Jun 23, 2015 Editorial
All over Guyana, people are talking about the territorial issue with Venezuela. They view the claim by Venezuela over Guyana’s maritime waters as an unfolding and very dangerous issue which the new APNU+AFC Coalition Government must closely monitor.
Since 1966, Caracas announced that it was renewing its claim to Guyana’s territory.
On May 27, 2015, President Nicolas Maduro issued Decree No. 1787 creating the Atlantic Coast of Venezuela and effectively extending his country’s borders to include the maritime waters off the natural resources-rich Essequibo region. Prior to the presidential decree, the Venezuelan Navy in October 2013 detained an oil research vessel belonging to the United States Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, because the Madura government claimed that the vessel was conducting illegal exploration in its waters without authorization.
The former PPP administration disputed Venezuela’s claim and stated that the vessel was operating in Guyana’s territory.
Venezuela had laid claim to two-thirds of Guyana’s land mass since an 1899 arbitration ruling in favour of Guyana when it was under British colonial rule. Today, Venezuela has not only unilaterally renewed the claim but has also extended it. Venezuela’s decision came 11 days after the general election in Guyana produced the first change of government in over two decades.
It seems to have been triggered by the news of the discovery of significant petroleum deposits by United States Company ExxonMobil, which was given approval by the previous PPP/Civic administration to carry out exploration in the maritime area. This new development means that President David Granger’s coalition government was not given the customary honeymoon period afforded to newly elected governments.
The offshore oil find is great news for the people of Guyana, whose economic fortunes have been showing some encouraging signs of a turnaround in recent years after being in the doldrums for the last ten years.
President Granger, a former army Brigadier-General has publicly stated that Venezuela’s actions represent a threat to regional peace and security and has made it quite clear that his new administration will vigorously defend Guyana’s interests against any aggression from Venezuela, its neighbour.
Despite Venezuela’s cordial relationship with CARICOM nations, and its generous PetroCaribe assistance to its member states which began in 2005 with the aim to maintain solidarity with regions, the leaders of the Caribbean believe that it is highly unreasonable for Venezuela to seek claim of more of Guyana’s territory.
There is enough evidence to suggest that Venezuela, even though it was not pleased with the ruling in 1899, yet it still ratified the findings of the arbitration which suggests it had accepted the agreement. It is time for Venezuela to end its claim of Guyana’s territory so that the nation can fully concentrate its efforts on strategies and plans to develop its economy and move Guyana forward.
The newly elected Granger-led coalition government should not have had to divert its attention away from the development of the country towards the threats from Venezuela.
The dispute is most likely to be on the agenda of the annual CARICOM Heads of Government Summit slated to be hosted by Barbados next month. This issue is problematic in that it presents a dilemma for some CARICOM countries because it may place them in an uncomfortable situation where their loyalty to both Guyana and Venezuela if put to the test.
This is especially true because these countries have and continue to benefit from Venezuelan PetroCaribe oil concessions that provided a cushion from the full effects of high oil prices. Moreover, they are in a quandary and are therefore walking a diplomatic tightrope as to what to say or do about the border dispute.
Escalation of the current border dispute by Venezuela has the potential to extend beyond the two countries and even outside of the region.
Because of the United States interests in the region, it will want regional stability and peace to exist instead of violence. If the latter occurs, it will have the potential to involve the US.
Guyanese you are being prostituted by your politicians!
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