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Statement by the Commonwealth Secretary-General in support of Guyana after Venezuela’s recent legislation on the April 3rd Organic Law on Essequibo

The Commonwealth Secretary-General, the Rt Hon Patricia Scotland KC, has echoed the concern of His Excellency Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali, the President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, after President Nicolás Maduro of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela promulgated the Organic Law for the Defence of Essequiba on 3 April 2024.   

The Commonwealth Secretary-General said: 

“Yesterday, on 5 April 2024, I received a letter from His Excellency, Dr Mohamed Irfaan Ali, President of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana. President Ali is concerned that Venezuela’s next move would be to implement its plan for the seizure of Guyana’s sovereign territory.” 

By this new law Venezuela purports to exercise control over two-thirds of the sovereign territory of Guyana. This legislation appears to create a new state in Venezuela, the Head of State of Venezuela will have the power to elect a governor, and the National Assembly of Venezuela will have legislative functions in this territory. Also, all political maps of Venezuela will now include the ‘state of Guyana Essequiba’. 

The International Court of Justice (ICJ), on 1 December 2023, unanimously indicated its Order on Provisional Measures on the dispute between Venezuela and Guyana. It states, pending the Court’s final decision in the case, 

“the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela shall refrain from taking any action which would modify the situation that currently prevails in the territory in dispute, whereby the Co-operative Republic of Guyana administers and exercises control over that area.”

In reference to Venezuela’s April 3rd promulgation, the Commonwealth Secretary-General noted: 

“Venezuela’s latest actions appear to directly contravene the ICJ Order and also the spirit of the 14 December 2023 Joint Declaration of Argyle for Dialogue and Peace between Guyana and Venezuela where both states agreed to use international law and diplomatic means to address the controversy and to refrain from escalating the conflict.” 

“The Commonwealth affirms that the ICJ process is the appropriate and lawful means to address the matter under international law.”  

The Secretary-General pointed to her earlier statements of  1 November and 1 December 2023 on the matter as well as the 11 December 2023 Outcome Statement of the Commonwealth Ministerial Group on Guyana (CMGG). She also referenced the Concluding Statement of the Sixty-Fourth Meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group, issued on 12 March 2024, and the Secretary-General noted, 

“I am encouraged by the firm and consistent support from the entire Commonwealth family for the Government and people of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana. I also call on member states to give whatever support they may feel appropriate to Guyana in this time of need.” 

“I offer my continued support, and that of the Commonwealth, to help resolve the matter by peaceful means.”

The Commonwealth Secretary-General urged the Government and people of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to abide by the principles of international law and to manage the dispute in ways that guarantee the peace and stability of the Caribbean region. 

About the Commonwealth

  • The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 56 independent and equal sovereign states. Our combined population is 2.5 billion, of which more than 60 per cent is aged 29 or under.
  • The Commonwealth spans the globe and includes both advanced economies and developing countries. Thirty-three of our members are small states, many of which are island nations.
  • The Commonwealth Secretariat supports member countries to build democratic and inclusive institutions, strengthen governance and promote justice and human rights. Our work helps to grow economies and boost trade, deliver national resilience, empower young people, and address threats such as climate change, debt and inequality.
  • Member countries are supported by a network of more than 80 intergovernmental, civil society, cultural and professional organisations.


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