Venezuela’s Maduro Slams US Interference in Guyana Dispute and Internal Affairs

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro hit back at the US government on Tuesday after the latter publically declared its support for Guyana’s claim to the disputed Essequibo region. He also responded to recent disparaging remarks made by US Secretary of State John Kerry regarding Venezuela's democracy. 

By Lucas Koerner
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Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (Correodelorinoco)
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro (Correodelorinoco)

Caracas, October 7, 2015 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro hit back at the US government on Tuesday after the latter publically declared its support for Guyana’s claim to the disputed Essequibo region. 

“United States, take your hands off of the Guyana Essequibo, we will not accept your interference in this issue,” warned Maduro, speaking on his weekly television program. 

Maduro's statement came in response to recent comments by the newly appointed US ambassador to Guyana, Perry Holloway, who “call[ed] on all parties to continue to respect the 1899 arbitral ruling,” during a press conference marking his arrival in the South American country on Monday. 

The 1899 ruling, which was intended to conclude a decades-long border dispute between newly independent Venezuela and the British Empire over dubiously drawn British maps, awarded the entirety of the contested territory to the then British colony of Guiana. 

Venezuela has, nevertheless, rejected the ruling as “fraudulent and null”, pointing to the marked absence of Venezuelan representatives on the US-British arbitration tribunal.  

According to Caracas, the dispute must be resolved within the framework of the 1966 Geneva Agreement, which outlines a diplomatic process of bilateral negotiations mediated by an internationally appointed Good Officer, a position left vacant since April of last year. 

This diplomatic framework, upheld by Guyana since its independence from Great Britain, has only recently been called into question by newly-elected Guyanese President David Granger, who in May unilaterally authorized Exxon Mobil to begin drilling in the disputed region following the discovery of large oil reserves.

In a bid to calm heightening tensions, the leaders of both nations sat down at the UN on September 27th for face-to face talks together with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, which ended with both leaders agreeing to restore ambassadors and allow mediation by a UN commission. 

In response to Monday’s statements by the US ambassador to Guyana, Maduro pledged to present a formal note of protest before the Secretary-General, denouncing Washington’s interference in the bilateral dispute. 

Despite denouncing what he views as US efforts to stoke conflict between the two neighbors, the Venezuelan leader went on to reaffirm that Venezuela and Guyana share a common “brotherhood”, a position which he also took during his speech at the UN. 

Maduro Rejects Kerry Remarks 

On Tuesday, President Maduro also took the opportunity to repudiate recent comments by US Secretary of State John Kerry who labeled Venezuela an “imperfect democracy” with “serious challenges” and implied that December’s legislative elections would be a “measure of what sort of democracy” the country is. 

“We have the best democracy that Venezuela has ever had in its history, a participatory protagonist democracy that establishes political and social rights, that has faced coups, sabotage, and assassinations, that has had 19 elections in 15 years,” the socialist leader asserted. 

The exchange comes in the midst of a flare up in already tense relations between Washington and Caracas sparked by the detention of Venezuela’s ombudsman in Mexico over the weekend on the orders of Interpol-USA. 

Back in March,  US President Barack Obama also approved an executive decree which declares Venezuela a "threat" to US national security, as well as slapped a new round of Venezuelan officials with sanctions prohibiting travel to the US.  

In recent months, both governments have held high-level talks in an effort to normalize relations, which continued early last month with a phone call made by John Kerry to his Venezuelan counterpart. 

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