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Venezuela warns Guyanese against future presence in waters off Essequibo

Last Updated on Monday, 25 January 2021, 14:20 by Denis Chabrol

Venezuela on Monday issued a stern warning to Guyanese to stay out of waters off the Essequibo Region that belongs to Guyana since 1899.

“The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela reiterates that it will not allow illegal incursions of any kind into its territory and that it will exercise, as it has always done, the sacred right to defend their sovereignty,” the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry said.

Touching on the status of the captains and 11 crew members of the Guyanese registered fishing vessels, Sea Wolf and Lady Nayera, the Venezuelan government hinted that legal action might be taken. “The operation of the Bolivarian Navy was carried out in waters of undisputed Venezuelan sovereignty, in full respect of current legislation, guaranteeing due process to the detained crew members,” the Foreign Ministry said.

Already, the Venezuelan government has accused them of illegaly fishing “in waters of full sovereignty and jurisdiction of Venezuela, without also having any type of legal documentation.”

Guyana is relying on bilateral and multilateral diplomatic pressure to secure the release of the vessels that were intercepted last week Thursday by the Venezuelan Navy and taken to Guiria. At the time of the interception, accordinf to the owners of the vessels and the Guyana government, they were in Guyanese waters off the Waini coast.

Earlier this month, Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro issued a decree unilaterally extending its maritime boundary up to the western bank of the Essequibo River, in direct response to the International Court of Justice deciding that it has jurisdiction to hear Guyana’s case on the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award on the land boundary between the two countries.

The Venezuelan government accused Guyana of conspiring with the American oil-giant ExxonMobil. “This new media matrix of the Guyanese authorities lays bare the unilateral claims of that government, in alliance with transnational oil companies, particularly with the American ExxonMobil, on uncontested Venezuelan territory, as well as on marine and underwater areas pending delimitation,” the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry said.

Venezuela on Monday again reiterated its call for bilateral negotiations to settle the border controversy in keeping with Caracas’ interpretation of the Geneva Agreement.