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Venezuelan Navy escort did not enter Guyana’s waters with local fishing vessels- top army officer

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 February 2021, 20:35 by Denis Chabrol

The Venezuelan Navy that escorted the two Guyanese fishing vessels that had been recently detained for almost two weeks stayed out Guyanese waters, a top Guyana Defence Force (GDF) officer said Thursday.

“Interestingly enough, what we took note of is that when the vessel returned, the escort- because they were escorted by a Venezuelan Naval vessel- they stopped at the line we are saying is the demarcation of our western extreme of our Exclusive Economic Zone; that, to us, was very interesting,” Colonel General Staff, Colonel Julius Skeete told reporters after the opening of the 2021 GDF Officers’ Conference,

He highlighted that since the return of the vessels and since late January, “we have not seen that level of activity,” when asked whether the Venezuelan military or other State assets were still being seen in Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Minutes earlier, President Irfaan Ali again credited the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and other organisations and countries that had exerted diplomatic pressure on Venezuela to release the two vessels, Lady Nayera and Sea Wolf, along with their 12 crew members.

Venezuela’s Navy captured the Guyanese fishing boats and crews on January 21 while they had been in local waters off the Waini point, but the Venezuelans claimed that they had been in their waters illegally and fishing without a permit.

For his part, Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said that the vessels were released on February 3 voluntary in the interest of peace and calls by CARICOM for the region to be recognised as a zone of peace. “The Venezuelan Government wishes to recognize that this measure of grace, motu proprio, constitutes a genuine initiative in favor of peace, responding to the most sincere interest that the Caribbean remains a Peace Zone, as well as to the intermediation of the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago, in benefit of the stability of the region and the good coexistence as neighbors,” the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry said.

The capture and detention of the Guyanese boats had come days after Guyana and United States Coast Guards had conducted joint operations to counter illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing. Venezuela, in  apparent reaction, declared all of the waters offshore the Essequibo Region up to the eastern bank of the Essequibo River as hers.

The GDF Coast Guard has said that Guyana continues to patrol Guyana’s EEZ.