Latest update March 29th, 2023 12:59 AM
Jul 22, 2015 Editorial
At the recent concluded MERCOSUR meeting in Brazil and the CARICOM Heads of Government conference in Barbados, President Granger highlighted Venezuela’s spurious claim of Guyana’s territory, as the leaders of CARICOM in particular stood firm against Caracas’ bullying of Guyana.
In spite of this, there was no conciliatory response from President Nicolás Maduro who brazenly stated that “no one will ever get Venezuela to renounce her historical rights to the Essequibo.” Thumbing his nose at Mr. Granger and the other CARICOM leaders, Maduro promptly recalled Venezuela’s ambassador to Guyana, reduced the embassy staff in Georgetown and promised to cancel the Petro-Caribe agreement with Guyana which will result in Guyana losing a significant percentage of its rice market and a large portion of its oil supply.
Mr. Maduro is obviously willing to risk damaging his country’s ties with Guyana, the CARICOM and Commonwealth nations, mainly because of the dependence on Venezuela’s oil concessions. He is aware that the debt-ridden status of the CARICOM states, with the exception of Trinidad and Tobago, does not allow them much latitude for resistance. However, the CARICOM states have clearly stated that they are not beholden to Venezuela and will not be pawn to its bullying tactics.
Given the poor state of Venezuela’s economy and the current political instability, Maduro seems willing to challenge Guyana’s right to the 167,839-square kilometre Stabroek Block. Indeed, this issue has gained the support of some of his political opponents, who have so far rallied behind him while he tries to overcome multiple crises at home, including one of the world’s highest inflation rates, a currency that has little or no value, a soaring homicide rate, rising unemployment, mounting poverty, inadequate housing, poor water supply and an approval ratings languishing in the 20 percent range.
Mr. Maduro is clearly flexing his muscles to bolster his poor image at home. It is an unwritten belief that most leaders who face strife at home always attempt to create external conflicts as a distraction.
Even though Guyana has no military force comparable to Venezuela’s, President Granger has made it clear that Mr. Maduro’s claim will not have any impact on Guyana’s plans to exploit its hydro-carbon resources. The Guyana government continues to govern without fear of retaliation from its ambitious neighbour. And despite Venezuela’s hostility, the possibility of war with Guyana, or any armed conflict over the disputed area is widely seen as extremely unlikely.
Amid all the tension, the best option would be a conciliatory intervention that allows development work to continue pending a permanent solution to the dispute from the International Court of Justice (ICJ). But considering the history of this particular dispute, which was settled as far back as 1899, this will be no easy assignment for the ICJ. Boundary disputes, especially at sea, are never easy to resolve. The difficulty is even greater when the territory being contested has economic and strategic value. The disputed border is one such area.
Venezuela’s claim of two-thirds of Guyana dates back to 1899, when it was settled by an International Tribunal in favour of then British Guiana only to have Venezuela re-state its claim in the 1960s. Since then, the borders have remained in dispute although Guyana continues to hold to the position of the 1899 ruling.
Guyanese should not be surprised at Mr. Maduro’s action. Venezuela is clearly not happy with oil exploration in the disputed region that could benefit this country, and has, in fact, demanded that Guyana halt the operation. However, CARICOM has warned Mr. Maduro that his refusal to play by the rules could poison relations between the region and Venezuela. Yes, these smaller nations do have a say. Their hope is that diplomacy and good sense will prevail.
You sucking the dry seed of your own mangoes, while the foreigners eating sweet flesh.
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