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Mottley, Gonsalves reassure CARICOM’s support for Guyana against Venezuela; react sharply to APNU criticisms

Last Updated on Saturday, 18 November 2023, 13:42 by Denis Chabrol

Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Mottley and the Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines Dr Ralph Gonsalves briefing the media at the Grantley Adams International Airport on their return to the Caribbean from Saudi Arabia.

Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley and the Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines Dr Ralph Gonsalves on Saturday sought to reassure Guyana that Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member states are individually backing Guyana that its borders are inviolable and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) must be used to settle the territorial controversy with Venezuela.

“In this particular case in our view, Guyana’s position has been strong, it has been unwavering and it is before the International Court of Justice and we’ll back them 150 percent with that,” she told a news conference she shared with Dr Ralph Gonsalves.

Ms Mottley said she was relying on CARICOM Chairman, Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit and the Vincentian leader who is Chairman of Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) to “keep the temperatures down even if there is not the settled outcome on the dispute that will be traditionally expected” over Guyana’s 160,000 square kilometre Essequibo County.

Guyana has asked the ICJ to declare that the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award is the full, final and perfect settlement but Venezuela does not recognise that court’s jurisdiction in the matter.  The ICJ would shortly rule in Guyana’s request to block Venezuela’s referendum, as currently worded, to declare Essequibo a State of Venezuela and to take care of all current and future inhabitants of that Guyanese county as well as grant them citizenship and identification cards. Venezuela’s December 3 referendum also seeks a popular vote to reject the ICJ’s jurisdiction in the territorial controversy.

Dr Gonsalves said Guyana and Venezuela “must uphold that the region is one of peace and that there will be no force used or threat of force singly or jointly”. He declined to provide details but sought to emphasised that, “CARICOM has always defended the territorial inviolability of Guyana.”

Ms Mottley and Dr Gonsalves stopped short of naming opposition parliamentary representatives that have been critical of their stance that appears to be sympathetic to Venezuela. Barbados, St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda and to a lesser extent St Kitts and Nevis enjoy cozy relations with the Nicolas Maduro regime that has in recent weeks been intensifying its border claim.

In clear reference to Guyana’s opposition People’s National Congress Reform-led coalition of A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) that had claimed that it was cheated in Guyana’s 2020 general and regional election, the Vincentian leader said the  Barbados Prime Minister were being attacked for their stance that all of the votes must be counted.  “There are political forces abroad; I’m not going to say in Guyana, I am just saying abroad who want to use every incident to see if they take revenge against Mia and Ralph because a few years ago, we said the difference between an election and a selection- in a selection you don’t count the votes but it an election you have to count the votes… Now, I thought that is a proposition which is very straightforward that if you have an election you must count the votes, you must then go on a tirade against Mia and Ralph on that account?,” he said.

He cautioned that “the only entity to benefit from any clash in any physical sense is imperialism” which acts in its own interest historically. He said imperialism could “flip its own script.”

The Barbadian Prime Minister pointed out that her comment that “Venezuela is a friend as well and, therefore, we would like to see the Caribbean remain a zone of peace seems to have excited condemnation, Ralph, on you and me, in some quarters.”

APNU+AFC parliamentarian, Coretta Mc Donald on November 1 on her Facebook show, “Advancing The Cause”, said she had learnt that the Barbadian Prime Minister was going to Guyana on the weekend of November 4, and “we should go and block the airport and let Mia know that she not welcomed here. Since you can’t speak for us, you not welcomed here…(Former Jamaica Prime Minister) Bruce Golding should never be allowed to set foot back in this country. Ralph Gonsalves should never be allowed to come back to this country because they don’t care about us,” Ms Mc Donald said. Mr Golding was the head of the OAS Observer Mission to the 2020 polls.  She said those countries were getting “big” land concessions from Guyana to the disadvantage of Guyanese in exchange for Black Belly sheep and roosters.

Ms Mc Donald said Guyana was in a crisis not only with the Venezuelans but also from those with Barbados and St Vincent and the Grenadines and “we must say to them Guyana is ours and we are not prepared to give it up to anybody whether you are part of CARICOM or not; we are not prepared to give our lands to you.”

In his contribution to the consideration of a parliamentary motion against Venezuela,  Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton Norton queried whether Guyana has threatened the territorial integrity and sovereignty of any state in the Caribbean, issued decrees to take over another state’s maritime space or rejected the decisions of any international tribunal. Ms Mottley had told her party’s conference that “I hope that the rhetoric and the noise between Venezuela and Guyana does not turn our Caribbean into anything that is not a zone of peace because it matters to us that this Caribbean remains a zone of peace.”

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November 2023