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The war against the West continues. The anti-Western Axis of Evil is opening a new front against us. Not in the Balkans or Taiwan, but on the American continent.

On Sunday, Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela's dictator, is holding a referendum asking whether Caracas should annex the territory between the Venezuelan border and the Essequibo River, a region administered by Guyana for more than a century.

The following five questions will be put to the Venezuelan people:  

1. Do you agree to reject, by all means, in accordance with the law, the line fraudulently imposed by the Paris Arbitral Award of 1899, which seeks to dispossess us of “our” “Guyana Essequibo?”

2. Do you support the Geneva Agreement of 1966 as the only valid legal instrument to reach a practical and satisfactory solution for Venezuela and Guyana, in relation to the dispute over the territory of the “Guyana Essequibo?”

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 “Guyana Essequibo?”

4. Do you agree to oppose, by all means, in accordance with the law, Guyana's pretension to unilaterally impose a temporary maritime border in an illegal manner and in violation of international law?

5. Do you agree with the creation of the state of “Guyana Essequibo” and the development of an accelerated plan for the integration of the current and future population of that territory, which includes, among others, the granting of Venezuelan citizenship and identity cards, in accordance with the Geneva Agreement and International Law, and consequently incorporating said state in the map of the Venezuelan territory?

Taking a page out of the books of Saddam Hussein and Vladimir Putin, the Maduro regime is attempting to remove the “legal obstacles” that prevent Venezuela from annexing an area comprising more than two-thirds of Guyana's territory. This will enable Venezuela to convert a 160,000 square kilometer jungle rich in gas, oil, gold, diamonds, copper, bauxite, iron, and aluminum into Venezuela's 24th state.  

The holding of this referendum is clearly just one more fire for the American ambulance to chase. The latter already has its hands full with wars in Europe and the Middle East, as well as crises in West Africa and East Asia. Of course, Putin, Khamenei and Xi Jinping thank Maduro for his thoughtful contributions to their cause.

Speaking of thanks, this is undoubtedly also a way for Maduro to show his gratitude to the White House. Notably, for having authorized energy giant Chevron to resume operations in 2022 and broadly easing sanctions against Venezuela last month in exchange for an "agreement" with the Venezuelan opposition to hold "democratic" elections next year.

The territory west of the Essequibo River has been designated as a "zona de reclamacion" in Venezuelan school textbooks for decades. From this perspective, both the referendum and the war that may ensue are ways for the deeply unpopular dictator to stoke nationalist sentiment in Venezuela and win public support ahead of the presidential elections in 2024.

Unfortunately, despite the lessons learned from the European Union's experiences with Russia, the United States' appeasement of Iran, and Israel's tolerance of Hamas, the West is once again reminded that there are no permanent understandings that can be reached with the dictators and terrorist groups that belong to the anti-Western Axis of Evil.

Eventually, these bad-faith actors will violate any "agreements" reached not despite the concessions we have made to them, but because of those concessions. They perceive our willingness to compromise not as a fair and pragmatic way of resolving disputes to reach a mutually beneficial outcome, but as a weakness to be exploited to extract more concessions.

Nothing provokes the anti-Western Axis of Evil like our weakness, which is why Maduro, the dictator of a country from which 7.2 million people have fled since 2015, seems ready to reverse a status quo dating back more than a century. We can only hope that the deterrent effect of Brazilian forces on the Venezuelan and Guyanese borders will continue.

Originally published by Toronto Sun on December 2, 2023.

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