BRIDGETOWN – In his first address to the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), President David Granger of Guyana excoriated the government of Venezuela over its longstanding territorial claims on Guyana and its Atlantic coast.
Speaking yesterday to an audience that included the Secretaries-General of the United Nations, The Commonwealth and the Organisation of American States, as well as several ambassadors accredited to the Caribbean Community, President Granger urged CARICOM to reaffirm its support for the principles of international law and the safeguarding of territorial integrity, sovereignty and national independence.
In his strongest critique to date on the dispute, Granger described Venezuela’s claim to Guyana’s land and sea space as an “oppressive and obnoxious” act of aggression, made all the more insulting by the fact that Venezuela issued its territorial claim decree to coincide with Granger’s inauguration day as President of Guyana.
Granger further underscored comments he made in advance of the CARICOM Conference, urging heads of government to produce “more than a paragraph” in response to Venezuela’s claims. “CARICOM has been a source of solace and steadfast support for Guyana’s territorial integrity and sovereignty over the years. We need that support even more”, the President said.
Calling the Venezuela claim a monkey on Guyana’s back, Granger lamented the economic impacts of the claims on Guyana’s development, citing that the Venezuela position blocked funding for infrastructural development, while intimidating would-be investors and frustrating Guyana’s oil exploration efforts.
Granger rooted his harshest criticisms against Venezuela in the context of its subversion of international law: “Any state that systematically, cynically and sedulously seeks to repudiate solemn international agreements and to undermine the security and sovereignty of another state must be condemned. Our national boundaries have been recognized internationally”, said Granger, as he insisted that Venezuela had become more regressive and aggressive in its border dispute.
In the presence of the Venezuelan ambassador to Barbados, Granger intimated that Venezuela’s actions victimized Guyana and its people. “That country”, Granger continued, “mindful of its superior wealth and military and naval strength, and unmindful of the plight of the poor people of one of the world’s smallest and least populated states, has again resorted to intimidation and the threat of the use of force.”
Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro, was slated to arrive in Barbados today to meet with CARICOM Heads of Government on his own insistence, but sources indicate that Maduro may now defer to a junior representative of his government to represent Venezuela at the Conference.
In his speech, Granger continued his lobby to international partners to bring an end to the ongoing dispute: “We clamor for the succor of the Commonwealth. We yearn for the security of the United Nations and the shelter of international law to bring a peaceful end to Venezuela’s rejection of the validity of a boundary which has been defined as a full, perfect and final settlement”, he said.
The potential fallout from inaction on CARICOM’s end is too severe to contemplate. The President said that Guyana ran the risk of being miniaturized and marginalized, while its government’s efforts to improve its economy could be trivialized if the impasse continued. Beyond Guyana, Granger also warned that the precedent set by Venezuela would be inimical to small states, which he says must be treated as equals among other nations of the world.
The Venezuelan territorial claim also impacts the maritime economic zones of other countries in the Southern Caribbean – marine territory that is critical for travel, trade, fishing and petroleum exploitation. On this matter, Granger issued a stern warning to his colleague heads of government that because several of the impacted economic zones had not yet been demarcated, they similarly ran the risk of being exploited by forces external to the Caribbean Community.
The CARICOM Conference of Heads of Government continues today, with a caucus of heads of government scheduled for this afternoon – at which an encounter with the Venezuelan government is expected.