It’s been a decades-long border battle over where English-speaking Guyana ends and Spanish-speaking Venezuela begins, and now social media is involved.
Guyana, which is considered part of the 15-member Caribbean Community, although it is on the north coast of South America, along the Atlantic Ocean, asks Facebook and Twitter to get the facts straight and remove what the government considers “illegal cards” of the former British colony. The maps, the country’s foreign affairs office says, are being posted by Spanish-language media accounts and claim much of Guyana for neighboring Venezuela.
In letters to executives from both Facebook and Twitter, Guyanese Foreign Minister Robert M. Persaud says social media contributors have used their respective platforms “to spread a false story” about a border dispute settled in 1899 over an area west of the Essequibo River, comprising 61,600 square miles.
In recent years, Venezuela has revived the dispute in light of Guyana’s oil discovery, with both countries being taken to international courts after United Nations arbitration and mediation efforts failed to resolve the conflict. Now the case is before the International Court of Justice.
“I want to point out that Facebook [and Twitter] messages and subsequent comments on the specific messages could permanently damage relations between states, incite violence against the territory and people of Guyana, and derail the current trial of the case before the International Court of Justice [ICJ]’ wrote Persaud.
Persaud informed the companies that the border dispute between the two South American countries had been settled by a legal international arbitration process on October 3, 1899, in accordance with the Washington Treaty of 1897 whereby “both parties agreed to respect the results of the arbitration as a complete, perfect and final settlement of the border.” At the time, Guyana was British Guiana, a colony of Great Britain, and the United States had stepped in and pressured the arbitration court to act.
Guyana’s border and associated territory are internationally recognized, including by the United Nations, Persaud said.
“In this regard, I request that these types of Facebook posts [and Twitter] who violate the basic principles of international relations between states, the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana and incite the use of force against Guyana shall be immediately removed and stricter measures taken against their publications,” he wrote. .
Persaud’s office said the “illegal” cards have appeared as an “orchestrated disinformation campaign” against Guyana is renewed.
In 2015, Guyana accused the government of Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro of using Google Inc.’s map service. persuade them to change the English names of streets in the sparsely populated jungle area in the disputed area to Spanish-sounding names. Neither Twitter, Facebook, nor Google responded to requests from the Miami Herald for comment.
Guyanese officials have long argued that the Maduro government’s interest in reinvigorating the border issue is because Venezuela wants to lay claim to the oil deposits discovered off Guyana’s coast and make Guyana one of the richer countries of the world after decades. region could make of economic hardship.
After Exxon Mobil Corp. had discovered an estimated 700 million barrels of oil reserves, Maduro’s government issued a decree in 2015 claiming Guyana’s exclusive economic zone where the deposits were located. Maduro not only claimed that region by reaffirming his sovereignty over Essequibo, but the decree also claimed Colombia’s exclusive economic zones, as well as eight other Caribbean territories.