Latin America Face to face of the presidents of Venezuela and Guyana to address the Essequibo crisis

"I welcome direct, face-to-face conversations," Nicolás Maduro ruled on the eve of the mini-summit agreed for this Thursday with Irfaan Ali, president of Guyana, in the Caribbean city of Kingstown

Latin America Face to face of the presidents of Venezuela and Guyana to address the Essequibo crisis

"I welcome direct, face-to-face conversations," Nicolás Maduro ruled on the eve of the mini-summit agreed for this Thursday with Irfaan Ali, president of Guyana, in the Caribbean city of Kingstown. The good offices of the Brazilian Lula da Silva and the prevailing fear in the region that Chavismo will force some type of military intervention after announcing the accession of Essequibo as another state (region) of Venezuela, have forced this mini-summit in the capital of San Vincent and the Grenadines.

The host, President Ralph Gonsalves, not only presides over the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), he is also a heavyweight of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) and an old ally of the revolutionary cause.

A meeting from which in reality very little is expected beyond reaffirming the positions of the two countries, but which has at least already managed to reduce the tension experienced in the days following the patriotic referendum called by the "people's president" on December. The absence of Da Silva himself, who has decided to send his favorite advisor, former Foreign Minister Celso Amorim, as a representative, reflects the paralysis that is experienced today with the latest border conflict in the Americas.

Maduro took advantage of the referendum, engorged with eight million voters that no one saw arrive at the polls, to change the map of Venezuela with the state (region) number 24, baptized as Guayana Esequiba, in addition to naming Tumeremo, a municipality 90 kilometers away. of the border, as the administrative and military headquarters of that fictitious entity. In Georgetown they interpreted these measures as a threat against their territory, since the Essequibo, of almost 160,000 square kilometers, represents two thirds of their country.

Georgetown's response was forceful: American planes flew over the claimed territory. In addition, Irfaan Ali confirmed that his country is determined to have its Washington ally install a military base.

"We do not want anyone to do anything by force, Venezuela cannot impose a position. They cannot want what belongs to us, that will never happen," concluded the Guyanese president hours before embarking on a trip to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

Ali went further by describing as an insult against his people Caracas's intention to share the energy income obtained in Essequibo, a disputed territory since the colony. Since the American oil company ExxonMobil found oil and gas on the Atlantic coast of Essequibo, Guyana began to change. Today it is the second fastest growing country on the planet and experts predict that with a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increasing more than 20 points each year it will soon cease to be the poorest country in South America and become Saudi Guyana.

For Georgetown there is no doubt: it is the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the main court of the United Nations, that must decide the dispute. "We are firm on this matter, it is not open to discussion," said the president.

And, meanwhile, oil will continue to change your country. In fact, that was the agreement reached with Hugo Chávez almost two decades ago, when the supreme commander forgot the historical pretensions of his country to please Fidel Castro, Guyana's historical ally, and to have the political support of the 15 countries of the Caricom in the different international instances.

"If a document emerges, the specific terms of the de-escalation will be important. Guyana insists that all the oil blocks are in waters that belong to it, something that Venezuela disputes. The northwestern part of the Starbroek block in the sea is the most contentious," he said. Mariano de Alba, senior advisor at the Crisis Group.

Although Maduro claims to be unaware of the ICJ, the Venezuelan state has until April to present a countermemorial in which it defends its territorial power over Essequibo. If no further incidents arise, the ICJ should subsequently determine this historic claim.