Guyana-Venezuela economic cooperation (1985-1992)

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Hoyte's attention to the territorial controversy

Prime Minister Desmond Hoyte succeeded to the presidency of Guyana after the death of President Forbes Burnham on 6 August 1985. Almost immediately, he placed attention on relations with Venezuela and the territorial controversy. While in New York to address the UN General Assembly, he met on 4 October 1985 with UN Secretary General Perez de Cuellar who expressed satisfaction with the cooperation he was receiving from both Guyana and Venezuela in his attempt to find a solution to the controversy. The Secretary General brought Hoyte up to date with some of the developments so far, including the visits of his representative, Under Secretary General Diego Cordovez, to both countries earlier in the year. He also pointed out that there was need for patience and that solutions would not occur overnight, for there were many interests to be contacted and that great thought had to be put into trying to fashion the modalities for achieving the objectives Guyana and Venezuela had given him.

Shortly after this meeting, the De Cuellar mooted the idea of forming a contact group with representatives from Guyana and Venezuela and three other countries charged with the responsibility of reaching a final border settlement. However, this idea was not followed up apparently because it did not win support from the two principal parties. At home in Guyana, the opposition political parties urged Hoyte to democratise the country's political system by implementing laws to allow for free and fair elections. However, he refused to bow to these demands, and on 9 December 1985, in general elections condemned internationally as totally fraudulent, Hoyte and the PNC were returned to power with nearly 74 percent of the "votes".

Economic assistance from Venezuela

After Hoyte entrenched himself in power through this fraudulent election, his government moved to further cement relations with Venezuela which by this time were moving on a friendlier plane. Faced with a severe fuel crisis, Guyana in March 1986 started discussions with Venezuela to barter bauxite for Venezuelan oil. Very scanty information about these discussions was revealed to the Guyanese public, except the general terms of an agreement arrived at between the two countries.

By this agreement, both Governments decided to undertake an economic cooperation programme, which included trade in petroleum products and bauxite, and a financial scheme for facilitating the exchange of goods and services.

The arrangement provided for the supply of petroleum products from Venezuela to satisfy Guyana's consumption needs. To this end, the Venezuelan oil company, Maraven S.A., agreed to provide these products to the Guyana National Energy Authority.

With respect to bauxite, the Bauxite Industry Development Company (BIDCO) of Guyana reached an agreement with Interamericana De Alumina C.A. (Interalumina) of Venezuela, under which Guyana would supply directly to Venezuela 100,000 tons of metallurgical-grade bauxite during 1986 and 540,000 tons in 1987.

In relation to the financial aspects, the Venezuelan Investment Fund and the Bank of Guyana negotiated a deposit agreement designed to facilitate these transactions.

PPP views

The opposition PPP, which had initiated the demand that Guyana should seek cheaper fuel supplies from Venezuela, welcomed the trade deal but criticised the secrecy of the agreement and demanded that the details should be presented to the National Assembly.

On the 18 May 1986, the Mirror, portraying the views of the PPP, pointed out:

". . .Guyana in return is to provide Venezuela this year with 100,000 tons of bauxite which will not be problematic. In 1987, however, Guyana has to supply 540,000 tons of bauxite which will be most difficult. This amount has to be sent to Venezuela while the government has to meet other obligations to the socialist countries and North America. The North American market is still important as it provides hard cash for parts and other inputs. Guyana cannot afford to lose that market. There are many countries, China for instance, waiting to take over Guyana's markets. And, of course, Guyana has to pay the former Canadian owners for the nationalisation of the industry.

"Guyana seems not to be in any good bargaining position, given the pricing of the commodities to be exchanged. Guyana's bauxite is being bought by Venezuela at a fixed price while the price for Venezuela's fuel will depend on a formula which could fluctuate. If the price of oil rises then the volume of oil imports will be reduced. And even if the world price of bauxite rises, Guyana cannot benefit from it according to the terms of the agreement."

More information about the terms of the agreement was given by Hoyte during an exclusive interview with the Bahamian newspaper, the Nassau Guardian. In the interview published on 20 June 1986, the Guyanese President, in discussing the agreements reached with Venezuela, declared:

"In fact, the Venezuelans have reactivated a line of credit which we once enjoyed. Presently, the line is in the amount of US$1.2 million, and this had enabled us to start importing some sensitive items which were in short supply, some of which are very important for our production - for example, fertilisers.

"We do expect on the basis of those agreements that in October the ceiling of the line will be increased considerably. . .

"Since we signed those agreements, we have, at the invitation of the Venezuelan authorities, sent a mission (a private sector mission) to Caracas to discuss the possibilities for the lines of credit - specifically for the private sector - and also for examining the possibilities of joint ventures and things like that. . . They will be sending some people here, and we hope as a result of this on-going dialogue, we will be able to identify areas in which we can strengthen our relationship."

Hoyte's idea of joint development

On 26 May 1986, the 20th anniversary of Guyana's independence, President Hoyte announced at a political rally in Georgetown that his Government would enter into joint projects with Venezuela and Brazil. He stated that Guyana would be "pursuing a principle of aligning our resources with their resources for mutual benefit".

This announcement was clearly a rejection of the policy of the former President, Forbes Burnham, who had been consistently pressured by the World Bank to accept joint development of the Essequibo region during an intense period of the border controversy in 1981-83. However, joint development was now being adopted by Hoyte as the main plank of his strategy in his attempt to seek assistance from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

PPP leader Dr. Cheddi Jagan, on 1 June 1986, labelled this economic strategy of joint development as pro-imperialist which would create only an "illusion of prosperity in the beginning" but would not lead to "any permanent solution to the grave economic crisis facing the country". He maintained that Guyana's future and independence would be jeopardised, and he severely criticised the ruling PNC for rejecting the call by the PPP for a political solution in the country and for the formation of an anti-imperialist, socialist oriented course and to develop stronger relations with the socialist and non-aligned countries. He repeated the PPP's position that Guyana could gain much with cooperation with its neighbours. But he argued that this would be of benefit if only the countries of the region "pursue an independent course and not permit foreign capital, which dominates the economies of Latin American countries, to dominate Guyana".

Further economic agreements

The Stabroek News, a new privately operated Guyanese weekly newspaper which began publication in January 1987, reported on 30 January 1987 that representatives of the Guyana and Venezuela Governments were finalising arrangements under which a US$28 million line of credit would become available to Guyana to benefit the public and private sectors equally. The paper declared that it did not know what goods and services would be available under the line of credit, but revealed that a private Venezuelan company, Grupo Kudor de Venezuela, would be assisting the Guyanese private sector to import goods from Venezuela under the line of credit, and would also promote joint ventures.

The executive vice-president of the Venezuelan company, Rafael Viamonte, in an exclusive interview with the newspaper (also on 30 January 1987) announced that his firm would also be assisting private business in Guyana "with the marketing of their products in the European and Venezuelan markets." He was of the opinion that the Guyana Government was encouraging the private sector to become strong, and its support for joint ventures would result in the building of an adequate export market for Guyana.

Viamonte revealed that his company in June 1986 arranged for about 100,000 kilogrammes of Venezuelan tobacco to be sold to the Demerara Tobacco Company, and that further shipments were being arranged. At the same time, Grupo Kudor was promoting joint venture arrangements in the Guyanese lumber and mining sectors. He brushed aside suggestions that the Venezuelan claim to Guyana's territory would have any adverse effect on the on-going negotiations, saying that both countries "have the best relationship now than they have had before."

Hoyte's visit to Venezuela

On Tuesday 24 March 1987, President Hoyte began a four-day visit to Venezuela where he conferred with President Jaime Lusinchi. He also met with members of the private sector whom he asked to invest in Guyana and promised them duty free imports of capital goods and repatriation of profits.

The two Presidents discussed the border issue, and agreed that the two countries, through their Permanent Representatives at the United Nations, should suggest for the consideration of the Secretary General of the United Nations that he should select "Good Offices" as the means of settlement of the controversy. At the end of the visit, the Foreign Ministers of the two countries signed an accord by which the two neighbours would cooperate to combat drug trafficking across the border. The accord also established a Venezuela-Guyana joint commission and implemented a limited agreement to abolish visas for travel by diplomats between both countries.

In relation to Hoyte's visit to Venezuela, the Mirror of 29 March 1987 commented:

"There is no indication as to what aspect of the border row was discussed. The dispute is currently in the lap of UN Secretary-General Dr. Javier Perez de Cuellar. The Guyanese people want this dispute settled speedily and are fed up with the protracted nature of it. Citizens of Guyana would welcome improved Guyana-Venezuela relations with full mutual respect for each other's sovereignty. The secretive nature in which the Guyana government is treating these relations, however, is a source of deep concern."

Refusal to publicise trade agreements

During March 1987, the Guyana Government declared that it had no intention of revealing the terms of the three trade agreements signed in Caracas in 1986 with the Venezuelan oil company, (Maraven), the Interamericana de Alumina and the Venezuelan Investment Fund. In the National Assembly, Jagan in mid-June 1986 asked the Deputy Prime Minister of Planning and Development, Hasyln Parris, whether or not the government would table the agreements in the Assembly. However, it was not until mid-March 1987 that this question was formally answered by Parris who replied: "No, the Government will not make the agreement public." Asked further to give reasons, Parris declared that the agreements were with private companies.

Dr. Jagan strongly opposed the refusal to make the agreements public and insisted that the Guyanese people had every right to know what was done in their name. Further, he added, the initial talks that led ultimately to the agreements with private concerns in Venezuela were on a government to government level, with the Venezuela government arranging for the trade agreements to sell Venezuelan oil to Guyana, for Guyana to supply substantial quantities of metal grade bauxite throughout 1986 and 1987, as well as a deposit agreement to facilitate the trading of oil and bauxite.

Announcement of agreements

Some further information about Hoyte's visit to Venezuela was revealed when the Government in mid-May 1987 finally tabled in Parliament three separate agreements made during his tour. They pertained to the limited abolition of visas, suppression of narcotics traffic, and mechanisms for cooperation between the two states.

The narcotics agreement would remain in force for two years, but would on the expiry of that period, stand automatically extended for an equal period unless either of the two parties should renounce it. The agreement made it binding on the two governments to adopt administrative measures to prevent all activities relating to illicit trafficking in narcotics; for an exchange of direct information on data on the internal situation with regards to trends in consumption and trafficking; as well as the training of maritime customs officials, and in the tracking down of drug traders.

The two governments would also assist each other in the prevention of drug addiction, the treatment and rehabilitation of drug addicts, and the apprehension and confiscation of any aircraft or vessel used for drug trafficking. To establish a regime of control over narcotics, the two countries would undertake to harmonise their respective legislation for this purpose. A mixed commission was also set up for the purpose of fulfilling these objectives.

More information was also given to the nation by the Deputy Prime Minister, Haslyn Parris who, in a special radio broadcast on 1 June 1987, announced some details of the three agreements in 1986 with Venezuela concerning oil, bauxite and trade. This was a complete turn-around in his position, for it was pertaining to these very agreements he had bluntly refused to answer in the National Assembly three months before.

Parris stated that Interalumina of Venezuela would continue to purchase from BIDCO for US dollars whatever bauxite it needed. At the same time, the Guyana National Energy Authority would buy from Maraven whatever petroleum and petroleum products it would require. The Bank of Guyana would pay in US dollars 55 percent of the cost of each shipment. The remaining 45 percent would be deposited in US dollars in the Bank of Guyana by the Venezuelan Investment Fund of Venezuela. This would be paid back to the Investment Fund - a quarter of it within six months and the remaining three-quarters within one year.

The 45 percent repaid to the Investment Fund would be available for the Guyanese public and private sectors to make purchases from Venezuela up to the sum of US$15 million on a line of credit.

Up to the end of May 1987 only US$1.9 was repaid and had already been used to purchase urea, toilet jumbo rolls and other commodities. Parris did not reveal the price being paid for bauxite on the one hand and oil on the other. He declared, however, that although more bauxite was ordered for 1987 than 1986, its value did not cover the value of oil expected to be imported.

Lusinchi's visit to Guyana

On 16-18 November 1987, President Lusinchi paid a State visit to Guyana. His delegation included: Simon Alberto Consalvi, Minister of Foreign Affairs, as well as four other members of his Cabinet. Also in the delegation were the heads of the Venezuelan state-owned petroleum and aluminium industries and executives of the private sector.

In Georgetown, Lusinchi met with the leaders of political parties represented in Guyana's National Assembly, leaders of the trade union movement, and representatives of the private sector. He also addressed a special meeting of the National Assembly, and on his first evening, he was the guest of honour at a cultural presentation staged at the National Cultural Centre.

On 17 November, the Venezuelan President visited the University of Guyana where he exchanged views with senior officials regarding linkages with Venezuelan universities. Later, he visited to the Caribbean Community Secretariat where he held discussions with the Secretary-General.

In their discussions at the Office of the President on 17 November, Hoyte and Lusinchi dealt at length with bilateral relations including the territorial controversy. They also reviewed, as they did during their meeting earlier in the year, regional and international political and economic issues and adopted common positions on a number of them.

Just before Lusinchi and his party departed for Venezuela on 18 March, a final communiqué on his visit was issued. It stated, inter alia:

The two Heads of State observed that relations between their countries continued to develop favourably since their meeting in Caracas in March this year. They expressed their conviction that Venezuela and Guyana will find, together through dialogue and in a constructive spirit, practical ways to consolidate their relations in all areas.

In this regard, the Presidents examined the issue of the controversy between their countries, and pointed out that the climate of friendship and understanding that exists between Guyana and Venezuela is favourable for dealing with this fundamental aspect of the bilateral relations with flexibility and good will. . .

They also reviewed the progress made as a result of the various discussions held and the contacts established by representatives of the public and private sectors with a view to deepening bilateral co-operation. In this respect, they expressed their satisfaction that during this visit an opportunity was afforded the members of the Venezuelan delegation to renew contacts and further exchanges with their respective Guyanese counterparts. In addition, they reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen existing arrangements and to explore new avenues of cooperation and exchange between the two countries.

In this regard, they expressed satisfaction with the manner in which the agreement on the supply of petroleum signed between Petroleos de Venezuela and the Guyana National Energy Authority is being implemented.

The two Leaders noted that the oil supply agreement and its associated financial arrangements will be extended by one year and that the competent authorities of the two countries would prepare the respective instruments.

They also decided that in matters concerning bauxite and alumina, officials of the Bauxite Industry Development Company Ltd. of Guyana and of Interalumina and the Venezuelan Corporation of Guayana will promptly continue the process of consultations. These consultations will be aimed at reaching agreement on longer term arrangements.

The Presidents noted with satisfaction that the parties have also agreed to examine the possibility of the involvement of the Venezuelan Corporation of Guayana in the reactivation of the alumina plant in Guyana, including the disposition of the product.

Both Leaders agreed to strengthen the beneficial relations established between universities of the two countries, having regard to the contacts made with senior officials of the University of Guyana during this visit.

On the other hand, they agreed on the need to broaden cooperation in the field of health, through more frequent exchanges between the respective health officials, the training of specialised personnel and in the fight against tropical diseases. . . .

In concluding their discussions, the two Heads of State expressed satisfaction with the steadily increasing level of cooperation between the two countries in recent years. They agreed that the momentum should be maintained and were convinced that the visit of the President of Venezuela to the Cooperative Republic of Guyana would lead to a further intensification of the economic, trade, technical and cultural cooperation between the Governments and peoples of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana and the Republic of Venezuela. . . .

Discussions relating to the appointment of McIntyre

Regular contact between the two countries at very senior levels continued. On 2 February 1989, Hoyte attended the inauguration of President Carlos Andres Perez with whom he had a brief meeting but nothing of substance was discussed. But they met again in Tobago during the Caricom mini-summit and in their conversations, the Venezuelan President accepted Guyana's proposal to recommence talks on the territorial controversy. He, at the same time, won Hoyte's agreement to the idea that Dr. Alister McIntyre of Grenada should serve as the "Good Officer" of the UN Secretary General. McIntyre had previously served as Secretary General of Caricom, and was at the time serving as Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies. It was apparent from Perez's conversation with Hoyte that McIntyre had already discussed his desire for the position with the Venezuelans.

Apparently, too, the UN Secretary General was not informed of the results of the Tobago meeting between Hoyte and Perez. This became clear when in September 1989, a representative of the Secretary General met with Guyana's Permanent Representative to the UN, Rudy Insanally, and sought Guyana's view on the proposed appointment by Secretary General of McIntyre as "Good Officer". Guyana, soon after, offered no objection to his appointment.

Hoyte's visit to Venezuela in 1989

Plan for electricity interconnection

On 8 November 1989, Hoyte visited Venezuela, and he and Perez held intensive discussions in the conference room of the Venezuelan Guayana Corporation (CVG) in the eastern city of Puerto Ordaz. Hoyte was accompanied by a four-member team that included Foreign Minister Rashleigh Jackson.

The discussions began on the theme of a hydro-electric connection with Guyana from the Guri hydroelectric project. Hoyte was very excited about this prospect and noted that the time was just right for this interconnection. Perez observed that it should be simple to raise the necessary financing of about US$100 million since it would be a binational project. After further discussions, it was agreed that a joint Guyanese-Venezuelan group would begin the preparation of a technical and economic feasibility report under political direction. Once the draft project was prepared, the search could commence for financing.

Perez's views on solving the territorial controversy

The Venezuelan leader then concentrated fully on the issue of the Venezuelan claim to Guyana. He said that both countries must "take the bull by the horns" and find a solution together. Emphasising that the problem could not be solved by the UN, he argued that a solution to the problem was absolutely essential, otherwise it would continue to bedevil the development of mutually beneficial relations. He explained that if there was no solution to the controversy, criticism would be levelled at Guyana vis-a-vis the Guri connection for making itself dependent on power from a country which maintained a claim to Guyanese territory. He reiterated that Guyana and Venezuela must solve the problem themselves and suggested the establishment of a permanent committee made up of one representative from each country. This committee would examine the issues and feed the UN with information when required. President Perez stressed the need for the kind of integrationist approach which had solved the Panama/Colombia border problem.

He then expressed some specific ideas about the points he would like included in a solution of the controversy with Guyana. First of all, he stated his preference for a global, or all encompassing, solution. Such a solution should involve the "rationalisation" of the border. Certain areas could be ceded to Venezuela by Guyana but under an agreement which would entitle both countries to share the proceeds from any resources which existed in these areas. Of much significance to him was the need to be pragmatic rather than technical in finding a solution. He felt that if discussions became bogged down in disputes over documents, there would never be a solution. It must be recognised, he explained, that the Venezuelan people felt strongly about the loss of "their territory" to the British, but he did agree that the patriotic feelings of Guyanese must be acknowledged.

Hoyte, in commenting on this presentation, remarked that the present situation was only beneficial for political scientists and lawyers looking for a subject matter for their academic theses. He affirmed that he was interested in a more practical approach to the problem, and concurred with the view expressed by President Perez that the only acceptable solution must come from bilateral discussions even though a solution could be presented by the UN Secretary General. President Hoyte then requested Foreign Minister Jackson to brief the meeting on the present status of the controversy from the Guyanese perspective.

Jackson gave a brief review of developments since Guyana and Venezuela had approached the UN Secretary General to indicate a preference for the mechanism of "Good Offices" to be used as a means of settlement of the controversy. In September 1989, a representative of the UN Secretary General spoke with Guyana's Permanent Representative to the UN on the proposed appointment of McIntyre as the "Good Officer". Guyana had since expressed agreement.

Perez said that Venezuela also concurred in the choice. However, because McIntyre was a Caricom national, there had been concern expressed in certain quarters in Venezuela. However, the President indicated that he, personally, had no misgivings since he felt that McIntyre was an excellent person for the task but both Guyana and Venezuela must help him work. This he explained could be done by appointing a negotiator from each country to work on the problem with the Foreign Ministers overseeing this process. Otherwise, he posited, the process of employing Good offices, and other means of peaceful settlement (as set out in Article 33 of the U.N. Charter) could last for 100 years. He suggested the idea of adopting some time limit for discussions and once an agreement was reached it would have to be approved by all parties and ratified by the Venezuela Congress. Bearing in mind that it would be politic to have this accomplished before the end of his administration, he urged the need to act quickly.

Perez also affirmed that Venezuela could never risk a military adventure against Guyana since such action would never be countenanced by international opinion. He said that Guyana and Venezuela needed each other not only for logical bilateral reasons, but because Venezuela regarded Guyana as a key country in the peaceful and harmonious development of the region of the Guianas.

The Venezuelan leader then made a direct linkage between the settlement of the controversy and the economic development of Guyana. He expressed the view that the vicious circle generated by Guyana's chronic lack of energy must be broken and that Guyana would derive clear cut economic benefits from the settlement.

He then summarised his proposal for the settlement mechanism as follows:

1) Guyana and Venezuela should follow the agreed mechanism and approve the appointment by the UN Secretary General of McIntyre to perform "Good Offices". There would be much criticism of this choice in Venezuela, he said, but this was expected and normal and could be ignored.

2) Each country should appoint a representative. These persons would meet with all the necessary experts and work out a solution.

3) McIntyre would then present the solution.

Eventually, the two Presidents decided to formally announce their acceptance of McIntyre as the person to perform the role of "Good Offices" in accordance with the mandate of the Secretary General of the UN under Article IV(2) of the Geneva Agreement. In addition, Hoyte suggested that the respective Foreign Ministers should be given the responsibility of naming a representative each from Guyana and Venezuela to work out the technical aspects. Perez immediately agreed to this proposal.

The two presidents moved on to discuss matters relating to Guyana's indebtedness the Venezuelan Investment Fund, the problem of the shortfall in Guyana's bauxite supply to Interalumina, a proposal for Venezuela's assistance in providing small electric power plants to Guyana, and the prospect of establishing air links between the two countries.

On his return from Venezuela, Hoyte, at a press conference on 10 November 1989, said that "the fact that President Perez agreed with the appointment of McIntyre shows the largeness of the man's mind." At the same briefing, Foreign Minister Rashleigh Jackson explained the role of the "Good Officer":

"I think in the first place it is necessary to distinguish between the roles of Arbitrator, Mediator and Good Officer. They are separate and distinct; one is not equivalent to the other. Now, the role of Good Officer is a flexible and fluid one and it is up to him to propose mechanisms, to propose procedures for the parties to whom he is being a Good Officer. This can take the form of asking them what are their views about a solution. It can take the form of his studying the issue and saying, 'I have this idea.' There is no set pattern for the work of a Good Officer. I think that this is one of the factors that recommended this mechanism to the Secretary General to put to the two parties and encouraged the two parties to accept it."

At the UN, Ambassador Insanally conveyed the information on the agreement on McIntyre's appointment to the UN Secretary General Perez de Cuellar who stated that he was taken by surprise by the announcement of the two Presidents since he had not as yet consulted McIntyre.

Hoyte on the issue of joint development

Meanwhile, the issue of joint development continued to be discussed in the Guyanese media. The editor of the Stabroek News, David DeCaires and Hoyte had the following exchange during the latter's meeting with the press on 10 November 1989 to report on his visit to Venezuela.

DeCaires: At one stage joint development was widely mooted as a possibility for solution of the border issue. . . . Is it likely that will be one of the possibilities to be put before the Good Officer by our side in the talks that will ensue?

Hoyte: Well, you know I like to have my terms defined and I'm not sure what joint development means. If it means a kind of condominium, well, certainly that will not be on the cards - you know, some joint exercise of sovereignty over the Essequibo region or some thing of that kind. I don't know whether this concept of joint development means that.

DeCaires: Do I, sir, take your remarks then to imply that joint development that involves some permanent Venezuelan presence on what is now our side of the border is not a matter for discussion or negotiation.

Hoyte: No, what I'm saying depends on what you mean. Suppose Guyana and Venezuela were to establish a joint company for the establishment of a hydro-power facility, certainly, Venezuelan personnel will be there along with Guyanese personnel just as how, let's say, a private American company operating in this country will have . . . . American managers, and so on. So there is nothing unusual or unacceptable in a situation like that. But what I'm saying is that there had been talk many years ago about joint development. I myself wasn't quite clear on what it meant. All I'm saying is that if it means condominium, you know well certainly that couldn't be on the cards. But we have not put any such proposal to the Venezuelans.

DeCaires: Can we rule out absolutely, sir, any possibility of concession of territory?

Hoyte: Well, at this stage I wouldn't want to close any option. I mean we don't know. You see, there have been cases where controversies have been settled, relating to territory, with what is called rectification of borders - you know, there is a swap. So I mean I don't want to take a fundamentalist position which closes any option at all. I think that would be quite wrong and it would send the wrong signals to our Venezuelan neighbours, and if they took such a position it would send the wrong signals to us. So we go into discussions with an open mind and a spirit of goodwill.

Appointment of McIntyre

At the beginning of 1990, Perez de Cuellar announced that after consultation with both Guyana and Venezuela, he had appointed Dr. Alistair McIntyre, regarded as a "friend" of both countries to act on his behalf to find the means of settlement. McIntyre, shortly after, began a series of meetings in Caracas and Georgetown with representatives of the respective governments and subsequently met with the Foreign Affairs Ministers of the two countries in New York in April 1990.

Meanwhile, relations between both Governments continued to rapidly improve, and the media in both countries hardly ever made mention of the border controversy which had whipped up tension during the early 1980s.

Jackson's visit to Venezuela (1990)

On 13-16 June 1990, in response to an invitation from the Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Reinaldo Figueredo Planchart, Guyana's Foreign Minister Rashleigh Jackson visited Venezuela. He held discussions of a political and economic nature with President Perez and also with his Venezuelan counterpart. He also met with representatives of agencies relevant to the functional cooperation between the two countries.

In their discussions, both Ministers expressed satisfaction with consultations held with Dr. Alistair McIntyre. The Ministers also supported the Guri hydro-electric project for the electrical interconnection between the two countries for which a pre-feasibility study was being conducted. They also reiterated their desire to explore the possibility of obtaining finance for the project from sources including the international financial institutions. (During the meeting with President Perez on 13 June, Jackson stated that Guyana and Venezuela would make a joint representation to the IDB within a month's time. In response, Perez stated that he would speak with IDB President Enrique Iglesias about the matter during the week of 18 June).

Figueredo also declared Venezuela's willingness to construct a gymnasium and the School of Medicine in Georgetown, and announced that actions were already in motion to complete the projects within a short time.

Discussions were also held on trade, aviation and fisheries issues, and both Ministers indicated their governments' interest in promoting join actions through the establishment of companies with capital from both countries. In this regard, Venezuelan participation in the firm Guyana Woods Limited was considered as very important.

In addition, the Ministers discussed the importance of the environment and the need to ensure that there was no obstacle to the sustainable development of the resources of both countries. Jackson took the opportunity of explaining the practical steps being taken by Guyana in promoting a programme for the sustainable development of its forest resources.

With respect to hemispheric issues, Jackson viewed in a positive light the aspiration of Venezuela to join Caricom as an observer. And in the context of the recent revision of Article 8 of the OAS Charter, and the ratification of the OAS Protocol of Cartagena, the Ministers agreed that after December 1990, Guyana would be eligible for membership of the hemispheric organisation. (Venezuela had earlier moved to cement the growing friendship with Guyana when it agreed to an amendment to the OAS Charter to allow both Guyana and Belize to become members of the Organisation. The Charter had previously stated that new applicants for membership which had border disputes with other member countries could not be members. Both countries eventually joined the OAS in January 1991).

At the meeting with President Perez, the subject of the Good Officer process was introduced by Figueredo. Perez suggested that there should be a meeting with McIntyre before his (Perez') planned visit to Guyana later in the year, so that he could have a discussion on the border issue with Hoyte. He felt that the process was moving too slowly and emphasised that a formula must be sought so that a solution could be reached soon. In response, Jackson urged Perez to have confidence in the mechanism agreed upon whereby the Foreign Ministers of both countries had been put in charge of the implementation of the Good Officer process.

On Perez' enquiring about the political situation in Guyana in the light of the up-coming elections, Jackson assured him that elections would not be held before his visit to Guyana and expressed confidence that despite economic difficulties in the country, the PNC would be victorious.

Visit by Perez to Guyana

In mid-June 1990, the Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Reinaldo Figueredo Planchart, visited Guyana and held discussions with Jackson and also with President Hoyte. He also took the opportunity during his two-day visit to finalise the plans for the visit of President Perez to Guyana.

President Perez arrived in Guyana for a two-day state visit on 16 August 1990 and he was accompanied by a high level delegation that included the Foreign Minister and the Minister of Works, Luis Penzini Fleury. At a state dinner held on the evening of his arrival, he was decorated with Guyana's highest national award, the Order of Excellence. In return, Perez decorated Hoyte with one of Venezuela's highest national awards, the Collar of the Order of the Liberator.

In their discussions, the two Presidents expressed their satisfaction with the evolution of events since the appointment of McIntyre to perform the function of "Good Officer". They acknowledged that McIntyre was performing the function in a good political climate, which was in part facilitated by the varied programmes of cooperation between the two neighbours.

They also agreed that cooperation between the Guyanese and Venezuelan private sectors should be further encouraged, and decided to establish a working group to examine the possibility of setting up joint ventures. With respect to trade, they felt that a trade agreement which was being negotiated could significantly facilitate the expansion of commerce between both countries.

There was concurrence on a number of economic cooperation issues and these were announced in a join statement issued at the end of the visit on 17 August.

With regard to the proposed link between the Guri electricity network of Venezuela and the Guyana electricity system, the Presidents noted that technical work on the pre-feasibility study had been completed and that preliminary discussions with the IDB regarding financing were initiated.

In examining cooperation between their countries in the field of health, the Presidents were satisfied that the joint efforts of their two countries to eradicate malaria were proving successful and looked forward to expanded cooperation in this area.

With regard to the contracts between BIDCO and Interalumina, there was a renewed commitment on both sides to further strengthen the existing relationship between the two enterprises, and to fully honour all the commitments contained in the existing contractual arrangement.

The two Presidents also reviewed the question of the supply of petroleum products to Guyana by Venezuela and accepted that as a result of Venezuela's commitment to OPEC it would not be possible to reduce the impact of probable price increases related to such supply to Guyana. They however agreed that some alleviation of the negative effects of price increase could be facilitated by exercising as much flexibility as possible by Venezuela on the question of term and conditions of payment.

Among other matters discussed was the implementation of a programme of cooperation in fishing and fish processing including fisheries research and the exploitation of the aquaculture, land and marine resources.

In addition, they acknowledged the importance of preserving the environment but at the same time agreed that the rational exploitation of natural resources is essential for the development of both nations and committed themselves to the putting in place of programmes of sustainable development as well as joint ventures in the area of wood production.

1 August 2008