What will happen after December 03 when Venezuela holds its referendum?


What will happen after December 03, 2023, when Venezuela holds its referendum?

That’s the question on the minds of Guyanese who fear that a resounding yes from Venezuelans in the December 03 vote to the five questions asked of them by the government could have injurious consequences for Guyana.

Venezuela’s December 03 referendum essentially seeks to authorise the government of the Bolivarian Republic to embark on the annexation of Guyana’s resource rich Essequibo region and to create a state within Venezuela known as Guyana Essequibo.

Venezuela has already said, through its Vice President Delcy Rodriguez that moves to the International Court of Justice (ICJ), where the matter has been referred for review by Guyana to stop the referendum in its current form will not deter the December 03 vote.

So again, what will happen after December 03?

Ethan Blair, a student of the Bishops’ High School asked what will happen after the December 3 referendum

The questioned was asked by student of the Bishops’ High School on Friday during a panel discussion and awareness session on the Guyana/Venezuela Border controversy.

Posed to three distinguished panelists – Attorney General Anil Nandlall, Guyanese Academic Dr. Mark Kirton and former Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Greendige – the answers varied.

Mr. Greendige made the first attempt at responding and said the simple answer to that question, if there is one, was “we don’t know what (will happen).”

Notwithstanding, he said Guyana on the other hand, knows what it will do.

“Guyana has to confirm to international law. We have responsibilities, we have to protect our interest and that is what we will do.

“It is likely from what Venezuela said that they will continue with the referendum… the key thing is that at the level of the UN (United Nations) and of the Court (ICJ), it was made clear that they [Venezuela] are not empowered to act on whatever comes out of the referendum,” Greenidge, who is also Guyana’s Agent to the ICJ, said.

He affirmed that Venezuela cannot lawfully do anything regarding Guyanese occupancy of the Essequibo Region.

The second response came from AG Nandlall, who also noted that it seems impossible to get Venezuela to not proceed with the referendum.

He said that while they can go ahead with the vote, acting on it is something totally different.

L-R: Guyanese academic Dr Mark Kirton, Attorney General Anil Nandlall and Guyana’s Agent to the International Court of Justice, Carl Greendige (Photo: News Room/November 24, 2023)

“Let us for a moment interpret the tone and tannery of the Delcy (Vice President of Venezuela) to mean that they will not obey the Court’s process… not obeying the Court’s order is striking at the heart of international law, norm and legal order… they will be violating a World Court Order,” Nandlall said in anticipation that the Court will rule in Guyana’s favour and make provisional orders in that vein.

He said the ICJ is a Court that doesn’t stand alone but stand as the judicial enforcement agency of the largest global organization on earth – the UN.

With that said, he noted that no court is without the ability and capacity to enforce its own order.

And then the voice of Dr. Kirton.

“Diplomacy must continue to be our first line of defence.

“We need enhanced robust relationships with countries like Brazil and greater alliance with countries not only in this hemisphere but also with the African Union and the Brits, Russia.

“We have to go to all of those who have been in a sense on the fence and get the unequivocal support from our own brothers and sisters in the region,” Dr. Kirton posited.

The Venezuela referendum on December 3 asks the Venezuelan people to agree or reject the 1899 Arbitral Award.

They are also being asked to say whether they support the Geneva Agreement as the only means to settle the controversy. The referendum also includes a question for the Venezuelan people to say whether they agree with the Venezuela government for not recognizing the jurisdiction, or the legal right of the World Court.

The most contentious of the questions is the one asking the Venezuelan people to agree with using Guyana’s territory it claims, for the creation of a new State called the “Guayana Esequiba”, and grant Venezuelan citizenship and ID cards, and incorporate the territory on the map of Venezuela.

Venezuela’s referendum has been widely dismissed as having no validity, bearing or standing in international law.