The Guyana-Venezuela Border Dispute

April 8, 2023 written by Ciara Perez

For the last two centuries, Guyana and Venezuela have disputed over a 61,000-square-mile area known as Essequibo, rich in gold, oil, diamonds, and other natural resources. Venezuela says it claimed the disputed territory in 1811 when it declared independence from Spain. However, in 1814 the United Kingdom claimed the region as part of its new colonial territory, which it acquired from the Dutch as part of the Anglo-Dutch Treaty. The countries compromised at the time, agreeing that neither would control the area until 1876, when gold was discovered. This discovery reignited the dispute, leading Venezuela and Britain to bring the conflict to an international tribunal in 1899. The tribunal ultimately favored the British side and awarded them the territory Venezuela has since contested.

After many failed mediation efforts to resolve the border dispute amongst themselves, Guyana brought the case to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2018. Venezuela has challenged the case’s admissibility because “the court could not hear the case without the involvement of the United Kingdom, which was Guyana’s colonial master at the time of the original border decision.” However, Guyana gained independence in 1966 and claims that Britain has been absent from their internal affairs since then.

On April 6, the United Nations ruled to “reject Venezuela’s challenge to the case’s admissibility” meaning that the ICJ officially has jurisdiction over the border dispute case. While Guyana’s President Irfaan Ali has publicly stated the country’s commitment to a peaceful resolution, Venezuela has yet to take the same approach. Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez has continued to argue that any resolution must be made outside the court and that all negotiations must include Britain due to Britain’s allegedly forged maps used to establish the border in the 1800s.

Guyana has asked the court “to rule that the 1899 border decision is valid and binding on both countries.” Should the court rule favor Venezuela, Guyana could lose up to half its territory. However, should the court rule in favor of Guyana, it has the potential to become one of the largest oil producers in Latin America.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: