Criticisms of Caribbean Media for Not Publishing Maduro Decree on Esequibo

By David Comissiong

It is a shame that not a single media house in the Caribbean has had the professionalism to publish the actual text of the allegedly controversial decree that was issued by President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela on 8th June 2015. Instead, they have all been willing to simply run with the anti-Venezuela propaganda which asserts (without providing any actual evidence) that President Maduro issued a decree that purported to appropriate territory that rightfully belongs to the Cooperative Republic of Guyana.

Venezuela claims that the red region is historically part of its territory

It has now become absolutely clear that United States-based anti-Venezuela forces are currently using their agents in the Caribbean to try to subvert the growing friendship between the socialist government of Venezuela and the nation-states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) by deliberately misconstruing the Venezuelan government’s policy and intentions in relation to that country’s one hundred year old border dispute with our sister Caribbean territory of Guyana!

If this nefarious conspiracy is not to succeed, the media houses of the Caribbean will have to belatedly do their duty and expose as a lie the fraudulent and mischievous assertion that is currently being peddled in the Caribbean that President Maduro of Venezuela has issued a decree in which he purports to appropriate a portion of Guyana’s territorial space.

Surely every reputable Caribbean journalist should be aware that from the very beginning of Venezuela’s independence in 1810 there was some dispute between Venezuela and the Empire of Great Britain as to the exact location of the boundary between the new nation and the neighbouring British colony. Furthermore it should also be common knowledge that the festering boundary dispute became truly serious in the 1880’s when gold was discovered in the area, and Britain claimed possession over an extensive area west of the Essequebo river.

In the latter half of the 1890’s the USA intervened in the matter, and informed Britain that under the USA’s so-called “Monroe Doctrine”, the USA ( as the great power of the hemisphere) had arrogated to itself the right to determine such territorial issues, and that it proposed to set up a ‘Boundary Commission” to arbitrate the issue.

Great Britain ultimately agreed to the US orchestrated process of arbitration, and in 1899 the Arbitral Tribunal produced a decision that largely upheld Britain’s claim to the disputed territory.

In the years that followed, Venezuela disputed and refused to accept the decision of the Tribunal, and in early 1966— with Guyana’s independence from Britain looming– the government of Britain entered into an agreement with Venezuela whereby it was agreed that the still ongoing boundary dispute between Venezuela and the new nation of Guyana would be negotiated in accordance with the rules of International Law and under the auspices of the United Nations system. This agreement is known as the “Geneva Accord”. The government of independent Guyana subsequently accepted the “Geneva Accord” process, but to date negotiations under the “Accord” have never been concluded, and as a result the contested territory and the maritime waters adjacent to it remain in dispute.

In 1999, the Guyana government entered into an agreement with Exxon Mobil, the American multi-national petroleum company, to undertake exploration for oil in the disputed maritime waters adjoining the equally disputed territory.

In June 2012, Exxon Mobil and Shell reactivated oil exploration on a block of disputed maritime water granted to them by the government of Guyana.

It is against this background that on the 8th of June 2015 President Maduro’s Decree No. 1,787 was published in Venezuela’s Official Gazette. The first and most fundamental point to be noted about the decree is that it is NOT specifically about Guyana or about Venezuela’s border with Guyana at all.

The decree is actually devoted to outlining a comprehensive organizational model that the Government of Venezuela recently decided to employ in organizing its defence of its national territory and maritime waters. However, prior to outlining the structure of this new national defence mechanism, the Presidential Decree states as follows, “The territory and other geographical spaces of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela are those corresponding to the Captaincy General of Venezuela before the political transformation begun on April 19, 1810, with the modification from treaties, agreements and arbitral awards not vitiated nullity.”

“The Venezuelan state recognizes the existence of maritime areas pending for delimitation in accordance with international agreements and treaties signed by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and that require attention by the Venezuelan State until the achievement of final friendly boundary demarcation.”

In other words, in the very text of President Maduro’s Decree is an acknowledgment that some of the territory and maritime space claimed by Venezuela is still under dispute, and that its ultimate ownership is dependent on the outcome of the “friendly boundary demarcation” process– obviously a reference to the “Geneva Accord” process.

Furthermore, in order to make the Venezuelan position absolutely clear, the following paragraph appeared in the second publication of the decree, “However, there exists a maritime area pending for delimitation, which will be determined once the pending dispute is resolved between the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, according to the 1966 Geneva Agreement….”

The Venezuela government has therefore made it extremely clear that it is committed to amicably and lawfully negotiating its boundary dispute with Guyana, and that it has no intention of seeking to use its larger size and greater material power to impose its will on Guyana!

So why have the media houses of the Caribbean refused or neglected to publish the text of these paragraphs of the Decree? And why has President David Granger and the newly installed governmental regime in Guyana misconstrued Maduro’s presidential decree and created a false crisis? Have their actions been deliberate and willful, or are they based on inexperience and negligence? And who ultimately benefits from the unnecessary confusion that has been created?

The David Granger administration is new to governance, having come to power after a period of some 22 years of PPP rule in Guyana. It is therefore important that this new Guyana Administration quickly come to an appreciation of the contemporary reality of the Caribbean region: and that contemporary reality is that we Caribbean people and our governments have accepted Venezuela as a bona fide sister nation of our Caribbean Civilization!

There is therefore no need for any CARICOM government to approach Venezuela with hostile and bellicose language, nor to adopt the most negative interpretation of the words and actions of the Venezuelan Government.That type of approach will only serve the interests of the international Capitalist forces that wish to dismantle the various instruments of regional development that Venezuela plays such a key role in fostering.

I now hereby call upon the media houses of the Caribbean to do their professional duty by publishing an English language translation of the actual text of the Presidential Decree!!

​Clement Payne Movement

Related by the Author:
Venezuela and Guyana Defining Territorial Boundaries Peacefully
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