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Regional, international pressure mounts on Venezuela to release Guyanese fishing boats, crew

Last Updated on Thursday, 28 January 2021, 18:27 by Writer

The headquarters of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) based at Liliendaal, Greater Georgetown, Guyana.

Venezuela is coming under mounting international pressure to release two Guyanese fishing vessels and 11 crew members that were intercepted by the Venezuelan Navy in Atlantic waters that both neighbouring South American nations claim as theirs.

The United States (US), the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the 15-nation Caribbean Community called separately for the crew and vessels, Lady Nayera and Sea Wolf, that were intercepted and taken to Venezuela, to be released safely. “The US supports a peaceful resolution of the maritime boundary controversy between Venezuela and Guyana and condemns Nicolás Maduro’s intimidation through the seizure of fishing vessels and detention of the crew. “We echo the OAS Secretariat’s call for their release without delay”, said US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemispheric Affairs, Julie Chung on Twitter.

American oil giant ExxonMobil’s offshore oil concession named the Stabroek Block extends westwards into the waters off the Essequibo Region that Venezuela claims as hers.

Earlier Wednesday, the OAS endorsed Guyana’s position that the fishing boats were in Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone on January 21 when they were intercepted and taken to Guiria, a port in north-eastern Venezuela. The OAS also called for the safe release of the crew and boats, while warning Venezuela that its decree that sought to extend its maritime boundary to take in all of the Atlantic sea offshore of the disputed Essequibo Region violated international law. “Any attempt to derail this international legal process, such as the decree issued by the Maduro regime, is contrary to international law and standards, and has no legal bearing or significance,” the OAS said in a statement.

CARICOM also called for the immediate release of the crews and fishing boats, even as it disagreed with Venezuela’s claim that the fishing boats were in Venezuelan waters. The regional foreign policy and trade bloc warned that the “escalation of tensions: threatened peace in the Caribbean. “CARICOM urges the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Guyana and to desist from aggressive acts that will seriously undermine the peace and security not only of Guyana and Venezuela but the entire Caribbean region,” the regional grouping said.

Venezuela’s opposition-aligned special representative to the OAS, Gustavo Tarre Briceño has told the Permanent Council that his country has a right to defend its territory. “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 US, CARICOM and the OAS have flayed Venezuela for its stance, saying that Spanish-speaking nation must respect the territorial rights of Caracas and participate in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) case brought by Guyana to determine the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award that settled the land boundary between the two neighbouring South American nations.