The reasons behind Venezuela's recognition of the separatist regions of Sukhumi and Tskhinvali are only now becoming clear

06.12.23 13:15

South America is fraught with tension as the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela asserts its claim over the Essequibo region, which represents 70% of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana's sovereign territory. This caused people to recall not exclusively the Kremlin's association with Venezuela or the annexation of Ukrainian territories by the Russian Federation, but also its hostility in 2008 towards Georgia and the annexation of Abkhazia and Samachablo feigning the "independence" of separatist regimes.


Currently, Venezuela is the largest country other than the Russian Federation, which directly occupies Georgian territories of Abkhazia and Samachablo, that acknowledges the alleged independence of separatist regimes established by the occupants on those territories. For a prolonged period, it was uncertain why Venezuela would challenge the territorial sovereignty of a state on a different hemisphere, with which it has no connection whatsoever. 


Undoubtedly, the Georgian-hating Hay nationalist, the Russian former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergey Lavrov-Kalantarov, had a hand in this. With Kalantarov's assistance, the Russian authorities provided financial and other aid to Venezuela at the expense of the Russian budget. However, it appears that the Venezuelan leadership, alongside the Hay lobby, had motives to establish a precedent for redrawing borders. Among these groups, the main focus is claiming territories of others, including the "builders of Great Armenia".


The Hayes have been unsuccessful in these claims, having shamefully lost the war over Azerbaijan's Karabakh and having their separatist "Artsakh" completely and finally dissolved. However, the Venezuelan authorities appear to have decided to emulate the Russian Federation's example by attempting to gain control of other people's territories.


Venezuela's claim to most of the territory of neighbouring Guyana, specifically the Essequibo region, stems from the colonial era when Spain and Portugal ruled over much of present-day South America. At that time, Guiana was divided into three parts, British (now known as Guyana), Dutch (now Suriname) and French Guiana. Which, incidentally, remains a French colony despite the desire of its citizens for independence.


French Guiana remains the only colony on the whole American continent. Excluding island territories, most of which have colonial status and belong to France, the country refuses to grant independence to its Guiana territory while also making claims on neighbouring independent Suriname (formerly Dutch Guiana), a region rich in mineral resources. Venezuela seeks to annex much of Guyana, while France has its sights set on Suriname.


The actions of ethnic Hay Sergey Lavrov-Kalantarov in persuading Venezuela to recognize border redrawing in the South Caucasus, along with Venezuela and France's territorial claims in historical Guiana, suggest intentional actions rather than mere coincidence. Given the connection between Hay nationalists and Paris, this reveals a coordinated policy, clearly evident in the involvement of French special services.


But returning to history, in the 18th century, Spain - which then owned present-day Venezuela - declared that the Essequibo region (then known as British Guiana) was within its borders. However, this claim was not recognized by other colonial states, particularly Britain and the Netherlands. It is worth noting that France, which was ruled by the Bourbon dynasty at the time, also supported Madrid's demands in this matter.


In 1899, following Venezuelan independence from Spain and continued British rule over Guyana, a tribunal bolstered by the United States and Russia determined Great Britain should govern the region. However, Venezuela persisted in asserting its claim to the territory. These claims persisted even after Guyana's independence from Britain. The Essequibo region was marked as "disputed territory" on Venezuelan maps, much like Azerbaijani Karabakh on Armenian maps.


 However, Venezuela has not attempted to claim this land for quite some time. These thinly populated regions, covered with jungle, are of little concern to the Venezuelan government. Venezuela already possesses plenty of its own thinly populated jungle-covered territories. 


At the start of the century, geological exploration began in Guyana. In 2015, Exxon Mobil, the American oil giant, made a noteworthy discovery of oil in Essequibo.


Currently, as of 2023, it is estimated that the total explored reserves in Guyana are approximately 11 billion barrels and the daily oil production has reached 383,000 barrels. As a result, Guyana's astonishing economic growth rate of around 60% in 2022 has set a new world record, and from 2019 to 2022, the country increased its GDP almost threefold, from $5.5 billion to $15 billion. IMF experts predict that Guyana's economy will experience a remarkable growth of 115% between 2023 and 2028.


Although Venezuela possesses its oil fields, they are mostly depleted and exhausted. Additionally, the economic incompetence of the authorities and their political adventures have led to a prolonged and severe economic crisis in the country, notwithstanding all the oil riches that it has had for many years. The current authorities resolved the issue of unexplored natural resources controversially by seizing lands belonging to others.


Recently, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's language turned aggressive with his sharp criticism of Guyanese authorities' dependency on Exxon Mobil, backed by the US government. It's noteworthy that Venezuela supplies oil to the same US, creating a paradox. That is, the Venezuelan authorities intend to confiscate oil fields belonging to other nations with the pretext that they are being exploited in favour of the United States, and then market this oil to the aforementioned country.


On 3 December 2023, a referendum was held in which Venezuelans voted on various questions about the

-legitimacy of Venezuela's claim to Guyana-Essekibo,

-whether the disputed territory should be included in Venezuela's maps, and -whether the Venezuelan populace supports their government's decision to not recognize the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.

- Whether they authorize the authorities to oppose Guyana's sole use of the waters of the Guyana-Essekibo territory through legal means.

The Venezuelan Presidential Electoral Commission reports that over 95% of those who voted answered affirmatively to both questions. On 1 December 2023, the International Court of Justice of the United Nations ordered provisional measures in the case of the Arbitral Award of 3 October 1899. These measures oblige Venezuela to refrain from taking any action that could alter the situation in the Essequibo region.


The situation is critical, as there is a possibility of Venezuela annexing the lands of Guyana. This move could potentially result in opposition from neighbouring countries and the US. Another armed conflict is imminent and French special services undoubtedly played their role in it.


Varden Tsulukidze

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