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PetroCaribe statement supporting Venezuela is bogus; Jagdeo believes Caricom’s support intact but criticises GDF’s manoeuvres

GDF paratroopers participating in a 1,000 feet high jump at Timehri on Friday, September 25, 2015.

Guyana on Thursday said it had no part to play in the crafting of a purported statement by the PetroCaribe participating member states in support of Venezuela’s territorial sovereignty.

For his part, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo downplayed any fracture in the Caribbean’s support for this country on the border controversy with its western neighbour.

Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Audrey Jardine-Waddell said Guyana could not recognise the purported PetroCaribe statement. “Guyana is a member of PetroCaribe and we are unaware of such a document so for us it can never be authentic,” she told Demerara Waves Online News.

Other beneficiaries of the PetroCaribe concessionary oil deal include Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, and Antigua and Barbuda. Guyana recently opted to buy all its fuel from Trinidad and Tobago, instead of 50 percent from that twin-island state and the remainder from Venezuela. 

Titled Communique by PetroCaribe member countries in Defense of the Sovereignty and Independence of Venezuela, the document states in part that “The member countres of this cooperation scheme continue to advocate for brotherhood and regional integration, in an atmosphere of peace and respect for the internal political order of countries.

Hence, we recognise and respect the full exercise of the judiciary of a Constitutional Democratic State governed by the rule of law which is the case of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, where the appropriate judicial authority, exercising of sovereign jurisdiction, has handed down a decision to punish terrorist acts, thus protecting the human rights of victims.

The Caribbean countries, consistent with our policy of respect for an non-intervention in the internal affairs of nations and with our historical struggle for emancipation, continue to defend our democratic right to fully exercise independence and the right to self-determination of the peoples, without interference  by any foreign country intending to plunder our strategic resources and interrupt our emancipation process.

While the Communique made no reference to the Guyana-Venezuela border controversy, it comes at a time of  growing tensions over the Essequibo Region and the Atlantic Sea which that Spanish-speaking country claims as hers. Venezuela has in the past suggested that American oil giant, Exxon-Mobil, which discovered a huge oil deposit offshore Essequibo, has helped to contribute to the flare-up of the controversy over the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award that Guyana says settled the land boundary between the two countries.

Top Venezuelan elected officials were recently on a whirlwind tour of the Caribbean to drum up support for its claim of the Essequibo.

When asked by Demerara Waves Online News if he believed that several Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries have broken regional solidarity on the controversy by endorsing the statement, Jagdeo preferred to stick with statements issued by regional leaders in support of Guyana. “I do not want to doubt that here today that Caricom supports us fully on this matter.

“My view is that in spite of their participation in PetroCaribe, those countries from what I gathered even more recently that is from the last Heads of Government meeting- that they expressed full support for Guyana’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and so it’s my conclusion that they are not going to allow their participating in PetroCaribe to undermine their solidarity and support for Guyana’ s territorial integrity and sovereignty,” he said.

The former Guyanese leader, meanwhile, flayed Guyana for engaging in military manoeuvres while at the same time calling for peace. “One thing we must not do, though, we must never allow Venezuela to argued that we are belligerent nation and so the signals that we send – while we have to be ready and we all have to collectively defend our country from whatever external threat we face- that if we start sending images across the world of troops carrying guns then we undermine the strength of small countries which is diplomacy and multilateralism and not going to war,” he said.

Guyana Defence Force soldiers on Friday began two days of exercises in response to Venezuela’s deployment of troops, missiles and gunboats in its border towns near the Guyana border. The boats are in the Cuyuni River that Guyana Defence Force Chief of Staff, Brigadier Mark Phillips told a Battle Muster at Camp Stephenson, Timehri is part of Guyana’s territory. “It’s important that we don’t only monitor acts of incursion on the land but also what takes place in the river.”

Jagdeo said the David Granger-led administration was yet to brief the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) on the border controversy by establishing a bi-partisan parliamentary committee on border matters. He encouraged Granger to meet with Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro in New York on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly to restore functional cooperation and trade including the purchase of Guyana’s rice and paddy. “Dialogue is the only way forward. There is no room for belligerence or pugnacious or arrogant foreign policy,” he said.

Granger has said that he would be interested in meeting Maduro only in talks organised by United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon. At the same time,

Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge has said that the approval of the accreditation of Cheryl Miles as Guyana’s Ambassador to Venezuela was critical to the two countries having bilateral talks on non-border issues.