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Venezuela’s President recalls Ambassador for consultations; scales down embassy staff; President Granger says Maduro feels isolated

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro on Monday announced that he would be recalling his Ambassador to Guyana and scaling down the embassy staff in Georgetown, a move that his triggered further condemnation by Guyana’s President David Granger.

“I am not surprised by that because he has been confronted with rejection of his Decree by the entire Caribbean Community so he is just increasing the isolation of his government from the region” said Granger.

The Venezuelan President told the National Assembly that he was recalling Ambassador Reyna Margarita Arratia, shrinking the embassy staff in Guyana and ordering the Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez to comprehensively review diplomatic relations with the former British colony.

The Guyanese leader expressed dismay that the Venezuelan leader opted to become confrontational in relation Decree 1787 that purportedly unilaterally extends that Spanish-speaking neighbour’s maritime boundary further west to take in all of the Atlantic waters off the Essequibo Region. “Instead of becoming more friendly and more conciliatory in accepting the verdict of the Caribbean Community, he is behaving in a manner which is likely to heighten tensions and aggravate the already poor relations between Venezuela and the Caribbean Community,” said the Guyanese leader.

Granger said that unlike Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chavez, he apppeared more intent on violating the Bolivarian spirit. “Guyana is on the side of right and we are the victims of an aggression,” Granger added. Despite the increasing border tension, Guyana continues to source some of its fuel supplies under the PetroCaribe oil concessionary agreement and intends to renew an agreement to sell more paddy and rice to that country.

Reiterating that Venezuela considers the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award that settled the land border with Guyana as null and void, he called the border controversy an “irritating provocation against the dignity of the Venezuelan people.”

After lobbying by Guyana in the wake of this latest border spat, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon has said that he would be willing to consider dispatching an envoy to Georgetown and Caracas to discuss the issue.

President Maduro issued the Decree 1787 on May 27, 2015 less than one  month after the American oil giant, ExxonMobil, announced that the discovery of a “signficant” deposit of high quality oil off Guyana’s coast. The Decree also empowers Venezuela’s military to enforce that country’s control over the huge swathe of territorial waters, Exclusive Economic Zone and Continental Shelf.

The Guyanese leader and his delegation, at last week’s Caricom summit, successfully sold the contention that the decree has serious implications for the maritime sovereignty of not only Guyana but also Trinidad and Tobagom Barbados, Suriname, French Guiana as well as Grenada and several other Eastern Caribbean States.

In an apparent reaction to Guyana and Caricom’s position that regional peace must be preserved, Maduro said “Our goal is national peace, our victory is the regional peace, regional and national union. Once we control the threat, partially dissipate, neutralize, they were activating other different,” according to the President in an unofficial translation from Spanish to English.

Colombia has already formally protested Venezuela’s extension of its maritime boundary into the waters of its western neighbour.