Strictly Facts: A Guide to Caribbean History and Culture

The History behind the Guyana-Venezuela Border Dispute

January 24, 2024 Alexandria Miller Episode 75
The History behind the Guyana-Venezuela Border Dispute
Strictly Facts: A Guide to Caribbean History and Culture
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Strictly Facts: A Guide to Caribbean History and Culture
The History behind the Guyana-Venezuela Border Dispute
Jan 24, 2024 Episode 75
Alexandria Miller

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Celebrate with us as Strictly Facts hits a milestone 75th episode—our heartfelt thanks goes out to each one of you for embarking with us on this journey of enlightenment and shared knowledge. Today, we raise the curtain on the contentious and historic border dispute between Guyana and Venezuela, a saga with roots tangled deep in the colonial era and now fueled by the modern-day allure of oil. Through the lens of the December 2023 referendum and the extended history of The Guianas, we illuminate the myriad facets of this geopolitical struggle, highlighting the stakes for indigenous communities and the sovereignty of nations.

Bringing context to the present, we analyze Guyana's strategic moves, including an appeal to the International Court of Justice and a call for US support, against the backdrop of Venezuela's territorial claims. Featuring insights from leaders like President Irfa Ali and regional bodies like CARICOM, we piece together a narrative that stretches beyond borders into the heart of Caribbean resilience. Join us as we untangle the complex interplay of history, diplomacy, and emerging oil interests in a Caribbean story that continues to shape the future of an entire region.

Caribbean Legal Solutions is the easiest way to find an attorney in the Caribbean. Visit their website at caribbeanlegalsolutions.com 

Disclaimer: This podcast ad contains general information about Caribbean Legal Solutions and is not intended as legal advice.  Always consult with a qualified attorney for legal advice specific to your situation.

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Send us a text message and tell us your thoughts.

Celebrate with us as Strictly Facts hits a milestone 75th episode—our heartfelt thanks goes out to each one of you for embarking with us on this journey of enlightenment and shared knowledge. Today, we raise the curtain on the contentious and historic border dispute between Guyana and Venezuela, a saga with roots tangled deep in the colonial era and now fueled by the modern-day allure of oil. Through the lens of the December 2023 referendum and the extended history of The Guianas, we illuminate the myriad facets of this geopolitical struggle, highlighting the stakes for indigenous communities and the sovereignty of nations.

Bringing context to the present, we analyze Guyana's strategic moves, including an appeal to the International Court of Justice and a call for US support, against the backdrop of Venezuela's territorial claims. Featuring insights from leaders like President Irfa Ali and regional bodies like CARICOM, we piece together a narrative that stretches beyond borders into the heart of Caribbean resilience. Join us as we untangle the complex interplay of history, diplomacy, and emerging oil interests in a Caribbean story that continues to shape the future of an entire region.

Caribbean Legal Solutions is the easiest way to find an attorney in the Caribbean. Visit their website at caribbeanlegalsolutions.com 

Disclaimer: This podcast ad contains general information about Caribbean Legal Solutions and is not intended as legal advice.  Always consult with a qualified attorney for legal advice specific to your situation.

Support the Show.

Connect with Strictly Facts - Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | YouTube

Looking to read more about the topics covered in this episode? Subscribe to the newsletter at www.strictlyfactspod.com to get the Strictly Facts Syllabus to your email!

Want to Support Strictly Facts?

  • Rate the Show
  • Leave a review on your favorite podcast platform
  • Share this episode with someone who loves Caribbean history and culture
  • Send us a DM or voice note to have your thoughts featured on an upcoming episode
  • Share the episode on social media and tag us
  • Donate to help us continue empowering listeners with Caribbean history and education

Produced by Breadfruit Media

Speaker 1:

Welcome to Strictly Facts, a guide to Caribbean history and culture hosted by me, alexandra Miller. Strictly Facts teaches the history, politics and activism of the Caribbean and connects these themes to contemporary music and popular culture.

Speaker 2:

Hello, hello everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Strictly Facts, a guide to Caribbean history and culture, our 75th episode, to be exact, with me, your host, alexandra Miller. We're back for another year and, as I said last time, I am truly excited to share all that I have planned for 2024 with you all. Before diving into our episode today, I just wanted to share a big thanks to everybody for all of the Strictly Facts birthday love we received on social media. If you didn't see the post, definitely go ahead and check it out. But I also shared there a gift for all of our listeners a Strictly Facts sounds playlist, the first of many, I'm sure. As you all know, I love music. I compiled all of the songs we've shared over the last two years in our Strictly Facts sound segment that reflect Caribbean history into one big place, and I think it's a great way to both learn about our connections and creativity while also celebrating our vibrant and unique music culture. So be sure to check it out at our show notes, as well as the link in our bio. We also did a complete overhaul of the Strictly Facts website, as I mentioned last time, but I didn't jump into the fact that we completely revamped the Strictly Facts syllabus in a more efficient way. So head over there to our show notes as well to definitely check out our ongoing resource library archive of sources, arranged by episode, so you can find the readings, the films and, of course, the Strictly Facts sounds from each discussion shared on the platform.

Speaker 2:

On to our main topic for today, as many of you are likely aware, there are several ongoing global disputes and genocides happening across the world and while I won't be going into detail in all of them, especially you know all of the present day struggles being experienced right now I really wanted to ensure that we, as a Caribbean people and I mean that widely, as always, you know whether you're born, I'm written the Caribbean, of Caribbean descent, or just a lover of Caribbean culture not only aware of the current border disputes between Guyana and Venezuela and this century's long history of this debate, but that we also continue to show out and support Guyanese efforts and especially a peaceful resolution to this conflict, especially since some of the hype has died down since the original reemergence of this dispute last December. I made a post on our show souls sharing a bit about this long-standing feud last month, but definitely wanted to share a bit more about it, especially as things have evolved, and really wanting to continuously highlight what is happening for those who may not have caught it on social media. The latest dispute began on December 3rd of last year, when the Venezuelan government issued a referendum to which, they claim, 95% of the nation's voters supported Venezuela's claim to ownership of the Essequipo territory, which currently makes up two-thirds of Guyana and is home to several of the nation's indigenous communities and was recently deemed to be rich in oil. I want to really emphasize that final point on oil, especially because that is sort of the core of this dispute and, as we know, through centuries-long histories of colonialism, extraction, neoliberalism and all of the isms, really Capitalism is certainly at the core of a lot of these issues, but these access to mineral resources for economic gain, et cetera, really an extension of colonialism and capitalism, tactics that displace and discard the importance of sovereignty and people's lives for the sake of national gains.

Speaker 2:

Just last year, there was a massive discovery of oil in Guyana, and much of which has been happening continuously a little bit for the last decade, prompting many of the world, many countries across the world, to consider Guyana in the same light that we would point other nations rich in oil across the Middle East, like Qatar and others, as well as Mexico and Norway. Though this recent development over Guyana's Azequibo territory has much to do with this recent oil discovery, this dispute has a really long history stemming back from before Guyana was the Guyana we know. It was previously British Guyana, and so I'll get into a little bit of that to share with you all, but this dispute over Azequibo is by no means a new discussion. This border dispute has been ongoing when Venezuela was also a colony of Spain, as you may have noted in previous episodes when I've discussed what we would call present a Guyana in the 20th century, or even before that, it's referred to as British Guyana. I've noted some of this several times, but wanting to ensure that we are all caught up in a way or this history, that's because, of course, it was previously a British colony in the region to the northern coast of South America, demarcated, as in general, the region was known as the Guyanas and then divided up amongst several of the colonial powers, and so present day Venezuela and Guyana were known as Spanish Guiana and British Guiana respectively, and there were also Dutch Guiana, which is present day Suriname, and the state of Amapa, which was known one way or the other as either Portuguese or Brazilian Guiana and is now the northern tip of Brazil. And lastly, there is French Guiana, which is still an overseas Department of France.

Speaker 2:

Much like the political situation we've discussed in Guadalupe or Martinique, for instance, that we shared in previous episodes, it's impossible for me to do a deep history of this region and the ongoing disputes via our episode today, but I'll definitely ensure that I add links to our syllabus for you all to check out. I definitely did want to share some key things you know and so, as the standard story goes, or the song that I was taught and I'm saying this facetiously, of course Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue and, quote unquote, discovered the region in the late 1400s. I hope you can hear the sarcasm, of course, but nonetheless he arrives in the Yanas in 1498, which ignited really a 500 plus years of colonial influence and dispute in the northern coast of South America. The European powers were almost in constant dispute over the region and its porters, especially after the Guianas were converted to sugar plantation economies in the 17th and 18th centuries, prompting the abuse and massacre of, of course, indigenous communities and then later the introduction of forced enslaved labor and indentured servitude. The area, which was originally referred to as the Guianas, were a subject of continuous wars waged by Britain, france and the Netherlands until they signed the Convention of London in 1814, a treaty that essentially gave Britain a lot of the territory, including the Esquibo, which had formerly been under Dutch rule. It is after this 1814 Convention of London that the names like British Guiana and Dutch Guiana, for instance, began to be recognized individually, given the political outlining from the treaty. Of important note, at this time, venezuela is three years into founding its newly independent country when the Convention of London is signed. The Convention also solely focused on the borders between British, dutch and French Guiana on the east, and didn't necessarily maintain or carve out the border dispute or the border between Venezuela and what was at the time still British Guiana, and so, as a result, they have really contended over what their borders should be defined as since then, really starting from 1841, six years after the British commissioned a surveyor known as Robert Schomburg to delineate the border, to which he maintained that 30,000 square miles for Guiana vis-a-vis the British, which became known as the Schomburg line. So that was really the defining border between Venezuela and British Guiana, noting it in 1841.

Speaker 2:

Minerals were always part of the early border disputes. As gold was discovered in Esquibo in the 19th century, there was a massive back and forth between the border for the next several decades, with Venezuela even asking the US to get involved, which they eventually did in 1895, helping to organize the commission to settle the dispute, which led to the 1899 Paris arbitral award, in which then colonial powers the UK, Spain and the Netherlands, and, of course, the US, acting on behalf of Venezuela decided on the border between Venezuela and British Guiana, maintaining the original border established by surveyor Schomburg some 50 years prior. Now, while you know, the dispute was in some sense settled then in the late 19th century. It didn't, of course, end there, beginning really. In 1949, venezuela began to Request in this border after receiving memorandum from the Paris tribunal. They formally revived their claim in 1962 and the debate began over the eastern border of Venezuela continued, you know, to be point of contention. British Ghana, as it was then known, still was a colony in 1962 and would only become independent four years later, in 1966, and so this ongoing debate, you know really continued since then and it wasn't until finally, in 2018, guyana having been independent at this point, of course, more recently Applied to the International Court of Justice to render a final decision on this border dispute. So you know that this long-standing Contention would finally be settled once and for all.

Speaker 2:

Since the recent resurgence, since December, the border contensions of Guyana and Venezuela will continue to plague both countries, of course, but Guyana contends that Venezuela is definitely in violation of international law. And A lot has gone on between there. But you know there is still much to be determined. Brazil has sent troops in support of Guyana's Boundaries and care column also issued a formal statement of peaceful negotiation between the two countries back in December, which I'll definitely link for you all. More recently, in January, guyana asked for support from the US to improve its defense capabilities in the case that Venezuela seeks military invasion.

Speaker 2:

Guyanese president Irfa Ali has also been adamant in his position that he is open to Conversation with Venezuela. However, and I quote, we have made it consistently clear that the issue of our borders is for the ICJ, the International Court of Justice, and that it is where it should be settled. He's also maintained, and I quote again should Venezuela proceed to act in this reckless and adventurous manner, the region will have to respond, and that is what we are building. We're building a regional response and quote. So, all in all, as events continue to unfold, I will definitely keep you all up to date and share what I find with you on social media and maybe do another episode later on.

Speaker 2:

Certainly, I learned a lot from doing the research for this discussion and I wanted to share it with you all.

Speaker 2:

But also, you know, really wanting to echo President Ali's statement that we, as a collective from the Caribbean region and its diaspora, not only need to be educated on the matter but maintain support for Guyana as a nation upholds its sovereignty Over the Esquipa territory and its protection of the countless indigenous communities residing there. So for now, that's all from me for strictly facts. I'll be sure to add links, of course, to the long-standing history in our strictly facts syllabus for you on the checkout For more information, and I'll share some news on social media as they unfold. We'll be back in two weeks with a new episode focusing on the law and precedent. That's the only hint I'm giving. So if anybody wants to try to guess and they're right I might be able to share a sneak preview with you all. Let me know, um, but till next time, thank you so much for sticking with us. Thank you for the birthday love and thank you for being a listener to our podcast. Till next time, little more.

Speaker 1:

Thanks for tuning in this strictly facts. Visit strictly facts podcastcom for more information from each episode. Follow us at strictly facts pod on instagram and facebook and at strictly facts pd on twitter.

Global Disputes
Guyana-Venezuela Border Dispute

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