Venezuela Reaffirms ‘Historical Truth’ Over the Essequibo, Rejects ICJ Jurisdiction

Caracas emphasized that institutions like the ICJ have often been used to further the interests of colonial empires.
The Venezuelan delegation confirmed that the country is not obligated to recognize The Hague’s ruling. (X / @ViceVenezuela)

Caracas, April 10, 2024 ( – Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodríguez filed a document before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) with “historical truth and evidence” of the country’s sovereign claim over the Essequibo region.

On Monday, Rodríguez led a delegation to present the country’s so-called “counter-memorial” while simultaneously reaffirming that Caracas does not recognize the ICJ’s jurisdiction or any future ruling over the border controversy with Guyana. 

In 2018, the Guyanese government requested that the Hague-based court confirm the validity of the border drawn by the 1899 Paris Tribunal that granted the Essequibo territory to the United Kingdom, the country’s former colonial power. Venezuela defends the 1966 Geneva Agreement which called for a negotiated solution between the two countries following Guyana’s independence that same year. The Essequibo is currently under Guyana’s sole administration.

The Venezuelan VP ratified that the Maduro government would continue to uphold the 1966 accord as the only binding instrument and “the only possible legal path” to resolve the territorial dispute.

“We have delivered a document with the historical truth of Venezuela and evidence demonstrating that a crime was committed in 1899 with a fraudulent award. We have also shown how they [Guyana] intend to commit another crime by instrumentalizing the International Court of Justice,” Rodríguez told the press following the hearing.

According to the Venezuelan official, part of the evidence presented to the ICJ was oil giant Exxon Mobil allegedly paying US $18 million to the Guyanese government to take the case to The Hague in a “notorious violation” of the 1966 Geneva Agreement. 

In 2015, ExxonMobil found massive offshore oil deposits in the undelimited Essequibo waters and has since developed major drilling projects in the area which according to Caracas also contravenes the 1966 accord. Exxon and its partners are currently pumping about 645,000 barrels per day (bpd) and aim to reach more than 1.2 million bpd by the end of 2027.

Venezuela’s Foreign Affairs Ministry likewise released a communique on Monday recalling that Venezuela is one of the 119 states that do not recognize the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction and clarified that delivering the counter-memorial “does not imply Venezuela’s consent or recognition of the decision the court may adopt.”

The ministry added that Caracas has “a legitimate and justified historical distrust” of mechanisms such as the International Court of Justice “given the power exercised by colonial empires over these institutions.” It cites as evidence the ICJ’s “complacent” attitude amidst the ongoing genocide in Gaza. 

“The object, nature, and reason have always been to resolve the territorial controversy over the Guayana Esequiba through political, peaceful and diplomatic negotiation,” read the text.

The Venezuelan ministry also accused Guyana of playing a “false victim” and following orders from the United Kingdom and the United States governments.

“Today Guyana, the US Southern Command and the CIA, together with their partners in the Global North, are preparing an aggression against Venezuela, constituting a real threat to the peace and stability of Latin America and the Caribbean,” warned the communique.

President Nicolás Maduro had previously alerted of alleged plans to install secret US military bases in Guyana to launch attacks against Venezuela.

Last week, Maduro signed the “Organic Law for the Defense of Essequibo,” which was unanimously approved by the National Assembly (AN) and came as a consequence of the December 3 referendum. It establishes the creation of the Guayana Esequiba state, social programs for the local population, a high commission for the region’s defense, and plans for oil, mining and industrial activities.

The new law incited a strong rebuke from the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). In a communique issued on Monday, the Caribbean countries said the Essequibo legislation could “dangerously” escalate tensions and contradicted the Argyle Declaration signed in December 2023 between President Maduro and Guyana’s Mohamed Irfaan Ali. 

The meeting saw the two presidents commit to continue engaging in direct talks and refrain from threats of violence that would escalate the conflict. Maduro and Ali met again in March at the VIII CELAC Summit held in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. However, the leaders did not talk about the Essequibo and were only seen once in public exchanging gifts. The countries’ respective foreign ministers held a meeting in January to establish a joint commission to address the border controversy which had been agreed in the Argyle Declaration.

In response, Caracas rejected the Caribbean bloc’s “inaccurate and false opinions” regarding the Essequibo legislation, calling it “the product of an absurd policy of automatic solidarity.” It condemned CARICOM for ignoring Guyana’s “hostile, illegal and predatory attitude” towards Venezuela and its disrespect for international law. 

“Venezuela makes a special call to CARICOM not to replicate with the Essequibo dispute its weak positions on relevant issues, such as the situation in Haiti,” concluded the short statement published by the Foreign Ministry.

For its part, the Guyanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement “welcoming” Venezuela’s submission of its counter-memorial and reiterating its stance that it is up to the ICJ to “ultimately decide” the territorial issue. 

Edited by Ricardo Vaz in Caracas.