Despite a poor turnout, Venezuelan authorities Sunday confirmed 95.93% of 10,554,320 voting Venezuelans replied aye in a non-binding referendum to the question of whether or not to annex the Essequiba Guiana, a 160,000 square-kilometer region the country claims as its own but which has been under Guyanan control for over a century.
Among the first measures Sunday's results would entail is the granting of Venezuelan citizenship to the 125,000 people living in the area, most of whom are believed to belong to indigenous communities.
In addition, 95.40% of the voters supported the idea of not recognizing the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in this 19th-century controversy, which is being settled in that court since 2018, while 98.11% of the voters were in favor of recognizing the 1966 Geneva Agreement as the only valid legal instrument to reach a solution. The document invites the two countries to seek a satisfactory outcome through direct negotiations.
Venezuelan voters also upheld by 97.83% of the votes a rejection by all means to the Paris Arbitral Award, which has defined the current borders since 1899, during which time Caracas has not controlled the territory under litigation.
Venezuelan National Electoral Council (CNE) Chairman Elvis Amoroso congratulated voters and insisted that sovereignty resided in the people and was exercised through suffrage.
The five questions voters were required to answer were the following:
1) Do you agree to reject, by all means, in accordance with the law, the line fraudulently imposed by the Paris Arbitration Award of 1899 that intends to strip us of our Essequiba Guyana? 97.83% of the people answered Yes / No - 2.17%.
2) Do you support the 1966 Geneva Agreement as the only valid legal instrument to reach a practical and satisfactory solution for Venezuela and Guyana, regarding the dispute over the territory of Essequiba Guiana? 98.11% answered Yes / No - 1.8%.
3) Do you agree with Venezuela's historical position of not recognizing the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice to resolve the territorial dispute over the Essequiba Guiana? 95.40% answered Yes / No - 4.10%.
4) Do you agree to oppose, by all means, in accordance with the law, Guyana's claim to unilaterally dispose of a sea pending delimitation, illegally and in violation of International Law? 95.94% answered Yes / No - 4.06%.
5) Do you agree with the creation of the state of Guayana Esequiba and the development of an accelerated plan for the integral attention of the current and future population of that territory, including, among others, the granting of Venezuelan citizenship and identity cards, in accordance with the Geneva Agreement and International Law, consequently incorporating said state in the map of the Venezuelan territory? 95.93% answered Yes / No - 4.07%.
President Nicolás Maduro said Venezuela was solving by democratic and peaceful means an imperial dispossession orchestrated 150 years ago. We have taken the first steps of a new historic stage, Maduro said.
We have to give a round of applause to the man, the woman, the young man, the boy, the girl, because they were summoned for a national cause. We have taken the first steps of a new historic stage, he added.
The Venezuelan people have spoken loud and clear and this victory belongs to all the Venezuelan people without discrimination, without partisanship, he went on.
He also denounced the Government of the United States and groups linked to the oligarchy for trying to sabotage the referendum. Maduro also said that other attempts to halt the consultation would come to light in the coming days.
Meanwhile, opposition leader Henrique Capriles asked Maduro: What are you going to do tomorrow? Because tomorrow, all the economic and social problems of the country are going to be there. This is a little bit what people are saying by not going to the voting centers, Capriles argued, although he admitted he joined the majority vote regarding Venezuela's demands.