© 2024 WLRN
MIAMI | SOUTH FLORIDA
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

World Court rejects Venezuela's bid to block a Guyana border ruling — with oil billions at stake

Maduro.jpg
Ariana Cubillos
/
AP
Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro in Caracas

For more than a century now, Venezuela and Guyana have been locked in an angry dispute over their border. On Thursday, an international court made a key ruling in Guyana’s favor — with lots of oil at stake.

Venezuela has long insistedits border with Guyana was unfairly drawn back in 1899. Guyana then was a British colony — and Venezuelans argue Britain bullied them out of a large chunk of territory that today belongs to an independent Guyana.

In fact that area, known in Spanish as the Esequibo, comprises more than half of Guyana's territory.

An official Venezuelan government map that claims more than half of next-door Guyana's territory (marked by diagonal lines) belongs to Venezuela.
Gobierno de Venezuela
An official Venezuelan government map that claims more than half of next-door Guyana's territory (marked by diagonal lines) belongs to Venezuela.

Five years ago Guyana asked the U.N.’s International Court of Justice, or World Court, in the Hague to make a final ruling on the matter, and Venezuela tried to block that request. But the court has now allowed the case to proceed.

“Most Guyanese are not surprised by this ruling — I think they expected it," Wesley Kirton, a former Guyanese diplomat who heads the Guyanese-American Chamber of Commerce in Miami, told WLRN from Guyana's capital, Georgetown.

"Guyanese feel that this whole Venezuela claim is baseless — that it’s based on a jumbie story.”

“Jumbie” is Guyanese slang for a bogus ghost story. But what’s real is the potentially billions of barrels of oil discovered in recent years in waters off Guyana’s coast that are also part of Venezuela’s territorial claim.

That’s a big reason Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro has been rattling sabers at Guyana in recent years — in some instances even having the Venezuelan navy stop ships performing oil exploration missions for Guyana.

Kirton says if the World Court now eventually confirms the border in Guyana’s favor, it will mean an economic boon — and boom — for the small, underdeveloped Caribbean nation.

"Guyanese certainly would see that final ruling as lifting a cloud over our future development," Kirton said. "Foreign investors will finally know there will be no more encumbrances."

It’s uncertain when the World Court will make a final ruling.

Tim Padgett is the Americas Editor for WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida. Contact Tim at tpadgett@wlrnnews.org
More On This Topic