President David Granger on Thursday said Venezuela has objected to the mining of a gold by a Canadian gold mining company, but he insisted that his country has a legal right to all of the Essequibo Region onshore and offshore.
Rejecting claims by Venezuela that it was violating the Geneva Agreement by seeking to have the controversy over the 1899 Arbitral Award, the Guyanese leader told the Parliament that Venezuela’s Ambassador to Ottawa sent a letter, dated 13th October,to the Chief Executive Officer of Guyana Goldfields Inc., which operates mines at Aurora in Guyana’sCuyuni-Mazaruni Region.
He said the letter warned, inter alia, that the opening of the gold mine would be “infringing on the territorial sovereignty of Venezuela and committing unlawful actions which could incur legal consequences. As such, you are hereby fully given notice of the respective legal actions that could herein occur.”
The President said the Ottawa letter reflects the approach adopted by the late President Hugo Chávez Frias during his state visit to Guyana in February 2004.
Pointing to Venezuela’s desire to maintain the 25-year old United Nations Good Officer mediation process, Granger said its western neighbour feared taking the matter to the International Court of Justice. “Venezuela’s fear is that, once a juridical process could prove that its contention that the Arbitral Award of 1899 was a nullity was proven to be baseless, its fifty-year strategy of attrition aimed at gaining territory from Guyana stands in jeopardy of the prospect of collapse,” said Granger, a retired Brigadier of the Guyana Defence Force.
He said Venezuela’s interest in the continuance of the ‘Good Offices Process’ would allow it to exert perpetual pressure on Guyana’s economy and enhance its political influence in the Caribbean with regard to its territorial claim. “Venezuela, for twenty-five years, has been able to apply that pressure with impunity and in spite of the existence of the ‘Good Offices Process,’” he added.
Granger recalled that Chavez had told the press plainly that his administration would have no objection to everyday infrastructure works such as roads, water and electricity that directly enhance the lives of residents. Strategically sensitive projects – including major offshore oil exploration ventures, mineral exploration or the involvement of foreign governments – were another matter. They should, he said, be discussed within the framework of the High-Level Bilateral Commission (Comisión Bilateral de Alto Nivel).
“The ‘Chávez doctrine,’ in short, meant that Venezuela demanded a role in determining the developmental destiny of Guyana’s Essequibo,” he said.
The President said another impudent example of that ‘doctrine’ was President Chávez’s opposition to the proposed satellite project in the Barima-Waini Region in 2000. Chávez at that time intervened to undermine the agreement between the Government of Guyana and Beal Aerospace Technologies Inc., which aimed at establishing a satellite launch station in the Barima-Waini Region, he said.
Venezuela had in the past objected to the construction of the Omai Gold Mine in the Essequibo Region.