Venezuelan Foreign Minister promises to pursue early release of Guyanese fishermen

Last Updated on Tuesday, 26 January 2021, 1:35 by Denis Chabrol

The owners of Lady Nayera and Sea Wolf meeting with Foreign Affairs Minister Hugh Todd.

Venezuela’s Foreign Affairs Minister Jorge Arreaza has promised his Guyanese counterpart to pursue the release soon of the 11 Guyanese crew members who who have been detained by Venezuelan authorities since last week Thursday, the Guyana Foreign Ministry said.

The commitment was given to Guyana’s Foreign Affairs Minister Hugh Todd during a virtual meeting with his Venezuelan counterpart to discuss the interdiction of the Guyanese-registered fishing vessels Lady Nayera and Sea Wolf in Guyanese waters off the Waini coast.

“At the request of Foreign Minister Todd, Minister Arreaza undertook to pursue their early release,” the Foreign Affairs Ministry said.

Mr. Arreaza also reportedly assured that the crew members were being treated with utmost respect for their human rights during their “cordial” discussions that centered on the detention of the vessels.

Venezuela’s Foreign Affairs Minister Jorge Arreaza and Guyana’s Foreign Minister Hugh Todd discussing the status of the vessels and crew members.

It was unclear whether the commitment to follow-up to secure an early release means of the crews meant. Already, the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry has warned Guyanese to stay out of the waters off the Essequibo Coast that have been included in the unilaterally extended maritime boundary.

The Venezuela Foreign Ministry has already claimed that the Navy intercepted the Guyanese vessels in Venezuelan waters and they were being guaranteed due process. Venezuela has also accused them of illegally fishing in its waters and without the necessary documentation.

“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.”

Earlier Monday, Foreign Affairs Minister Hugh Todd told the owners of the fishing vessels that Guyana dispatched a protest note to Caracas. The Foreign Affairs Ministry said the owners were told that they were working  the diplomatic channels to get the boats and crews released. “We are doing all within our power to reunite the crew members with their families and help you to continue with your business,” the Minister was quoted by the Foreign Affairs Ministry as saying.

The Foreign Minister pledged to remain in contact with the owners and share updates as they occur.

Earlier Monday, Venezuela issued a stern warning to Guyanese to stay out of the maritime space that has been awarded to Guyana since 1899.