OAS Chief slams Venezuela over attempts to block investors in Guyana’s oil blocks

Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 September 2023, 4:19 by Denis Chabrol

OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro.

Secretary General of the Organisation of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro on Tuesday denounced Venezuela’s insistence that much of Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is hers and so investors should not be allowed to explore or produce oil there unless there is a bilateral agreement between the two neighbouring South American nations.

“We vehemently decry intimidatory tactics that seek to undermine the principle of “good neighborliness.” We recognize the right of Guyana to welcome investors. Guyana must preserve its territorial integrity & security by addressing its case with Venezuela at the ICJ (International Court of Justice),” Mr Almagro said several hours after Venezuela issued a statement.

Already, the Guyana government and the parliamentary opposition coalition of A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) have said the country reserves the right to pursue economic development activities in any portion of its sovereign territory or any appurtenant maritime territories for the benefit of Guyanese. Guyana also maintains that any unilateral attempt by Venezuela to restrict the exercise by Guyana of its sovereignty and sovereign rights will be wholly inconsistent with the Geneva Agreement and the rule of international law.

The ICJ is yet to issue its decision on Guyana’s case that the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award is the full, final and perfect settlement of the land boundary with Venezuela. So far, Venezuela has lost all of its preliminary arguments before the ICJ to which the United Nations Secretary General had referred the matter after Guyana had complained that 50 years of mediation had yielded no result.

Venezuela’s warning to oil companies that their presence in Guyana’s offshore oil blocks would not be recognised came nine days after President Ali told the OAS Permanent Council that Caracas has had a history of aggression against Guyana. “The territorial claim was reopened on good spurious grounds. Since then throughout existence as an independent state, Guyana has endured acts of aggression that threatened our territorial integrity and intimidated and discouraged investment, stunting our growth and development,” he said.

Venezuela on Tuesday cautioned investors that it would not recognise their presence in those areas as legitimate. “The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela reiterates that any illicit and arbitrary concession that Guyana grants, has granted or intends to grant in the areas in question is unacceptable and violates its sovereign rights, and warns that these actions do not generate any type of rights for third parties to participate in this process,” the Foreign Ministry in Caracas said.

Bidding were SISPRO INC (Guyana), a Guyanese women-owned oil and gas company which is chaired by Dr. Melissa Varswyk. Other team members are Secretary and Executive Director, Abbigale Loncke- Watson; Executive Director, Ayodele Dalgety-Dean, and Executive Director, Dee George 2) Total Energies EP Guyana BV; Qatar Energy International E&P LLC; Petronas E&P Overseas Ventures SDN BHD  (Malaysia) 3)Delcorp Inc Guyana; and both Saudia Arabia-based Watad Energy, and Arabian Drillers, 4).Liberty Petroleum Corporation, Arizona United States, and the Ghana-headquartered Cybele Energy Limited (Ghana) 5) International Group Investment Inc and Montego Energy SA (London), and 6) ExxonMobil Guyana Limited, Hess New Ventures and CNOOC Petroleum Guyana Limited.

The Guyanese leader emphasised  his country’s commitment to resolving the territorial controversy peacefully. “In a world where shifting geopolitical dynamics challenge established norms, Guyana reaffirms its unwavering commitment to the principles enshrined in both the OAS and UN (United Nations) Charters. We’ll continue to champion the cause of international law as we seek a lasting, peaceful resolution, the territorial claim, one that was resurrected on the brink of our independence, after decades of acceptance,” he said.

Venezuela in 1962, 37 years after accepting the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Award, reopened the territorial claim.

Venezuela earlier this month announced its intention to join BRICS, the grouping of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Historically, Brazil has always supported Guyana based on the existing configuration of the border among the three countries, and China, India and Guyana enjoy very strong relations in the areas of trade, business and foreign policy. Russia has been Venezuela’s economic backbone ever since the collapse of that Spanish-speaking nation’s oil industry.