A number of Venezuelan migrants who fled the economic and social collapse of the neighbouring Spanish-speaking country on Sunday came out in support of Guyana against the Venezuelan regime’s baseless claim on Guyana’s Essequibo territory.
Bearing placards during a rally in Georgetown with the ‘I love Guyana’ sign in the background, the Venezuelans sent a clear message that having already escaped the Nicolas Maduro regime and settled in Guyana, they have no interest in the Maduro regime encroaching on Guyana’s territory and bringing more of what they escaped from.
One placard read “We want peace”, while another identified the group as “Venezuelans in Guyana (who) support Guyana”. Another placard stated that “Referendum or not, Essequibo belongs to Guyana”. Meanwhile, another protestor bore a placard that thanked Guyana “for allowing us to grow with our families. Love Guyana.”
Another protester urged the Maduro Government to “respect the 1899 Award” while another stated that the Venezuelans at the rally “support Guyana’s sovereignty”. Home Affairs Minister Robeson Benn, who was at the demonstration, addressed the gathering and lauded them for choosing to express support for and stand with Guyana.
“There are Venezuelan nationals here in Guyana. Many of them are Guyanese, or descendants of Guyanese originally. Or pure Venezuelans who have come to us for support and help in this time of crisis there. We are continuously happy to have them.”
“We are moved by this support that they’re giving to us, at a particularly critical time. It is precious for us that these Venezuelans and Guyanese can come here in the open and express support for Guyana’s position in the Essequibo controversy,” Benn said.
Benn reaffirmed that Guyana is always willing to help those in distress and made it clear that Guyana has no interest in fighting its Venezuelan “brothers and cousins”. At the same time, he stressed that Essequibo belongs to Guyana and that Guyana’s territorial integrity must be maintained.
“Essequibo belongs to Guyana,” Benn said, to cheers from the crowd. “And we know that even people in Venezuela itself are aware of this fact. The 1899 Arbitral Award established the boundaries. It was surveyed with Venezuelans. And it was accepted on Venezuelan maps and stamps.”
“This contrivance, which has been going on and on since the 1960s, is nothing more than a political stunt. However, we remain vigilant. Both at the frontiers and internally, with respect to this controversy. And we are prepared to defend Guyana.”
Guyana’s Spanish-speaking neighbour has laid claim to more than two-thirds of Guyana’s landmass in the Essequibo region, and to a portion of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in which nearly 11 billion barrels of oil have been discovered largely by United States oil giant ExxonMobil.
Over the past few weeks, Guyana has been informing regional and international partners of the referendum planned by Venezuela for December 3, which has been criticised by the United States, Caricom, and the Organisation of American States (OAS), as well as several other nations in the Region, including Brazil, for seeking to, among other things, gain a national consensus to annex Essequibo.
In addition to its substantive case at the International Court of Justice, Guyana is currently seeking an injunction from the ICJ against Venezuela’s efforts to annex Essequibo via its planned December 3 referendum.