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Guyana slams Venezuela’s opposition-aligned OAS representative over Venezuela’s military action in Guyanese waters, resort to World Court

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 January 2021, 16:14 by Denis Chabrol

Ambassador Riyad Insanally

Guyana’s Permanent Representative to the Organisation of American States (OAS), Ambassador Riyad Insanally on Wednesday openly slammed Venezuela’s opposition-aligned special representative to that Western Hemispheric body, Gustavo Tarre Briceño on Guyana’s sovereign rights to the Essequibo Region and the Atlantic marine space.

“Mr. Tarre seems to be taking the side of the bellicose Maduro regime, implying the same threats to our territory and maritime area to which we are being subjected by Caracas. This attitude is more than ironic. It is absolutely misplaced and downright offensive.” said Dr. Insanally in a sharp rebuke.

Delivering remarks to the Permanent Council on Wednesday, Mr. Tarre Briceño sought to justify the military action.  Notwithstanding the interception of the Guyanese fishing vessels and 11 crew members on January 21, 2021 by the Venezuela  Navy under what he called the “usurper” Maduro, the special representative insisted that Essequibo belongs to Venezuela.  “The actions taken by the usurper Maduro, giving rise to this discussion, I don’t think that anyone despite that would deny a country’s legitimate exercise of its sovereignty as long as it doesn’t affect other states that we should recognise, under international law, Venezuela’s right to protect its communal territory for the maritime region,” he said.

The Venezuelan special representative noted that Mr. Maduro has been discredited and the country was in an economic crisis. Through him, the Guaido-led opposition appeared to be echoing the position by the Maduro administration that the Geneva Agreement provides the scope for the border controversy to be settled bilaterally. He contended that the United Nations Secretary-General ought to have sought agreement from Guyana and Venezuela before referring the issue to the ICJ  only after mediation and reconciliation. “All parties should offer their prior consent before such a case is taken up by the ICJ. Now, this has been reiterated on a number of occasions. It cannot be acceptable that only one party brings a case such as this to a body; that’s why no government of Venezuela can recognise the ruling of the court or the jurisdiction of the court to solve this border or any border territorial matters so despite that Venezuela has sound arguments during the merits stage to make its case,” said Tarre Briceño.

Gustavo Tarre Briceño

He said the ICJ process was not a practical solution and so he reiterated his call for Guyana to agree to find a satisfactory solution to the controversy.

But Guyana’s Permanent Representative stressed his country’s adherence to international law and described as “regrettable” the positions being taken by the Maduro government and the Guaido-led opposition. While noting that Guyana has given refuge and succor to tens of thousands  Venezuelans as a humanitarian gesture, Guyana would not tolerate Venezuela trampling on his country’s sovereignty and violation of international law. He further flayed the Venezuelan  special representative, saying that he does not speak on behalf of the government of Venezuela. “Mr. Tarre does not speak for a sovereign State. The entity he represents exercises no sovereign control over the State of Venezuela. Indeed, his organisation cannot even pay its quota obligation to the budget of our cash-strapped organisation even as long-serving  and loyal employees are losing their jobs. I know not on what basis Mr. Tarre speaks but he should have known better before speaking on a matter of high importance to Guyana, a sovereign State and full member of this organisation,” said Dr. Insanally.

Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro administration in April, 2020 withdrew from the OAS, saying that the United States was using that organisation to meddle in its internal affairs in the areas of democracy, governance and human rights.  The OAS went on to approve Mr. Tarre Briceño, who is associated with the Juan Guaido-led opposition, as Venezuela’s special representative to the OAS. When it had been put to the vote for Mr. Tarre Briceño to be the special representative, Guyana had been among six abstentions. Dr. Insanally on Wednesday said Guyana’s decision not to support Mr. Tarre Briceño was justified.

Mr. Tarre Briceño  described the process towards the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal as “anomalous”  and there were no Venezuelan judges present at the hearing. He added that Venezuela had no way of its defending itself from the British Empire had asked the United States for assistance. He said “territory had been taken from” Venezuela.

But Guyana’s Permanent Representative called Mr. Tarre Briceño’s historical account “distorted” and amounted to a “troublesome” rejection of the historical role of the ICJ also known as the World Court. “What more peaceful and legally binding means of settlement can there be, a part from recourse to the International Court of Justice, the highest and most respected global court that we have?,” he asked rhetorically.

At the Permanent Council, the US representative condemned the seizure of the fishing boats and called for their immediate release. He welcomed the ICJ judgement on jurisdiction and “we will continue to follow this case closely.”

Brazil, which has historically supported Guyana on the grounds that it would never agree to a change in its border, said through its OAS Representative that it respects the principle of territorial integrity within the framework of international law, and reiterated its expectation to see that the territorial dispute is resolved peacefully.

The OAS earlier Wednesday noted that the fishing vessels were in Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone and called for the release of the fishermen and the vessels.

That organisation also cautioned Venezuela against taking unilateral action that is in clear breach of international law.  Venezuela earlier this month unilaterally extended its maritime boundary to include all of the maritime space off the coast of the Essequibo Region.

The ICJ will next month hold a case management conference essentially scheduling written submissions and oral arguments before handing down a final and binding decision. The ICJ has already stated that even if a country refuses to participate in the case, the decision is still binding on the parties.