Status Quo Side: Guyana
Non-Status Quo Side: Venezuela
Region: Western Hemisphere
Conflict Type: Interstate
Issues in Dispute: Territory
Venezuela, citing new evidence, denied the validity of an 1899 arbitral award assigning disputed territory to British Guiana. Prior to Guyanese independence in May 1966, Britain and the two parties deposited with the UNSYG the Geneva agreement establishing a Mixed Commission to seek solutions by 1970 when unresolved questions would be referred to the UN. During Guyana's independence celebrations Venezuelan personnel took control of part of Ankoko Island and were undiscovered until October, and in July 1968 Venezuela claimed sovereignty over a large stretch of coastal waters -- both areas on the Guyanese side of the 1899 boundary.
During celebrations of Guyana's change to republic status, Venezuelan forces on Ankoko fired on Guyanese police and staged a border build-up. There was no retaliation.
On the expiration of the Geneva agreement, the parties, with Britain concurring, approved the Protocol of Port-of-Spain by which they agreed to maintain the status quo for 12 years, after which, if still unresolved, the dispute would be submitted to international mediation. No agreement having been reached by December 9, 1982, Venezuela began strengthening military outposts in the disputed area, site of a potentially rich oil find. In March 1983 agreement was reached to refer the dispute to UNSYG Perez de Cuellar. Bilateral discussions resumed for a time in 1988.
Copyright © 1999 Lincoln P. Bloomfield and Allen Moulton