana’s unilateral and illegal actions in the sea before border demarcation, representing a violation of international law?
5- Do you agree to establish Guayana Essequibo as a state affiliated with Venezuela, implementing a rapid and comprehensive plan for the current and future residents, including granting Venezuelan citizenship and identification cards, in line with the Geneva Agreement and international law, thus incorporating it into Venezuela’s territory?

As the voting concluded, a crushing majority of Venezuelans voted in favor of reacquiring their rightful land. More than 95% of Venezuelans participating in the referendum voted to establish a new Guayana Esequiba state under Venezuelan rule.

A quest toward liberation
As President Nicolas Maduro announced the victory of the referendum and as the people of Venezuela have spoken, what can be seen is a quest toward liberation, beginning with Venezuela and spreading toward the colonized people of the Global South.

To quote Walter Rodney: Only through revolutionary anti-imperialist solidarity can we disrupt the hegemony of imperialist capital and with it the exploitation of labor and natural resources in the Global South.

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