Venezuela referendum: Jadgeo says Guyana prepared for ‘the worst’, Guyanese should not worry unnecessarily

Though Guyana does not believe Nicolas Maduro will order an invasion of Guyana following Sunday’s referendum, Vice President Dr Bharrat Jagdeo says Guyana is prepared for the worst, building defence cooperation with its allies.

Venezuela held a symbolic referendum on Sunday as the Maduro government sought public backing for its longstanding claim for Essequibo, a region rich in gold and diamonds and giant oil reserves offshore. International news reports pointed to a low voter turnout and the Venezuelan election body claimed a 50% turnout of voters.

Dr Jagdeo believes the numbers provided are fake and the result was “disastrous” for Maduro’s campaign of creating a Venezuelan state out of the Essequibo region and issuing citizenship to its inhabitants.

According to Jagdeo, Maduro has assured world leaders that he will not invade Guyana, but the government is guarded against such assurances and will not take chances.

“That is why we have been working with our partners to boost defence cooperation.

“It means that we are engaging, we are coordinating efforts (with) those who are engaged with us, working to build our capacity, not just planning capability, but to look at protecting our territorial integrity,” Dr Jagdeo told the News Room in Dubai where he is attending the United Nations Climate Summit.

The Venezuelan government has said it will enforce the results of the referendum and so Dr Jagdeo says Guyana is “prepared for any eventuality.”

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) which is hearing Guyana’s case for a legally, binding settlement of the border controversy, Friday ordered that Venezuela shall refrain from seeking to seize control of the Essequibo.

The boundary between Guyana and Venezuela was determined by an arbitration tribunal 124 years ago, but Venezuela rejected the award in 1962, saying it was flawed. A mechanism was set up to solve the controversy and after decades of talks failed, the United Nations Secretary General referred the matter to the ICJ, which is the UN’s principal judicial organ. The court has determined it can hear and decide on the case, but Venezuela put forward the referendum before the Court can rule.

Guyana sought protection and the Court ruled Friday that the Essequibo has been recognised as Guyanese territory and has been governed by Guyana since the 1899 award of the arbitration tribunal and Venezuela should refrain from interrupting Guyanese sovereignty of the territory.

If Venezuela chooses to ignore the ruling of the Court, Dr Jagdeo says, Guyana will not “just sit down and accept it”

“…and therefore defence cooperation means preparing for the worst outcome,” Dr Jagdeo declared.

And he is urging Guyanese not to be “caught up” in “incessant, almost traumatic experience of worrying unnecessarily” and sharing things that are not true.

He referred to a viral video circulating of a Venezuelan flag being raised, with a claim of it being in Guyanese territory.

“Rest assured we are doing all necessary to keep our borders safe and we will take whatever steps necessary to do so.

“And Venezuela will not succeed, will not succeed on this issue, will not!”

He said while the government is dealing with the border controversy, it remains focused on the development agenda.

“We are focused on exercising sovereignty over our resources and utilizing those resources, in sovereign Guyanese territory, all 83, 000 square miles, and utilizing those resources in favour and to the benefit of all our people.

“We have not changed or slackened the pace on any of our development programmes.

“So the work of government continues.”