Venezuela’s President, Nicolas Maduro is expected to pay an official visit to Guyana at month-end, his Guyanese counterpart announced on Sunday.
President Donald Ramotar made the announcement at the formal opening of the GUY$300 million dollar Hugo Chavez Rehabilitation and Reintegration Centre at Onverwagt, West Coast Berbice. Venezuela provided GUY$200 million for the project.
Well-placed sources said Maduro would visit Guyana on August 31, one day after the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) Summit is held in Suriname.
The Guyanese leaders reiterated that his country would continue to seek a peaceful resolution to Venezuela’s claim to the mineral and forest rich Essequibo region which makes up two-thirds of Guyana’s 83,000 square miles.
“We are committed to working with the Government of Venezuela to take our relations to higher levels, to consolidate the existing programme of cooperation and explore new areas that will bring us new benefits as well as preserve the climate of mutual respect and understanding that will allow us to continue our engagement under the Good Officer’s Mechanism of the United Nations,” said Ramotar.
Despite Venezuela’s downplay of the more than 100-year old border controversy since late President Hugo Chavez reassured that the colonial era matter should be a thing of the past, Guyana has maintained that the matter must be settled at the level of the UN. Chavez visited Guyana in 2004.
The UN Good Officer is International Relations Professor, Norman Girvan of Trinidad and Tobago.
Maduro visited Guyana twice while holding the offices of Foreign Minister and Vice President.
Guyana purchases oil at concessionary rates under the PetroCaribe arrangement and Venezuela buys Guyanese rice and paddy at higher than world market prices.
President Ramotar hailed Maduro for continuing Chavez’s pro-welfare policies at home and in Latin America and the Caribbean. “The Government of Guyana applauds President Nicolas Maduro and the government of Venezuela for continuing to consolidate the legacy of the late President Chavez, pursuing policies for the advancement of the peoples of Venezuela and of Latin America and the Caribbean,” said Ramotar.
The Guyanese leader said the Hugo Chavez Rehabilitation and Reintegration Centre was testimony to “yet another dimension” of relations between the two South American nations.
“This will be a living memory of Hugo Chavez. This demonstrates that President Chavez was not only concerned about the poor and disadvantaged but he demonstrated his own regional and international spirit,” he added.
Guyana’s Minister of Human Services, Jennifer Webster said the centre would help to address the growing number of street dwellers
“The Centre will endeavour to transform the lives of its occupants so as to enable them to become disciplined and productive members of our society,” she said. She hoped that Venezuela can provide training and expertise in the start-up of the centre.
The facility, which can house 100 males and 80 females, has medical, recreational, kitchen, conference, training and dining facilities.
Venezuela’s Ambassador to Guyana, Reina Margarita Arratia Diaz hoped that the centre would benefit its occupants in the areas of medical, psychological, dietary and educational support. “We expect that this institution will fulfil its objectives and that the men and women can benefit from it and be holistically reintegrated into Guyanese society,” she said.
The project was conceptualized in 2010.