President David Granger on Thursday said Venezuela’s latest decree still flouts Guyana’s territorial integrity, but assured that his country’s insistence on protecting its land and maritime space do not amount to aggression.
Addressing Parliament on the border issue, he said in reality there was no material difference between Decree 1787 issued on May 26, 2015 and Decree 1859 issued on July 7, 2015. “While the new Decree number 1859 does not contain the coordinates of Decree number 1787, it does contain a general description of all the defence zones with the description of the eastern, central and western regions remaining consistent with the previous versions of the decree,” he told the Parliament whose attendees included top officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, United States Charge D’Affaires Bryan Hunt, Commissioner of Police Seelall Persaud and Deputy Head of the GDF, Khemraj Persaud.
The main opposition People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPPC) was not present in the House because that party is yet to take up its 32 seats.
Granger, a retired Brigadier and Chief of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), noted that the new Decree creates Defence Zones in which integral defence operations are to be planned and executed. “This portion remains offensive to Guyana. It is like a ‘bone in our throat’ since there continues to be a threat of the use of force in these areas,” he said.
“The Cooperative Republic of Guyana, therefore, rejects the description of its maritime territory as a Defence Zone of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela,” he said.
He labeled the now repealed Decree 1787 that had included coordinates was an “act of aggression” against Guyana. He said the Decree purports to completely block Guyana’s access to its Exclusive Economic Zone and created Venezuelan areas of Integral Defence of Maritime Zones and Islands, extending its sovereignty even into part of Suriname’s maritime space.
Such actions, the President said violated the Geneva Agreement that forbids the claiming of new territory while that accord remained in force.
The Guyanese leader traced numerous instances of Venezuela’s economic, political and military aggression dating back to the 1960s by all administrations of that Spanish-speaking.
“Inasmuch as we are a peace-loving nation, we will not allow our territorial integrity to be threatened or violated,” he said.
He further said “Guyana has no interest or intention to be aggressive towards Venezuela, a country of 912,050 km2, more than four times the size of Guyana; a country with a population of more than forty times that of Guyana; a country with armed forces — the National Bolivarian Armed Forces — FANB – with more than twenty times as many members as Guyana’s Defence Force. How can Guyana launch an aggression against Venezuela?”
The President reiterated that in the short term Guyana would pursue diplomatic efforts for all threats to be removed and in the longer term to find a legal solution to reinforce that the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award marked a full, perfect and final settlement to the land boundary between the two countries.