Guyana-Venezuelan relations from 1970 to 1980

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Expansion of Venezuela's territorial claim

The Protocol of Port of Spain placed a moratorium on discussions on the border issue for a period of at least twelve years. But this did not prevent Venezuela, during the period after 1970, to push its claim to all lands west of the Essequibo River. For instance, maps of Venezuela since 1970 began to show the area west of the Essequibo River as Venezuelan territory, shading it in diagonal stripes and labelling it as "Zona de la Reclamación". Some over-eager Venezuelan cartographers did not even bother to display that label on their editions, since they regarded the territory as totally Venezuelan.

The Venezuelan claim to all lands west of the Essequibo River - as displayed on Venezuelan maps after 1970 - became a new demand, since up to the period before 1970, a part of the Essequibo coast east of the line connecting the mouth of the Moruka River with the Cuyuni-Mazaruni junction was not claimed. Some maps published after 1975 even included the Essequibo Islands as part of Venezuela's extreme claim.

After the signing of the Protocol, Venezuelan students continued to be taught - as they were since 1966 - that all the territory west of the Essequibo River belonged to Venezuela, and that it was illegally occupied by Guyana. Venezuelan newspapers also continued to use their columns to clamour for the territory to be "returned' to Venezuela.

PPP publicity of the border issue

In Guyana, on the other hand, the Government did very little between 1970 and 1980 to educate the Guyanese nation on the issue. However, the Opposition PPP, despite limited propaganda resources, never failed to enlighten the nation of the Venezuelan unfounded claim. This fact was recognised in the May 1981 issue of the Caribbean Contact which stated: "The Opposition PPP of Dr. Cheddi Jagan has done much in the past to expose the 'spurious nature' of Venezuela's territorial claim to Guyana and also of the possible link of the claim with US interests."

The PPP, during the first half of the 1970s, consistently maintained that because of the border claim, Guyana could be in danger of intervention from Venezuela. The Party stated that this could be done to protect the PNC regime in Guyana in case of a popular uprising. However, the PPP took care to point out that possible Venezuelan intervention must be seen not only in the context of defending the PNC against popular revolt, but against the regime itself if it should move away from the political line favoured by US imperialism. This view was enunciated by Dr. Jagan in a letter to the editor of the Sunday Graphic on the 30 November 1971. The letter, entitled "Guyana's Alignment with Pro-Imperialist Axis", stated, inter alia:

"The 5-year Geneva Agreement and the 12-year Port of Spain Protocol not only recognised the bogus border claim, but also keep it in abeyance for future use against any progressive government in Guyana. In keeping with this same policy, the Venezuelan Government sent arms to Trinidad and moved its troops to its north coast near to Trinidad during the 'Black Power' revolt against the PNM regime in April 1970."

Dr. Jagan's letter also responded to speculation published in the Sunday Graphic during November 1971 that Brazil - which had expressed support for Guyana's territorial rights following the occupation the Guyanese part of Ankoko by Venezuela in 1966 - would come to the aid of Guyana in case of Venezuelan armed aggression. In respect to this, he stated:

"The visit of the Venezuelan Foreign Minister to the West Indies - and the announcement that Venezuela intends to fill the power vacuum in the West Indies signify clearly that Venezuela has been assigned by US imperialism, because of her geographical proximity and political orientation, to 'contain' the growing revolutionary movement in the West Indies, somewhat in the same way that Brazil is assigned to help the PNC regime, not against attack from Venezuela, but from liberation forces inside Guyana. Viewed at from this position, there is no need to speculate whether help would be forthcoming to Guyana from Brazil against Venezuelan attack."

Further, the PPP maintained during this period, as it had done before 1970, that the entire matter could be solved if the Guyana government took the issue to the United Nations Security Council and the World Court. At the UN, the Party was sure that Venezuela would be condemned as an aggressor, and the USA would be put in an embarrassing situation. The PPP insisted that it was because neither Venezuela nor the USA wanted the case referred to the UN Security Council and the World Court, that the Guyana government was showing a reluctance to take the issue to these international bodies.

Other than the statements of the PPP, in Guyana very little public discussion on the border issue ever occurred, though Guyanese were generally reminded of the Venezuelan claim every time the Venezuelan press agitated in support of its country's claims. The Guyana government made formal objection to Venezuela for Guyanese territory being included as Venezuela's on maps prepared by official Venezuelan authorities, but his did not halt the zeal of the Venezuelan cartographers.

Essequibo projects opposed by Venezuela

Following reports in October 1972 that the Guyana government was planning a development programme for the Essequibo region, and had agreed to grant oil exploration rights to a West German firm, DEMITEX, the Venezuelan President, Dr. Rafael Caldera, held a press conference on 12 October 1972 and insisted that the Protocol of Port of Spain, which set a moratorium on the border issue, "does not in any way modify this country's legitimate claims to that territory". The United Press International (UPI) quoted President Caldera as saying: "Any action carried out in the territory does not alter our rights, our arguments, our aspirations. No developments taking place in the zone under dispute can alter our position or our rights over the area."

In response to President Caldera's statement, the Guyana government, made this terse statement to the press on the 14 October 1972: "Developmental activities of the Guyana Government in relation to the county of Essequibo, like all development, are in exercise of Guyana's sovereign rights and in discharge of the Government's sacred duty to improve the living standard of its people after almost two centuries of colonial rule."

Opposition to the Protocol in Venezuela

On the same day of the Guyana government's statement, the Venezuelan newspaper, El Vespertino, reported that Senator Leonardo Montiel Ortega of the opposition party, Union Republicana Democratica (URD) intended to ask the Venezuelan Congress to veto the Protocol of Port of Spain since "Guyana is exercising sovereignty over the Essequibo territory. . . ." The newspaper said that Ortega would ask the Congress to stop Guyana from exercising sovereignty over the Essequibo which, claimed the paper, belonged to Venezuela, but was under dispute since 1899. Ortega claimed that Guyana had negotiated with a Canadian company to cut timber and was turning the territory into "a desert by indiscriminate farming". He declared that "the National Congress has still not approved the Port of Spain Protocol which freezes discussions about the dispute". He added that he would ask that the Protocol be vetoed and denounced before the international law organisations since Guyana had breached the agreement by granting rights for oil exploration and timber operations.

Although the COPEI Government never presented the Protocol to the Venezuelan Congress for official ratification, it, however, stated that it intended to honour the treaty. In 1973, a new Acción Democratica (AD) Government - which had opposed certain aspects of the Protocol when it led the opposition - came to power, but even though it expressed that it would also honour the agreement, it never officially ratified the Protocol in the Venezuelan Congress.

PNC leftist policies and the Brazilian "threat"

In Guyana, the PNC Government which had come to power on the platform of pro-imperialism and anti-communism with the aid of the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in December 1964, had begun to take certain limited progressive actions internally and externally by 1974. These actions commenced after a fraudulent general election on the 16 July 1973 in which the PNC was able to take control of a two-thirds majority in the Parliament. Charges of wholesale rigging and severe condemnation of the election and of the PNC regime were made both locally and internationally.

However, despite these attacks on the regime, it nevertheless began to make statements to the effect that it intended to institute socialist policies and that its political goal was to establish a socialist society in Guyana. A process of the nationalisation of key foreign controlled productive industries was then stepped up and the government began to establish close political links with socialist governments, including Cuba.

As a result of the ideological shift of the PNC to the left, the PPP gave "critical support" to the PNC Government during the 1975-1976 in order to encourage the ruling party to increase and hasten any progressive measure it might have thought about. The PPP warned that it intended to be critical of any short-comings on the part of the regime, and it proposed certain political and economic policies that the PNC regime should adopt to move the country towards socialism. As a consequence of this new policy of the PPP towards the regime, the Party, which instituted a Parliamentary boycott after the 1973 election, decided to take its allocated seats in the Parliament.

The PPP offer of "critical support" was meant to show that it intended to display its patriotic duty to stand in defence of the nation's territorial integrity, and to struggle against any pro-imperialist destabilising forces threatening the country's sovereignty. During this period the PNC regime gave great publicity to information that the Brazilian military forces were being built up on Guyana's border to the south and were therefore posing a real threat. Such incessant "information" in the media, which was hugely state-controlled, created genuine fears in Guyana that these elements in Brazil would have staged a military intervention on Guyana's southern border with the main intention of forcing the PNC to reverse its then pro-socialist tendency and to follow again the path of pro-imperialism.

In reality, there was no serious evidence that Brazil was expanding the strength of its border outposts, even though there were some minor reports in the Brazilian press that this was being done. However, these reports were so insignificant that they could not be classified as a "threat" as was being purported by the regime in Guyana.

But the Guyana government, exploiting the issue that Guyana was facing threats on its borders, began the sale of National Defence Bonds ostensibly with the aim of raising money to purchase military hardware and other equipment necessary for national defence. The sale of these bonds, which could be cashed after a period of a minimum of five years, became a primary programme of the Government and leading members of the PNC were given the task to induce people to purchase them. In fact, many business owners and public servants who purchased them, because they feared victimisation from the PNC regime in one form or the other, were actually coerced to do so.

Renewed friendship with Venezuela

With the "threat" against Guyana at that period coming from Brazil, the PNC regime paid more friendly attention to Venezuela and, consequently, no attempt was made by Guyana to heat up the border issue. Apparently, Venezuela, now under the Presidency of Carlos Andres Perez, tried desperately from 1974 to play down the border issue during this period. And since that country was receiving verbal attacks from imperialist quarters because of the nationalisation of its petroleum and iron industries, it was tactically willing to lend solidarity to Guyana which was also nationalising its bauxite and sugar industries at that time. By doing this, Venezuela intended to win the solidarity of Guyana against any destabilising forces. At the same time, Venezuela which was becoming more and more powerful through its vitalised oil wealth, was competing with Brazil for strategic power in the Caribbean area in particular, and wanted to obtain as many friends in the region as possible. The "threat" from Brazil on Guyana, therefore, was indeed a welcome boon for Venezuela.

As a result of this renewed friendly relationship, the two countries on 12 June 1974 signed a "Convention of Cultural Exchange" to enable the exchange of works of artists and sculptors and others in the artistic field.

The Venezuelan loan to Guyana

This level of cooperation expanded when the Venezuelan Government offered economic assistance to Guyana which was experiencing severe economic problems as a result of the international "oil crisis". From June 1974, Guyana's Ambassador in Caracas Samuel Rudolph Insanally held discussions with senior officials of the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Office of the President to work out the terms of the economic assistance. As a result of these discussions, Venezuela granted a loan of US$15 million to Guyana on 22 August 1974.

This loan agreement was arranged through an exchange of diplomatic notes between the Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Ephraim Schacht Aristeguieta, and Insanally. By this agreement, the loan was provided as an economic contribution by the Venezuela to Guyana within the framework of the programme of assistance conceived by the United Nations to assist countries seriously affected by the prevailing economic situation brought about by the drastic rise in the price of petroleum.

The following year, on the 12 June 1975, in a story headlined "Venezuela Strengthened Ties - Experts to Work out Co-op Plan", the Guyana Chronicle announced that both Governments had reached agreement for Venezuelan assistance in the economic development of Guyana. In keeping with this policy of friendship towards Guyana, Prime Minister Burnham was invited to pay a two-day visit to Venezuela. This visit was eventually made in September 1975.

Subsequent to the granting of the US$15 million loan, the Guyana Government began repayment in instalments of US$500,000 in August 1979. Five payments amounting to US$2.5 million were made up to August 1981. No additional payment was made since then.

Political developments in Guyana

By 1977, the PNC regime, under pressure from the IMF, had halted its nationalisation drive and it came under attack from the PPP which claimed that the PNC had stopped the pro-socialist process and was under pressure from US imperialism to reverse its policies. The PNC, on the other hand, had refused to accept the measures proposed by the PPP to hasten the move towards socialism. Subsequently, the PNC rejected the "critical support" of the PPP on the grounds that "critical support" was more critical than supportive of PNC policies.

Another proposal made in August 1977 by the PPP for the establishment of a National Patriotic Front and a National Patriotic Front government involving the PNC, the PPP and other progressive forces, in order to bring about a political solution in the country, was rejected outright by the PNC at its second Biennial Congress held in December 1977.

The PPP, in responding to the PNC decision to work alone, claimed that the ruling Party was under pressure from imperialism not to work with the PPP, and predicted that the PNC would be pressured to take an even more pro-imperialist stance. The eventual signing of an agreement with the IMF in June 1978, according to the PPP, was justification of this charge.

Friendship with Brazil restored

After the forthwith declaration of the PNC that it had no intention of working with the Marxist-Leninist PPP, the threat from Brazil abated, and friendly relations were again restored between the two countries. This renewed friendship went a stage further when on 3 July 1978 Guyana signed the Treaty of Amazonian Cooperation (popularly referred to as the Amazon Pact) with seven other South American nations, including Brazil and Venezuela. This multilateral treaty ensured cooperation of the countries sharing the Amazon basin in the development of the area. Resulting from this, Guyana and Brazil agreed to jointly construct a bridge over the Takutu River on the south-western border of Guyana with Brazil. Brazil also submitted plans for the construction of a road linking Brazil through the proposed Takutu bridge with Georgetown. In return, the Brazilians received promises from Guyana of free-port facilities at Georgetown on the completion of the road.

The Jonestown tragedy

At the time when it was improving relations with Venezuela, the PNC administration moved quietly to strengthen the western border. Apparently, the PNC had been thinking of using the western Essequibo, particularly the North West District, as a buffer zone to halt any military aggression from Venezuela. It, therefore, as quietly as possible, arranged for the American preacher, Jim Jones, and members of his cult, the People's Temple, to settle in the North West District near the Barima River from August 1974. Jim Jones settlement, called Jonestown, located not far from Port Kaituma, was secretly given autonomy by the Guyana Government, and it became "a state within a state".

On 18-20 October 1978, Venezuela's President Carlos Andrez Perez paid a two-day visit to Guyana, at a period when friendly relations between Guyana and Brazil were becoming more improved. His itinerary included a visit to Jonestown, but this was cancelled at the last moment. No reason was given by the Guyana Government for the cancellation of the visit of Perez to Jonestown, but most likely it was because Venezuela was against the settlement of the People's Temple in that area.

On 18 November 1978, Jonestown settlers, including Jim Jones himself and a US Congressman, Leo Ryan, who was visiting the settlement to listen to the grievances of the cult members, perished in a shocking murder-suicide tragedy. Apparently, Jones ordered the murder-suicide operation after some cultists decided to leave the settlement and return to the USA with Ryan. In the days that followed, Guyana Defence Force soldiers who were sent to Jonestown to assist in the removal of the bodies, discovered huge arsenals of highly sophisticated automatic weapons in the settlement.

According to the PPP and other opposition groups in Guyana, it was the intention of the PNC, not only to allow Jim Jones to carry out his shady deals in order to obtain strongly armed cultists to assist the regime in putting down any popular uprising, but also to use the settlement and the cult of causing Venezuela to think twice before it could invade Guyana. The reasoning behind this contention was the fact that the Jonestown settlers were in the overwhelming majority American citizens, and Venezuela would be cautious not to attack them or to occupy their settlement. In case of a Venezuelan invasion, the USA would be forced to support Guyana since American citizens would be under attack. Venezuela itself would not want any military confrontation with the USA.

An editorial in the 30 January 1979 issue of the Mirror also expressed a similar view when it questioned the close ties of Guyana with Brazil, especially following a three-day meeting of the Guyana-Brazil Joint Commission for Economic and Cultural Cooperation held earlier that month. The Mirror suggested a number of reasons for the close ties with Brazil and added:

"Another reason may be that Guyana did not fare so well during the last high level meeting with Venezuelan President Perez, and failed to reach an agreement. The Jonestown affair had not made relations any better, particularly with the strong suggestions that Jonestown was set up with the consent of the Guyana Government as a buffer in the disputed territory."

The Caribbean Contact of May 1979 printed an extract of a lecture on the Jonestown tragedy, delivered at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Cave Hill Campus in Barbados by the UWI historian, Professor Gordon Lewis. Professor Lewis made the claim that the Jonestown commune could be seen as a deliberate attempt by the PNC regime to have the settlement act to firmly establish Guyana's claim to the territory claimed by Venezuela, with similar motives as the Israeli's establishment of settlements on the so-called disputed West Bank of the Jordan River.

However, the PNC denied that there was any such strategy and maintained that the Jonestown settlers were agriculturalists intent on developing the interior. Two days after the tragedy - on the 20 November 1978 - the Guyana Minister of Information, Shirley Field-Ridley, admitted at a press conference that the followers of the People's Temple subscribed to some of the objectives of the PNC. The Government, she said, had no problems with the Temple whose members had, according to a Mirror report of the 21 November 1978, "established a reputation for themselves as being good farmers, industrious and hard working".

The settlement plan for Cambodian refugees

The murder-suicide of the 914 Jonestown settlers nevertheless foiled any plan to use the settlement as a "buffer". However, the Guyana government, from December 1979, again secretly arranged with organisations closely allied with US political policies, to settle members of the Hmong tribe from south-east Asia in the Waini-Yarakita district north-west of Jonestown and close to the border with Venezuela.

The fiercely anti-communist Hmong tribesmen (known also as Meos), had become "refugees" after they joined American, and later Chinese and other anti-nationalist forces, in fighting against the patriotic forces and their Vietnamese allies who were batting against the genocidal Pol Pot regime in Cambodia. According to the PPP which vehemently opposed the settlement project, the plan was for the USA to offer assistance to the Hmong tribesmen who would assist the PNC regime to resisting any armed Venezuelan encroachment on Guyanese territory. The Party pointed to the possibility that the Hmong could also be used to assist the regime in battling any popular uprising in Guyana.

As information of this settlement plan leaked into to public domain, lengthy articles opposing the scheme appeared during April 1980 in a number of leading newspapers in Britain, Canada and the USA. One report in the British Guardian stated that Venezuela had warned the Guyana Government not to go ahead with the settlement plan in what Venezuela claimed was a disputed frontier region.

The public outcry in Guyana led by the PPP forced the Government to abort the scheme on the 6 May 1980.

The Mazaruni hydro-power project

Meanwhile, the Guyana Government initiated attempts from 1977 to establish large developmental projects in the area west of the Essequibo River. One such ambitious project was the intention of building a huge multi-billion dollar hydro-electric project in the upper Mazaruni River area near to the border with Venezuela.

From as early as 1976, the Guyana Government had informed the Perez administration in Venezuela of its impending plan to implement the Mazaruni hydro-electric project. Burnham himself, in a direct communication with President Perez, suggested the possibility of reaching a definitive agreement on the territorial issue in exchange for the Venezuelan participation in the Mazaruni hydro-electric project. Perez became very interested in these developments and felt that Venezuela could benefit by its involvement in the scheme.

During this period, support for the project from Venezuela was positive and indirectly Venezuela ended up contributing, although in a very small part, to the preliminary financing of the preparatory work for the hydro-electric scheme. This occurred in June 1977 when the Special Aid Fund of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), with the support of Venezuela, granted to Guyana a US$ 1.6 million loan, repayable in 15 years.

Later in the year, the Ambassador of Venezuela in Georgetown, Abdelkader Marquez, officially informed the Guyana government of Venezuela's interest to collaborate in the construction of the dam, particularly through the purchase of excess energy. As a result, there followed a period of intense diplomatic activities between both countries. These included a visit to Georgetown of Perez's special envoy, Ambassador Francois Moanack, on 14-16 November 1977, the visit of Guyana's Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Wills to Caracas from 30 November to 3 December 1977, and the trip to the Guyanese capital of a Venezuelan delegation led by Venezuela's Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Isidro Morales Paul at the end of December 1977. These diplomatic activities eventually culminated with the visit of the President Perez to Guyana in October 1978.

By the end of 1977, the blue-print for the huge multi-billion dollar hydro-electric project was ready. The drawings and two copies of the feasibility studies done by the Swiss company Sweco were forwarded to the Venezuelan Government which, according to the Guyana Government, did not object to the establishment of the project in that area, even though a part of Venezuelan territory was expected to be flooded on the completion of the scheme. The Guyana Government anticipated, too, that Venezuela would purchase excess energy generated by the hydro-electric turbines.

Soon after, the Guyana government submitted an application to the World Bank for financing the project. In the meantime, it had begun to implement the scheme and by 1978 more than US$25 was already spent from its own resources for starting the construction of the access road to the project site.

During the visit of Venezuela's President Carlos Andres Perez on 18-20 October 1978 to Guyana, the project was fully discussed. Indeed, he expressed support for the development of the project, according to the final communiqué issued just before he departed for home. With regard to the possibility of purchase of energy by Venezuela of energy, he expressed Venezuela's willingness to finance the study for the interconnection and suggested that a committee should be established to study the issue of the possible participation of Venezuela in the hydroelectric project.

At his press conference on 20 October 1978 at the end of his visit, Perez emphasised Venezuela's general support for the project by declaring: "Venezuela has decided to study the possibility of linking the present and future systems of the two countries and purchasing electricity from Guyana on the completion of the hydro-project. . . . We will give all we can to help develop this complex."

Guyana, at the same time, expressed interest in the purchase of three power plants with a capacity of 30 megawatts (one of 15 megawatts and two 7.50 megawatts each), which Venezuela offered for sale.

In addition to energy issues, Perez and Burnham examined problems associated with bauxite production and Venezuela's assistance to the Guyanese social sector. Perez raised the possibility of forming a multinational company involving Brazil, Jamaica and Suriname for the exploitation of the bauxite reserves in Guyana. And later, they discussed the possibility of forming an aluminium entity similar to the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and they agreed to appoint a group of experts to study this initiative.

In relation to Venezuelan assistance in the social sector, Perez expressed the possibility of his country's assistance in building low income housing projects in Guyana.

While it was clear that President Perez and certain sectors of the Venezuelan Government wanted Venezuela to participate in the hydro-electric project, they were undoubtedly aware of the technical difficulties and the huge financial cost for the electrical transmission of energy from the Mazaruni to the Venezuelan industrial centres could negatively affect its economic viability. But there was strong opposition as well within the Venezuelan Government. The critics felt that hydro-electric development in Essequibo would modify substantially the demographic, economic and ecological characteristics of the region, and could hamper Venezuela from recovering the claimed territory.

At the same time, even within the Guyana government there existed differences in views regarding making concessions to Venezuela on the territorial matter in exchange for participation in the Mazaruni project. Obviously, these differences of opinions existing in both Governments made diplomatic negotiations very difficult. Thus, those in the Guyana government who wanted to grant territorial concessions to Venezuela found it very difficult to influence others especially when Venezuela was not giving a clear indication that it wanted to participate in the project. On the other hand, the high costs involved for Venezuela's participation made it hard for those in the Perez administration who supported the project to convince the opponents, especially when Guyana was not making any direct proposal on conceding territory to Venezuela.

Despite the agreement that President Perez was ready to offer Venezuelan financial help to the hydro-power scheme, subsequent reports emanating from Venezuela indicated that his advisers discouraged him from doing so. It was apparent that the matter of participating in the project stirred intense debate within the inner Venezuela government circles with the opposing group finally convincing Perez not to render his administration's support. Towards the end of Perez's term as President, at the close of 1978 - and just a few weeks after his visit to Guyana - the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that the Government had no interest in participating in the project.

According to a report subsequently published on 2 April 1981 in the London Guardian, while Perez was ready to offer Venezuelan financial help to the hydro-power scheme, his advisers talked him out of it at the last moment. The report further claimed that the Venezuelan Government was on the point of reaching a border settlement with Guyana by which Venezuela would have renounced its claim to the Essequibo region in return for some territorial concessions, a proposal which was ultimately rejected by Guyana. Subsequently, the Guyana Government denied that there were any discussions on reaching any border compromise.

Venezuela's opposition to the project

Shortly after the inauguration of Venezuelan President Luis Herrera Campins in 1979, Guyana's Minister of Energy and Mines, Hubert Jack, informed Venezuela's Foreign Minister Dr. José Alberto Velasco Zambrano in March 1979 of the progress of the project with the hope that the new government would render support. The latter's response was that the Venezuelan government needed time to study the project plans. However, the Campins' government by the end of the same month decided to continue the Perez's administration policy of not providing any support for the project.

But the hydro-power project, almost immediately after, began to experience problems in obtaining international financial backing. Political groups in Venezuela, associated with the new Herrera Campins administration, by this time had begun to vocally oppose the establishment of the project in the area which they maintained was Venezuelan territory, and, no doubt, these objections caused international lending agencies to be hesitant in financing the project.

According to the Caribbean Contact of December 1980, Jack had claimed during November that organisations abroad were seeking to influence the World Bank to cancel aid for the project. He said that one of the organisations was the London based Survival International (with offices in New York) whose objective was to preserve the natural way of life of the indigenous Akawoi Amerindians who would be displaced on the implementation of the hydro-electric scheme. The paper also mentioned that "the Venezuelans were accused by Guyana of economic blackmail against that country".

In relation to the work of Survival International, the New York Times in an editorial on the 18 October 1980 on "Twilight of the Primitive" had praised the organisation for publicising the cause of the indigenous peoples. The editorial observed that the proposed project in the Mazaruni region would involve the construction of a dam on the frontier with Venezuela, and that it "would flood the home of the Akawoi, an unoffending tribe known for its cultural vitality... But since the dam would involve Guyanese pre-emption of a border area that is also claimed by Venezuela, the project may not materialize..."

Up to the end of 1980 the project had not commenced because of the non-availability of international funding. (By the mid-1980s, the Guyana Government, after spending over a billion Guyana dollars to prepare the project site, eventually decided not to proceed with it).

30 March 2008