The president of Guyana has reiterated calls for CARICOM’s support in its dispute with Venezuela over what has been long declared Guyanese waters. This, following a visit by the president of Venezuela, Nicholas Maduro, to Grenada, Saint Lucia and St. Kitts over the past weeks. The Venezuelan president was here in Saint Lucia on Saturday October 17, 2015.
For generations, Venezuela has formally laid claim to most of Guyana, which has been settled by international arbitration in Guyana’s favour. Many dismissed the case; given Venezuela’s oil wealth and Guyana’s penury. Hugo Chavez, longstanding president of Venezuela, even let it slide, referring to the Guyanese as his brothers.
Then in May, Exxon Mobil Corp. revealed that under contract from Guyana it had found massive offshore oil and gas deposits. Chavez’s successor, Nicolas Maduro, demanded that the drilling stop because the area was Venezuela’s. He dismissed Guyana’s president as a tool of Big Oil, declared his statements “nauseating” and Guyana’s actions likely to “bring war to our border.” He withdrew his ambassador and Guyana announced the end to a long-time rice-for-oil deal.
“I do not expect them to change their mind now,” David Granger, the president of Guyana said following last week’s visits. “However, I respect each country’s sovereignty and the need for bilateral cooperation,” Granger noted. Earlier Granger had stated: “they [CARICOM] have always been on our side; they have never let us down and I don’t expect them to let us down . . .”
Guyana is optimistic that favourable concessions afforded to CARICOM territories, including Saint Lucia, under Venezuela’s Petrocaribe deal will not lead them to compromise their solidarity with Guyana on its border controversy with Venezuela.
During the visits it would appear that the Guyana dispute was off the table.
In St. Kitts Maduro assisted in the symbolic distribution of cheques to former sugar workers and their families and signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) regarding bilateral cooperation in a number of developmental areas including housing, infrastructure, law and order, education and training, agriculture, health, energy and technical assistance
While in Grenada Maduro called for the setting up of an economic zone for the Caribbean and Latin America. Maduro said the economic zone should be part of a production and economic plan aimed at curbing the region’s high import bill.
During a bilateral meeting with Grenada’s Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell, on Saturday, the Venezuelan leader suggested the establishment of a commerce and purchase agreement with Caribbean countries.
“I insist that we need to create an economic zone in the region. We need to produce locally,” Maduro said. “We need to have a production and economic plan. Venezuela, with all its challenges, we are still importing billions. We need to curb this.”
In a Special Session held on Saturday at the Saint Lucia Parliament, the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, proposed the creation of a High Level Commission between the two countries for the 2017 commemoration of the Bicentennial of the Martyrdom of the great Caribbean and Latin American Patriot, Captain Jean Baptiste Bideau who was born in Saint Lucia.
Last month the Guyana/Venezuela dispute was placed in the hands of the United Nations.