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Guyana says increased Venezuelan military activity off Essequibo Region

Last Updated on Thursday, 28 January 2021, 18:12 by Writer

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

Guyana’s Foreign Minister Hugh Todd on Thursday said there has been increased Venezuelan military presence in the Atlantic sea offshore Essequibo following the unilateral delimitation of the maritime boundary up to the eastern bank of the Essequibo River.

“Following the announcement of President [Nicolás] Maduro’s Decree of 7 January 2021, there was increased activity in Guyana’s maritime space by Venezuelan Navy vessels and other Venezuelan State assets,” Mr. Todd told the National Assembly in a statement on increased border tensions between the two neighbouring South American nations.

This is the first time that the Guyana government has publicly stated that there has been increased Venezuelan military presence in the Atlantic sea off the coast of the Essequibo Region which Venezuela also claims as hers.

The Guyanese foreign minister gave no details, but sources have said that Guyanese vessels in that area are being harassed and even vessels heading into Port Georgetown are being discouraged from traversing that area. “Such illegal activity continues to undermine Guyana’s development, by threatening Guyana’s sovereign rights of its maritime space and hindering economic activity,” he added.

The heightened Venezuelan state presence in that area followed President Maduro’s unilateral issuance of the decree on January 7 for the “Territory for the development of the Atlantic Façade “in order to provide adequate protection and safeguard the jurisdiction of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela”.

One week ago on January 21, two Guyanese fishing vessels, Lady Nayera and Sea Wolf, with 11 crew members were intercepted in Guyanese waters off Waini Point “well within Guyanese territory” by the Venezuelan Navy and escorted to Port Guiria in north-eastern Venezuela. They have been cited for illegal entry, illegal fishing and operating in that area without the required documents.

Foreign Minister Todd sought to assure the House that Guyana was exerting all diplomatic pressure to secure the safe release of the vessels and the fishermen. “As I speak, my Ministry continues to engage the International community to resolve this issue in the most peaceful and diplomatic manner,” he said.

Foreign Minister Todd welcomed the diplomatic support that Guyana has received from Belize, Brazil, Canada, France, Trinidad and Tobago, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, as well as through regional and international groupings of CARICOM, the OAS, the Commonwealth, the Organisation of African, Caribbean and Pacific States and the European Union “in its strenuous endeavours to preserve its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“We are encouraged that the international community is seized of this matter and has encouraged Venezuela to release our Guyanese nationals and their fishing vessels and to desist from actions that violate international law and threaten the peace and stability of the region,” Mr. Todd said.

The Maduro administration has been stoking tensions ever since the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has ruled that it has jurisdiction to hear Guyana’s case that the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award on the land boundary is full, final and perfect. Venezuela has said that the absence of one of the parties from the proceedings does not prevent the court from delivering a verdict that will be final and binding on both sides.