The Trail Of Diplomacy

A Documentary History of the Guyana-Venezuela Border Issue
by Odeen Ishmael
© Copyright 1998


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With the Protocol of Port of Spain having been terminated, the Venezuelan Government officially proposed to Guyana that direct negotiations should now begin between both Governments. The proposal was set out in a letter from the Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Zambrano, to Rashleigh Jackson, his Guyanese counterpart on 1 July 1982. The letter stated:

Your Excellency:
I have the honour to address you on the occasion of referring to the expiration on June 18th of the period of twelve years provided for the application of the Protocol of Port of Spain. In conformity with the provisions of the Protocol itself, the application of the Geneva Agreement is consequently resumed and more particularly the procedure stipulated in Article IV of the said Agreement.

In conformity with the procedural system provided for in the Agreement, the Governments of the Republic of Venezuela and the Co-operative Republic of Guyana should now proceed to choose one of the means of peaceful settlement of disputes provided for in Article 33 of the Charter of the United Nations.

The Government of the Republic of Venezuela formally proposes for the consideration of the Government of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana the adoption of the first means of settlement of conflicts provided for in the said Article 33, namely, direct negotiations between the parties.

I await your kind response and avail myself of this opportunity to renew to you the assurances of my highest consideration. . .


Despite this letter from the Venezuelan Foreign Minister, forces close to the Venezuelan Government continued to beat the war-drums. On 17 July 1982, the Commander of the Venezuelan Navy, Vice-Admiral Rafael Bertorelli, speaking at a news conference in Caracas, stated that Venezuela was not discarding the use of military force as a means of settling the territorial issue. He announced a long list of military hardware which was on order by the Venezuelan navy. They included the planned purchase of four 4000-ton transport ships (valued at US$20 million each) which could be used for amphibious landings, and six Italian frigates each costing US$50 million and capable of carrying missiles and torpedoes. In referring to the border issue, he said, "Venezuela will exhaust all efforts in search of a peaceful solution of the border dispute, but that does not mean it rules out the use of the military road."

Further revelations on the arms build-up by Venezuela were made by El Diario de Caracas on 20 July. The paper revealed that Venezuela's Defence Minister, General Luis Navaez Churion, had confirmed that Venezuela was seeking to buy 25 multiple missile systems from Israel.

With the alarm being spread that the planned military build-up by Venezuela was aimed against Guyana, the British High Commissioner in Trinidad and Tobago, Michael Cooke, in responding to questions on the border issue advanced by members of the South Trinidad Chamber of Industry and Commerce on 20 July, stated:

"Britain has a residual and moral obligation to assist Guyana in the event that her sovereignty is invaded by another country. . . While Britain has the residual obligation to assist, it cannot adjudicate or act on behalf of Guyana unless invited to do so. . ."


At the beginning of August 1982, President Campins began a series of visits to a number of Latin American and Caribbean countries with the aim of explaining his country's position on the border issue and, according to a Financial Times report on 3 August, to whip up support for the Venezuelan view. The report said that the trips to Nicaragua, Jamaica, Colombia and the Dominican Republic formed part of "a vigorous diplomatic offensive" by Venezuela to promote its claim.

In Jamaica, Campins met with Prime Minister Edward Seaga, and the two leaders expressed the hope that a practical and peaceful solution could be found to the territorial issue. The President also met with the Leader of the People's National Party (PNP) and Opposition Leader, Michael Manley, who took the opportunity to reiterate his party's support for Guyana on the issue. In a statement on 6 August, Manley insisted that any settlement must be fashioned with respect for the concept of territorial integrity.

Meanwhile, in Caracas, 68 persons were sworn in as members of the "Essequibo Committee" that would advise the Venezuelan Government on matters relating to the border issue. Members of the Committee, which comprised representatives of the nation's political parties and several high-ranking military persons, also included Foreign Minister, José Zambrano Velasco and seven former Foreign Ministers. They included Iribarren Borges who signed the 1966 Geneva Agreement, and Aristides Calvani who signed the 1970 Protocol of Port of Spain. Another member was Walter Brandt, a former Ambassador to Guyana.


The August 1982 issue of the Caribbean Contact, in a front-page comment on the territorial claims to Belize and Guyana by Guatemala and Venezuela, respectively, stated categorically that no Caricom state should take any neutral stand on these issues. The paper stated:

We sense that while Caricom Governments have been clear in their support of Belize in rejecting Guatemala's claim to her entire 8,886 square miles of territory, some of them have not been forthright and unequivocal when it comes to backing Guyana in resisting Venezuela's claim to five-eights of Guyana's 83,000 square miles of territory.

We do not wish to cast doubts on the sincerity of any Caricom Government when it says that it wishes a peaceful solution to the border rows involving the two Caricom members and OAS members, Venezuela and Guatemala. But we do hope that the financial and other forms of assistance they are receiving from Venezuela will in no way compromise Caricom Governments into a neutral position on the Guyana-Venezuela dispute. Like the Belizean people, the Guyanese people will be justified in regarding neutrality on the part of any Caricom Government as negative support.

Having greatly contributed to arming Venezuela with F-16 fighters, etc., and not willing to remind either of its strong allies, Guatemala or Venezuela, of the importance in abiding with the decisions of the international tribunals that have ruled on the existing borders between the English-speaking countries and their Spanish-speaking neighbours, the United States cannot honestly plead neutrality on the territorial disputes. In fact, there are reasons for suspicions on where the USA stand on these disputes that are jeopardising the development of Guyana and Belize and also the peace and stability of this region.

We advocate nothing less than unequivocal unanimity by a Caricom Summit, wherever it takes place, in firmly calling on Guatemala and Venezuela to demonstrate respect for the inherited international borders of Belize and Guyana and appreciation for the sovereignty of these two Caricom states. To merely call for a "peaceful resolution" of the territorial disputes and to signal, for whatever reason, and however vaguely, neutrality to either Guatemala or Venezuela, will not be friendly to either of the Caricom partners facing territorial aggression.


A declaration calling for the peaceful resolution of all disputes and respect for the territorial integrity of Latin American and Caribbean nations was signed during the first week in August in Bogota, Colombia, on the occasion of the inauguration of the new Colombian President, Bolisario Betancur. The declaration stressed that prompt and peaceful settlement be sought to the conflicts and controversies in the region. It was signed by a number of heads of states and representatives of various Governments. Among the signatories were President Campins of Venezuela. Guyana's Foreign Minister, Rashleigh Jackson, who represented President Burnham at the inauguration, signed on behalf of the Guyana Government.

Among the dignitaries attending the inauguration ceremony was the US Vice President, George Bush with whom Jackson met and took the opportunity to explain Guyana's stand on the border issue with Venezuela.


On 20 August 1982, the Guyana Government officially responded to the letter of the Venezuelan Foreign Minister of 1 July. A letter to this effect addressed to the Venezuelan Foreign Minister was handed to the Venezuelan Charge d'Affaires in the Venezuelan Embassy in Georgetown, Csisky Rodriguez, by the Guyanese Foreign Minister. It stated:

. . . I have the honour to acknowledge receipt of your letter to me of July 1, 1982 in which you referred to the resumption of operation of the procedure stipulated in Article IV of the Geneva Agreement and advised that the Government of the Republic of Venezuela was now formally proposing for the consideration of the Government of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana the adoption of the first means of peaceful settlement of disputes provided for in Article 33 of the Charter of the United Nations, namely, "direct negotiations between the parties".

Having given the most careful consideration to the proposal of the Government of the Republic of Venezuela for the adoption of negotiation as the means of settlement, the Government of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana finds itself unable to accept the proposal.

The Government of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana accordingly hereby proposes for the consideration of the Government of the Republic of Venezuela the adoption of judicial settlement as the means of settlement to be chosen from among those provided for in Article 33 of the Charter of the United Nations.

The Government of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana strongly urges the desirability of judicial settlement by the International Court of Justice and will be grateful for its acceptance by the Government of the Republic of Venezuela. . .

On the day after the letter was issued, unofficial reports from Caracas claimed that Venezuela was not interested in resolving the issue by judicial settlement. An Inter Press Service (IPS) report on 21 August from the Venezuelan capital quoted Venezuelan Foreign Minister Zambrano as saying that the Guyana proposals did not objectively correspond with the letter and spirit of the Geneva Agreement which, he contended, the two countries selected in 1966 as the "adequate political and judicial framework" for resolving the matter. He was also stated that he found it "incomprehensible" that "such an open invitation as Venezuela's formula for negotiations drew Guyana's proposals for judicial means".

In a comment on the IPS report, Guyana's Foreign Minister, Rashleigh Jackson, according to the Guyana Chronicle of the 26 August, said that he was "surprised and deeply disturbed" by the reactions coming from Venezuelan sources. He noted that "clarity of thought, always an important requirement in the conduct of inter-state relations, is even more necessary at this stage to avoid perpetuating or creating confusion and misunderstanding". He explained that the disposition of the Guyana Government to talk with the Venezuelan Government was demonstrated by the acceptance by President Burnham of an invitation to visit Venezuela in 1981.

Jackson further explained:

"We have consistently maintained a willingness to talk to Venezuela about our relations during the period of the Protocol of Port of Spain. This position of the Government of Guyana has been oft-times repeated by the Comrade President and other spokesmen.

"Indeed this position was confirmed by me to Dr. Zambrano when I met him in May last year during the Conference on Economic Co-operation among Developing Countries (ECDC) in Venezuela which he chaired, as well as to Ambassador Garavini on several occasions up to February 4 this year when specific ideas were discussed with him. My meetings with the Foreign Minister and his Ambassador last year and this year were talks."

It was a firm policy of the Government of Guyana in seeking to develop normal and friendly relations with other States and not to eschew dialogue, Jackson explained. He added that to confuse such a willingness to talk with the exercise in accordance with Article IV of the Geneva Agreement of a specific choice of one of the means of peaceful settlement, provided by Article 33 of the Charter of the United Nations, as absurd. He pointed out: "Negotiations after all is only one of the means specified in that Article."

"Can Dr. Zambrano say whether Guyana is entitled to choose "judicial settlement" under the provisions of the Geneva Agreement? The Government of Venezuela is entitled to propose 'negotiation'. Equally, the Government of Guyana is entitled to propose "judicial settlement" The only thing incomprehensible is Dr. Zambrano's reaction."


On 25 August, the Guyana National Assembly, acting on a resolution passed on 8 July condemning Venezuela's claim to the western Essequibo, nominated a nine-member "all-party" committee to be known as "The Parliamentary Committee on the Territorial Integrity of Guyana". Prime Minister, Dr. Reid, told the Assembly that the nine members were identified after consultation and agreement with the PPP. Five were nominated from the PNC, three from the PPP and one from the UF. The Vice President for the Party and State Relations, Cammie Ramsaroop, was named as Chairman of the Committee. Other PNC nominees were Foreign Minister, Rashleigh Jackson, Energy and Mines Minister, Hubert Jack, P. Fredericks and K.V. Jairam. The PPP members named were Ram Karran, Reepu Daman Persaud and Clinton Collymore. The lone UF nominee was its leader, Marcellus Fielden-Singh.


The official Venezuelan reply to the Guyana proposal was handed to Guyana's Ambassador in Caracas, Rudolph Collins, on the 30 August, by Foreign Minister Zambrano. The letter written to Jackson stated:

I have the honour of referring to your Note of August 20, 1982 by which the Government of Guyana responded to the Note of the Venezuelan Government dated July 2, 1982 (sic).

In its Note the Government of Guyana indicated it could not accept the Venezuelan proposal to choose negotiations as a means of seeking a satisfactory solution for the practical settlement of the outstanding territorial controversy and proposed instead to submit the matter to judicial settlement by the International Court of Justice.

The Government of Venezuela notes that a friendly invitation to negotiate has once again received a response which does not even suggest a willingness to discuss or even to listen. Venezuela therefore considers it necessary to point out that full compliance with the Geneva Agreement is impossible where no consideration is given to negotiation as a means of resolving the substantive question and is of the opinion that the counter proposal of the Government of Guyana represents a step away from the fulfilment of the objective of this Treaty.

The Geneva Agreement, in effect, expressly states that its objective is to examine the existing controversy in respect of the boundary between Venezuela and Guyana (formerly British Guiana) so that the controversy could be resolved in a friendly manner acceptable to both parties. Article I of the Geneva Agreement also defines the objectives which its signatories set themselves as well as the very nature of this international instrument by stipulating that the parties were obliged to seek "satisfactory solution for the practical settlement of the controversy".

From this perspective and with the aim of fulfilling its obligations, Venezuela has maintained from the inception of the work of the Mixed Commission that the solution of the controversy under the terms of the Geneva Agreement must meet two conditions: firstly, it must be of a practical nature, that is, not theoretical, speculative or exclusively juridical and, secondly, it must be acceptable to both parties.

As conceived under the Geneva Agreement, the settlement of the controversy must take account of the principles of equity, natural justice and ethics. Venezuela has therefore consistently maintained a position of willingness to consider any means capable of achieving a practical solution which is acceptable to both parties, in conformity with the provisions of the Geneva Agreement. In this sense, it maintains its readiness to examine not only aspects which are exclusively linked to the territorial controversy per se, but also areas of our total bilateral relations which could contribute to a solution of the problems referred to above.

Before the signing of the Geneva Agreement and even moreso after its signing, we strongly urged negotiation as a means of solution of the present controversy because only by recourse to diplomatic means can a just and practical settlement be achieved which would be acceptable and satisfactory to both parties.

It must therefore be concluded that the means proposed by the Government of Guyana is not suited to the aims and objectives of the Geneva Agreement.

Consequent upon all the above, I therefore wish to reiterate on behalf of the Government of Venezuela the invitation to negotiate on the widest of bases possible in the search for a satisfactory solution for the practical settlement of the controversy. . .


On 1 September, the Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Zambrano, left for Brazil to discuss with senior Brazilian officials his country's position on the claim to western Essequibo. During his two-day visit, he held discussions with Ramiro Seraiva Guerreira, the Brazilian Foreign Minister.

Just before Zambrano's left for his Brazilian visit, according to the Caracas English-language Daily Journal of 2 September, he predicted that a method of solving the issue would have to be selected by the UN Secretary General, Javier Perez de Cuellar. On the other hand, according to the same paper, Rudolph Collins, the Guyana Ambassador to Caracas, told the Latin American Economic System (SELA) convention which was being held in the Venezuelan capital, that since the Geneva Agreement specified a number of measures to find a satisfactory solution, the Venezuelan Government exercised the right to propose negotiations as one of the methods. However, he added, "We, examining the Venezuelan proposal, believe that the best way to resolve the controversy is through the International Court of Justice."

Meanwhile, at the end of his visit to Brazil, Zambrano, according to an Associated Press dispatch on 3 September, accused Guyana of preparing for war while at the same time blaming Venezuela for using aggression. On the same day, in another Associated Press report from Caracas, former Venezuelan President, Rafael Caldera-by then a declared candidate of COPEI for the December 1983 Presidential election-insisted that it would be a tragic error if Venezuela used military force to settle the territorial issue unless there were significant changes in international conditions.


Early in September 1982, Guyana's Permanent Representative at the UN, Noel Sinclair, held talks with the UN Secretary General on the border issue. Shortly after, on the 6 September, the Venezuelan Foreign Minister who was on a visit to the USA, also held discussions with the Secretary General to update him on the Venezuelan position. Zambrano told the Secretary General that negotiation must be entered into as a first step to the resolution of the crisis, and claimed that the "letter and spirit of the Geneva Agreement" insisted upon this.


Meanwhile, in the border region itself a number of provocative incidents occurred between 3 and 5 September. On 3 September, a Venezuelan helicopter, manned by military personnel, approached Guyanese territory from a westerly direction and attempted to land at the Baramita airstrip in the North West District. Guyanese soldiers fired a warning burst of several rounds and the helicopter was forced to fly away.

According to the Guyana Foreign Affairs Ministry, the helicopter attempted to land at two other places in Guyanese territory but was prevented from doing so. On the afternoon of 5 September, Venezuelan soldiers dressed in camouflage uniforms attempted to land at a military observation post on Guyanese territory near Eteringbang, but after warning shots were fired by the Guyanese soldiers, the Venezuelans withdrew.

A Note of Protest about these incidents was on 7 September handed by the Guyana Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Venezuelan Ambassador, Dr. Sadio Garavini.

On the same day the Guyana protest was lodged, the acting Director of the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry, Francisco Paproni, admitted that a Venezuelan helicopter overflew Guyanese territory. Paproni stated (according to the Guyana Chronicle of 14 September) that "a civilian helicopter was transporting a sick national guard" and that "experts in aviation affirm that from Boniche, the point where the helicopter took off, aircraft are obliged to overfly the Essequibo on account of the wind direction."

However, on 8 September, the Venezuelan acting Foreign Minister, Garcia Bustillos, denied that any of the incidents mentioned in the protest occurred. He claimed (as also reported in the Guyana Chronicle of the 14 September) that "the people of Venezuela must know that there has been for a long time an orchestrated campaign to present us as the aggressor country."


On 13 September, the nine-member Parliamentary Committee on the Territorial Integrity of Guyana held its first meeting when it discussed the diplomatic advances made by Guyana.

On 18 September, three months after the ending of the Protocol of Port of Spain, no mutual agreement on solving the issue was arrived at by Guyana and Venezuela. As a result, both countries were now expected to refer the decision as to the means of settlement to an appropriate international organ upon which they should both agree. If an agreement was not reached on which appropriate international organ the question should be referred to, then the Secretary General of the United Nations, according to the terms of the Geneva Agreement, would eventually be requested by both parties to choose a method of peaceful settlement, as stated in Article 33 of the Charter of the United Nations, i.e., judicial, negotiation, fact-finding, inquiry, arbitration, mediation, conciliation, or resort to regional agencies or UN bodies.

Just the day before, Guyana's Permanent Representative at the UN, Noel Sinclair, had declared that his country would place no restrictions on the Secretary General or specify a time limit for his efforts.


On 19 September 1982, the Guyana Government officially responded to the Venezuelan letter of 30 August which rejected Guyana's proposal for judicial settlement. The response was in the form of a letter from the Guyanese Foreign Minister to his Venezuelan counterpart. It stated:

. . . I have the honour to acknowledge receipt of your letter to me of August 30, 1982, in response to mine of August 20, 1982, in which pursuant to Article IV of the Geneva Agreement, the Government of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana proposed "for the consideration of the Government of the Republic of Venezuela the adoption of judicial settlement as the means of settlement to be chosen among those provided for in Article 33 of the Charter of the United Nations".

The Government of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana has noted with care the arguments advanced by the Government of the Republic of Venezuela for reiterating its preference for negotiation as the means of peaceful settlement of the controversy which, as stated on the Geneva Agreement, "has arisen as the result of the Venezuelan contention that the arbitral award of 1899 about the frontier between British Guiana and Venezuela is null and void". The Government of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana has not, however, been persuaded to accept the correctness of those arguments or the conclusions in which they issue to the effect "that the means proposed by the Co-operative Republic is not suited to the aims and objectives of the Geneva Agreement" and "represents a step away from the fulfilment of the objectives of this treaty".

The Government of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana is disappointed with so summary, peremptory and seemingly irrevocable a dismissal of one of the means of peaceful settlement contemplated by Article IV of the Geneva Agreement through its clear requirement for a selection to be made of one of the means of peaceful settlement provided for in Article 33 of the Charter of the United Nations, which explicitly include both negotiation and judicial settlement. The Government of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana expects the Government of the Republic of Venezuela to respect the right of the Government of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana to propose judicial settlement and to reiterate that proposal.

As your letter of August 20 demonstrates no evidence of recognition of that right, the Government of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana earnestly requests the Government of the Republic of Venezuela to reconsider the former's proposal for judicial settlement as both properly made under Article IV of the Geneva Agreement and well adapted to deal with the controversy in an independent, impartial and objective manner.

The Government of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana finds incomprehensible the surprising attempt by the Government of the Republic of Venezuela to portray the fact that the former has proposed judicial settlement by the International Court of Justice (as it was unquestionably entitled to do under the Geneva Agreement) as evidence of unwillingness "to discuss or at least to listen".

Altogether, apart from the Geneva Agreement, the Government of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana is and always has been willing to engage in dialogue with the Government of the Republic of Venezuela on all matters of mutual interest. The Government of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana will therefore be willing to embark with the Government of the Republic of Venezuela on diplomatic discussions on all matters of relevance to the promotion of understanding, co-operation and peace between our two neighbouring countries.

The Government of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana however considers that any such diplomatic discussions must be a separate and distinct matter from the present question, which, as was formally raised in your letter to me on July 1, 1982 (not July 2, 1982, as mentioned in your letter of August 30) is limited to the selection of one of the means of peaceful settlement provided for under Article 33 of the Charter of the United Nations.


On the same day, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Zambrano wrote to Jackson stating that since the three-month period had elapsed during which the two sides could not reach agreement on the method of peaceful settlement that should be applied, the Venezuelan Government intended to refer the issue to the UN Secretary General and suggested that Guyana should do the same. The letter stated:

. . . Because of the three-month lapse foreseen in Article IV (2) of the Geneva Agreement, has passed without having been possible to agree upon one of the means of peaceful solution of controversies foreseen in Article 33 of the United Nations Charter, it becomes necessary to apply the other provisions of the said paragraph.

The Government of Venezuela has arrived at the conviction that the international organ most appropriate to choose a means of settlement, is the Secretary General of the United Nations, who accepted this responsibility by note of April 4, 1966, signed by U Thant, and whose actuation was clearly conveyed by the parties in the said text of the Geneva Agreement.

In consequence, the Government of Venezuela has proposed to take the matter to the attention of the Secretary General and would see with pleasure that the Government of Guyana make on its part, a similar gesture. . .


On 20 September, at a press conference to discuss the agenda of the UN General Assembly which was expected to convene on the following day, the Secretary General of the UN, Javier Perez de Cuellar, stated that he was ready to use all the resources at his disposal to settle the Guyana-Venezuela controversy. He said that the problem of the two countries provided an opportunity for both the Secretary General and the Security Council to assist the countries in overcoming their differences. He added that he was in contact with both Governments to consider the ways of preventing a conflict and noted "a genuine desire on both sides to find a just and peaceful solution".

The Venezuelan Foreign Minister on 28 September, in an address to the UN General Assembly, characterised the 1899 Award as an "extraordinary farce from a so-called court arbitration without Venezuelan judges and lawyers". He maintained that Venezuelan claims were not based on territorial ambitions or the covetousness for the riches of others, but on the necessity of correcting a historical error perpetrated against it.

In an immediate response, Guyana's Permanent Representative to the UN, Ambassador Noel Sinclair, told reporters that the absence of Venezuelan judges or lawyers on the part came about because Venezuela decided to have its interests represented by US jurists since it was confident that those jurists would represent Venezuela's interests well. Sinclair said that he would reply with a Note to the Venezuelan Foreign Minister to correct the latter's misrepresentations.

Sinclair himself on 5 October addressed the General Assembly on behalf of Guyana and rebutted the Venezuelan Foreign Minister's allegations concerning the border issue. He accused Zambrano of giving an account "full of lies" to the General Assembly. He added:

"It is untrue that Venezuela has never used aggression outside its border. Venezuela forcefully took over the Guyanese side of Ankoko Island soon after the Geneva Agreement was signed in 1966. . . Guyana does not judge the peaceful intentions of Venezuela by what it says. The Venezuela that we know is the one which, with its armed forces, repeatedly violates the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Guyana. . .

"Venezuela has repeatedly used economic pressure to prevent companies and banks from dealing with Guyana."

In relation to the Arbitral Award of 1899, Sinclair stated:

"Venezuela agreed freely to the 1899 Arbitration, promised to follow what was decided, and then signed the decision when the result was known. This was the border accepted by Venezuela for over half a century, until reaffirming its claim in the 1960s. It takes little imagination to realise why Venezuela does not want the dispute to be arbitrated. . .

"Guyana rejects any imputation that it does not want to negotiate. Guyana followed the Geneva accord as closely as Venezuela when it suggested that the two countries (Guyana and Venezuela) submit the dispute to arbitration, instead of having direct negotiation. "


On 30 September, President Burnham of Guyana began a six-day visit to Brazil where he explained the position of his Government on the border issue to Brazilian officials. While in Rio de Janeiro, he denounced Venezuela as "expansionist" and announced that Guyana would purchase military equipment from Brazil. He also pointed out that while Guyana had no military agreements with Britain, "if there is to be an armed confrontation . . . anyone who is prepared to help us . . . we would accept". However, he hoped for a peaceful solution to the controversy.

On 5 October, the last day of his visit, Burnham, in commenting on Venezuela's application made the week before to join the Non-Aligned Movement, insisted that Venezuela's application for full membership should be opposed. He explained that Venezuela's action in voting in the UN General Assembly in 1981 against the resolution on the non-interference of countries in the internal affairs of other countries should cause its application to be rejected. Burnham noted that Venezuela was the only Third World country that voted against the non-interference resolution.


In a reply on 8 October to Zambrano's letter of 19 September, the acting Foreign Minister of Guyana, Dr. Mohamed Shahabuddeen, noted that the currently applicable provisions of Article IV (2) of the Geneva Agreement provided that the Governments of Guyana and Venezuela should refer the decision as to the means of settlement to an appropriate international organ upon which they both agreed, or failing agreement on this point, to the Secretary General of the UN.

The letter stated that while Guyana held the highest respect for the UN Secretary General, it would however be concerned to invite the Secretary General to assume the role envisaged for him at the proper stage "so as to ensure that he is unembarrassed by any reasonable doubt as to whether he is competent to act under the Geneva Agreement".

The UN Secretary General, the letter continued, would be competent to act "in circumstances in which the two Governments have failed to agree on an appropriate international organ under the first alternative, an event which has not yet occurred." It was pointed out further that the two Governments had not yet embarked on any steps to reach agreement on an international organ as contemplated in the first alternative. For these reasons Guyana was of the view that the proposal of Venezuela at this stage was "premature and inadmissible."

The letter concluded that Guyana was ready to endeavour to reach agreement with Venezuela on an international organ, as stipulated by the Geneva Agreement and, as such, was suggesting that an appropriate organ would be the UN General Assembly.


The Foreign Ministers of Non-Aligned countries met in New York on 9 October to discuss a number of matters including that of Venezuela's application to become a full member of the Non-Aligned Movement. At that meeting, Guyana, through Foreign Minister Jackson, expressed its objection to the application and explained that it non-support arose from some of the fundamental principles of the Non-Aligned Movement. Jackson listed some of these principles to which Guyana was attaching such importance as: (1) the use or threat of force for the achievement of political objectives; (2) non-interference in the internal affairs of states; (3) the sanctity of treaties; (4) territorial integrity; (5) the inviolability or legally established frontiers; and (6) the right of all states, especially developing ones, to secure their economic and social development.

Jackson also drew the meeting's attention to Venezuela's claim to 70 percent of Guyana's territory and the accompanying aggression through its occupation of Guyana's half of Ankoko Island in 1966; the Leoni Decree of 1968 which purported to annex waters of the coast of Essequibo; and the opposition to the building and World Bank financing of the Mazaruni Hydro-Project. He pointed out that such actions were inconsistent with the principles of the Non-Aligned Movement and the efforts initiated from the beginning to create conditions which would promote rather than hinder the economic development of member nations.

Attention was also drawn to the fact that Venezuela was the only Third World country which in 1981 in the UN General Assembly voted against the Declaration which opposed the intervention and interference in the affairs of states. The Foreign Minister explained:

"This action by Venezuela caused deep concern in Guyana and must have disappointed many members of this Movement. It was surely a matter of (great) significance to each one of us that Venezuela has chosen in the public forum of the General Assembly to stand aside from what was a clear and specific instruction from her head since they recognised the real threat and danger to small countries."

He added that Venezuela's reservation of some of the provisions of the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea was possibly based on its maritime ambitions to the waters of the Essequibo area of Guyana. He concluded:

"We desire nothing but peace and friendship with Venezuela but in seeking to achieve these ends, the need to be consistent with the principles of the Movement and to promote the security and the development of our country must ever be present. . .

"I repeat . . . that Guyana remains willing to reach an accommodation with Venezuela on outstanding matters. However, . . . it would be difficult for us to set aside our reservations at this stage though we feel confident that with goodwill on all sides, this can in time be achieved."

Venezuela's application which was considered in detail by the Foreign Ministers was eventually referred to the Non-Aligned Summit to be held in New Delhi during March 1983, for a final decision to be made.

At the end of the meeting, the Venezuelan Foreign Minister accused Guyana of trying to blackmail his country by setting conditions for Venezuela's acceptance as a full member of the Non-Aligned Movement. Guyana later rejected this accusation.

Two days later, on 11 October, in an address to the UN General Assembly, Jackson stated that the Venezuelan claim to the western Essequibo was an unjustified attempt to quench a thirst for land and mineral resources. In an extensive speech in which he dedicated a great part on the history of the border controversy, he refuted arguments presented earlier to the General Assembly by his Venezuelan counterpart.

He said that Zambrano's presentation contained exaggerated distortions while at the same time being biased and selective in outlining the history of the issue. Jackson also proposed three alternatives, the International Court of Justice, the UN General Assembly and the UN Security Council, any of which could choose the means of peaceful solution of the issue. However, he added, Guyana was choosing the General Assembly.


In Caracas, the Venezuelan National Advisory Commission on the Essequibo met on 12 October to consider the latest development related to the border issue. The meeting also discussed the country's failure to gain full membership of the Non-Aligned Movement. The view was expressed that failure to obtain full membership of the Movement during the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Non-Aligned Movement was a humiliating defeat spearheaded by Guyana.

On the following day, José Vincente Rangel of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), one of the candidates for the 1983 Presidential elections, contended that Venezuela was "isolated and without allies." He was quoted by IPS as saying that Colombia and Brazil "are not with us" and that English-speaking Caribbean countries were backing Guyana.


On 15 October 1982, Zambrano wrote to Jackson, thus:

. . . I have the honour of addressing Your Excellency on the occasion of referring to your Note of October 8, 1982, as well as the propositions you have formulated in your speech of October 11, 1982 at the General Assembly of the United Nations Organisation of which we did not have any knowledge through the ordinary diplomatic channel. With this Note the Government of Venezuela reiterates its aspiration of maintaining the communication between the parties, for the treatment of this matter, at the level of bilateral relations.

As manifested to Your Excellency in my Note dated September 19, 1982, the Government of Venezuela has arrived at the conviction that, for the fulfilment of what is foreseen in Article IV (2) of the Geneva Agreement, the most appropriate organ is the Secretary General of the United Nations Organisation.

The Government of Venezuela has taken note of the position of the Government of Guyana in that which is expressed in your communication of October 8, 1982, as well as in the proposition contained in your speech before the General Assembly.

Your Excellency has proposed three alternatives for the selection of an appropriate international organ which will choose one of the means of peaceful solution of controversies, as foreseen in Article IV (2) of the Geneva Agreement, and which would be, according to your proposition, the International Court of Justice, the General Assembly or the Security Council of the United Nations Organisation.

After having analysed carefully these alternatives, the Government of Venezuela reiterates its conviction that what is most practical and appropriate is to entrust the choice of the means directly to the Secretary General of the United Nations Organisation.

As it is evident that agreement between the parties for the selection of an international organ for the fulfilment of the function foreseen in Article IV (2) does not exist, it is obvious that the same remains entrusted to the Secretary General of the United Nations Organisation. . .


In a statement made in New York on 20 October, Guyana's Foreign Minister called on the US Government to end its stance of neutrality on the border issue. He said that there was no reason for the US to be neutral since there were clear-cut treaties that brought a solution to the border question, and, as such, the US had no alternative but to support the Guyana position. However, a US State Department spokesman told the Foreign Press Corps that the US Government would take an "even-handed" approach to the issue and would not involve itself heavily in seeking a peaceful solution to the problem.

Meanwhile, at the UN General Assembly, a number of Caribbean countries raised the border issue in their presentations and expressed open support for Guyana, while at the same time, calling for a peaceful solution to the issue. These countries included The Bahamas which was represented by its Minister of Foreign Affairs, Paul Adderly, and Grenada which was represented by its Foreign Minister, Unison Whitman.

Strangely, the Saint Lucia Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, John Compton, refrained from expressing support for Guyana, and while speaking of the "competing claims" of Guyana and Venezuela, urged that the two countries should continue on a course of conciliation.

Commenting on Guyana's objection to Venezuela's application to be a full member of the Non-Aligned Movement, Jackson on 27 October pointed out that before Guyana could give favourable consideration to the application, Venezuela should make a general statement renouncing the use of force for the achievement of political objectives, its support of non-interference in the internal affairs of states, the sanctity of treaties, territorial integrity, the inviolability of legally established frontiers and the rights of all states, especially developing states, to pursue in an unimpeded and unencumbered manner, their economic and social development.


The meeting of Caricom Heads of Governments held on the 16-18 November in Ocho Rios, Jamaica, discussed the Guyana-Venezuela border issue as part of its agenda, and at the end of the meeting, a communiqué declared support for the territorial integrity of Guyana. It stated further:

". . . The conference discussed developments in the relations between Guyana and Venezuela in the light of the controversy which had arisen as a result of the Venezuelan contention that the 1899 Arbitral Award, on the basis of which the boundary between Guyana and Venezuela was settled, was null and void.

"Recalling its concern for the sanctity of treaties and for defined and demarcated boundaries, the conference noted the grave effect that this controversy is having on the relations between Caricom states and Venezuela and took note of the unqualified undertaking given by the Venezuelan Government to eschew the use of force as a means of settling the controversy.

"The conference also called upon Venezuela to desist from further action likely to affect the economic development of Guyana.

"The conference urged Guyana and Venezuela to continue the pursuit of a peaceful settlement of the controversy in accordance with the terms of the Geneva Agreement of 1966 so as to arrive at a final decision as promptly as possible. . . "


At the very period of the Caricom Summit, the Venezuelan Government launched a diplomatic offensive in a number of member countries of the Non-Aligned Movement in its bid to be admitted as a full member of the organisation.

In an interesting development during December, it was announced by the Guyana Government that Venezuela might purchase Guyana's bauxite which was under great strain to find viable markets. Since that announcement, there was a noted halt on attacks by Guyana Government spokesmen on Venezuela concerning the border issue. Of significance was the fact that President Burnham's New Year speech to the Guyanese nation on the 1 January 1983 mentioned absolutely nothing of the issue.

On the 18 January 1983, the Coordinating Bureau of the Foreign Ministers of the Non-Aligned Movement met in Managua, Nicaragua. There the Foreign Minister of Nicaragua urged both Guyana and Venezuela to settle the border issue by peaceful means. The final communiqué of the meeting also called on both countries to reach a settlement in keeping with the 1966 Geneva Agreement.


At another meeting of the Bureau in New York on the 15 February 1983, Venezuela decided to defer its application for full membership for the time being as Guyana had not indicated its willingness to withdraw its opposition to it. Subsequently, the Venezuelan Foreign Minister wrote a letter to the Permanent Representative of Cuba to the UN-the Chairman of the Bureau-conveying Venezuela's decision to request suspension of consideration of its membership application. The letter accused Guyana of exercising "a sort of veto" to keep out Venezuela from the Non-Aligned Movement. It also claimed that the Movement never expressed support for Guyana's position on the border issue.

The Guyana Foreign Ministry on the 26 February 1983 rejected the "several false and scurrilous accusations" against Guyana contained in the letter, and stated that these were part and parcel of the ill-conceived propaganda techniques of the Venezuelan Government. Venezuela's claim that Guyana received no support from the Movement was dismissed as "arrant nonsense."

Commenting on Venezuela's withdrawal of its application, President Burnham in his address on the 23 February 1983 to mark the 13th anniversary of Guyana's attainment of republican status, pointed out that Guyana had no veto in the Non-Aligned Movement, as Venezuela wanted others to believe. Explaining the position, he declared:

". . . We merely tried to have Venezuela declare her adherence to certain principles of the Movement, namely, non-use of force in the furtherance or support of territorial claims, the employment of peaceful means in settling disputes and abjuring economic aggression and, therefore, the withdrawal of the objection to our Upper Mazaruni complex lodged with the President of the World Bank. . .

"The Venezuelan Government must know why the application was really suspended. The reason given publicly is obviously spurious. . ."

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During late February 1983 when Guyana was celebrating its republic anniversary, fourteen Caribbean Heads of Governments, meeting in Saint Lucia, expressed support for Guyana on the border issue and called for a peaceful solution of the affair. Guyana was not represented at the meeting.

The border issue was again raised at the Non-Aligned Summit which convened in New Delhi, India, on the 7 March 1983. The outgoing Chairman of the Movement, Dr. Fidel Castro of Cuba, in a major opening address called upon Guyana and Venezuela to settle the matter peacefully.

Grenada's Prime Minister, Maurice Bishop, also reaffirmed his country's support for Guyana. Addressing a plenary session of the Summit, Bishop said that Grenada always added its voice to those who were calling for a peaceful settlement of the territorial issue, but "with a clear understanding that the territorial integrity of Guyana will be fully maintained". On the following day at a press briefing, he reiterated:

. . .We believe that the 1899 Arbitral Award was a valid Award. We believe that it was legally made and, therefore, in our view, the question of territorial claim being made against Guyanese territory does not really arise. . . We continue to believe that all Guyanese are entitled to all of their territory. . .

On the 9 March, President Burnham, in addressing the plenary session, noted that the Movement had spoken out on the matter of the Venezuelan claim and that its members had called for a just and peaceful settlement of the controversy, in accordance with the principles dear to the people of Guyana -- principles such as the non-use of or the threat of force. He added:

I wish to express my personal appreciation . . . for the principled position taken by this Movement on this matter which is of such crucial importance to my country and which has significant regional and hemispheric implications. . .

Let me avail myself to this opportunity to say to this Movement that Guyana has no other desire than that of friendly relations with Venezuela. But those relations must be on the basis of sovereign equality and mutual respect.

I reiterate here today what I said to President Luis Herrera Campins in Caracas on April 3, 1981 despite all that has happened, Guyana remains ready and willing to have bilateral discussions with Venezuela on the improvement of our relations. . .

In the final communique released on the 12 March at the end of the six-day conference, the leaders of the Non-Aligned Movement referred to "the claim which Venezuela is advancing to more than two-thirds of the territory of Guyana". The communique called for a peaceful settlement and insisted that it should be based on those principles "relating to the inadmissibility of the threat or use of force in the settling of disputes, and respect for independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity." It also stated that the matter should be settled "in strict compliance with the Geneva Agreement of 1966".


On the 27 March 1983, the president of the Foreign Relations Commission in Venezuela, Jose Rodriguez, stated that he did not envisage a solution to the border issue within the next two years. He also claimed that there was not any proper coordination between his Commission and the Border Commission which was made up of representatives of a large section of the Venezuelan society.

On the 28 March 1983, the Guyana Government stated that it would be referring the matter to the Secretary General of the UN who would decide on the means of settlement. The statement declared that Guyana "has every confidence in the impartiality and integrity of the Secretary General of the UN and will cooperate full with him in the execution of his task as envisaged in the Geneva Agreement".

The statement which was issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the decision was taken because the Guyana Government was of the view that Venezuela never intended in good faith to endeavour to reach agreement on the choice of the means of a solution. The statement further explained that following the lapse of the Protocol of Port of Spain in June 1982, the countries had three months to choose the means of settlement of the issue. However, this proved impossible since Venezuela proposed negotiation while Guyana opted for a judicial settlement. The second stage required both Governments to agree on an appropriate international organ to assist in the solution. Guyana proposed three alternatives -- the International Court of Justice, the UN General Assembly or the UN Security Council.

The statement continued:

Venezuela, for her part, sought to bypass this second stage. On September 19, 1982, Foreign Minister Zambrano stated his Government's preference for the immediate involvement of the Secretary General of the UN, and on October 15, 1982 she repeated her preference after a summary dismissal of the proposals which Guyana made at the United Nations on October 11, 1982.

At the same time the statement was issued, Foreign Minister Jackson dispatched a letter to his Venezuelan counterpart in which he drew attention to the Venezuelan action of bypassing the second stage as a "breach of the Geneva Agreement". It explained:

. . . On the basis that the Government of the Republic of Venezuela is unwilling seriously to endeavour to reach agreement on any appropriate international organ whatsoever to choose the means of settlement, the Government of Guyana is ineluctably constrained to the view that, in the circumstances, the Government of the Republic of Venezuela never intended in good faith to endeavour to reach agreement with the Government of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana on an international organ before the matter is referred to the Secretary General as required by Article IV (2) of the Geneva Agreement, and has utterly failed to discharge its solemn treaty obligations in these respects.

Towards the end of April 1983, Venezuela's Foreign Minister Zambrano visited Moscow for official discussions with the Soviet Government. At the end of his five-day visit on the 29 April, he asked the USSR for permission to seek information in its archives about the 1899 Award.


Support for Guyana received a further boost when the CARICOM Standing Committee of Ministers responsible for Foreign Affairs, which met in Antigua on the 2-3 June, released the following communique:

The Standing Committee reviewed recent developments in the controversy between Guyana and Venezuela which had arisen as a result of the Venezuelan contention that the Arbitral Award of 1899 about the frontier between Guyana and Venezuela was null and void. The Foreign Ministers noted that on the expiry of the Protocol of Port of Spain on June 18, 1982, the provisions of the Geneva Agreement of 1966 had once more come into force.

The Committee noted that the two Governments had referred the choice of a means of settlement of the controversy to the Secretary General of the United Nations in accordance with Article IV (2) of that Agreement. The Foreign Ministers expressed their satisfaction that the Governments of Guyana and Venezuela have followed the procedures laid down in the Geneva Agreement.

In reiterating its well-known stand on the sanctity of treaties and on the need for respect for well-defined and demarcated boundaries, the Standing Committee urged the parties to act fully in accordance with the Geneva Agreement in order to achieve a peaceful and just settlement of the controversy on the basis of internationally recognised principles, especially those relating to the inadmissibility of the threat or the use of force in the settlement of disputes and respect for independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Recognising the cardinal importance to Guyana of the full and free utilisation of all her resources, the Standing Committee called on Venezuela to desist from further action or threats of action likely to adversely affect the economic development of Guyana.


At a Latin American and Caribbean conference on the planning of Broadcasting Satellite Service which began in Geneva on the 13 June 1983, Venezuela once again showed that it had not relaxed its efforts to take control of the western Essequibo.

The conference required member countries to submit their latitude and longitude coordinates for broadcasting and satellite services. Such coordinates must be placed in the national territories of the countries concerned except by agreement between member countries.

Venezuela, without consulting Guyana, submitted coordinates, two of which were placed well within Guyanese territory. One point was placed at Aurora on the Essequibo coast while the other was placed in the south of Guyana close to the Brazilian border.

As a consequence of this action by Venezuela, Guyana decided to augment the technical delegation to the conference by sending Dr. B. Scotland, the Legal Adviser in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Geneva conference. At the conference, the Guyana delegation arranged to meet with the Venezuelan representatives in an effort to have this matter of the coordinates quickly and quietly settled. Guyana also required the withdrawal of the coordinates from its territory.

However, Venezuela refused to withdraw the coordinates in question and insisted that in placing coordinates in what Venezuela termed the "area under claim", it was merely planning for the future, and that its action had no implications for the question of sovereignty. The Geneva Agreement, the Venezuelan delegation claimed, had not been violated by such action.

In reply the Guyanese delegation explained that the existence of the Venezuelan claim to the western Essequibo did not confer on Venezuela the rights to sovereignty over the Essequibo and certainly did not allow it to act as though Essequibo was part of its national territory.

After several inconclusive meetings, the Guyanese representatives considered it necessary to formally draw to the attention of the conference authorities the violation of Guyana's sovereignty involved in the placing of the two Venezuelan coordinates. Accordingly, the Chairman of the International Frequency Registration Board was notified by letter that the placing of the two coordinates in question was not in accordance with radio regulations; that they had not been placed by agreement with Guyana; and that Guyana objected to the placing of these two coordinates on its territory.

It was only after this step was taken that, at the fourth informal bilateral meeting between the Guyanese and Venezuelan delegations, the Venezuelan representatives agreed to withdraw the offending coordinates unconditionally. They subsequently submitted modified coordinates which the Guyana representatives examined and with which they had no complaint since their positioning did not place them on any part of Guyanese territory.


PPP Leader Dr. Cheddi Jagan visited Venezuela during May 1983 to participate in the bi-centenary celebrations of Simon Bolivar. There he also met with journalists to discuss the situation relating to the border issue . Subsequently, the Latin American Regional Reports of the 23 July 1983 reported on this meeting:

Facing the Venezuelan press, he (Dr. Jagan) left no doubts about his belief that the region belongs to Guyana "on legal grounds, as well as because it has been part of Guyana for so many years", but he blamed the recent tension on President Burnham's mishandling of the matter. "The problem," he told reporters, "should have been taken to the UN a long time ago."

The Essequibo question arose out of two factors he told us. One was Venezuela's internal politics, where some groups have tried to use the border conflict for political gain. The second factor, he aid, could have been possible US pressures to force President Burnham to retreat towards the right of the political spectrum. "Now the pressure has dropped. Why? Because Burnham has been retreating. The border question, for US imperialism, is to be kept in cold storage, to be used from time to time." The PPP leader also argued that President Burnham had made use of the conflict over the Essequibo as an exercise to build up an army for repressive purposes and to put pressures on workers, as in 1979 when he faced the trade unions' demand for a G$14 minimum wage with the question: "Do you want $14 or do you want the Essequibo?"

Guyanese people have no quarrel with Venezuela. "We are neighbours and should not allow chauvinistic elements to divide us," said Jagan. "We have a common enemy, imperialism, and we must cooperate." He emphasised the PPP's support for Argentina over the Malvinas conflict, as opposed to President Burnham's support for Britain. The South Atlantic conflict was also a turning point in Venezuela's foreign policy and Cheddi Jagan could envisage a return to better relations with Caracas if the PPP was in power.


During the May-June period, speculation was widespread in Venezuela that there would be a meeting between the Presidents of Guyana and Venezuela. However, on the 22 June, the Venezuelan acting Foreign Minister, Dr. Osvaldo Paez Pumar, stated that "no meeting is planned between Presidents Burnham of Guyana and Luis Herrera Campins of Venezuela on the Essequibo territorial dispute". He added, "What is being planned is that we follow the procedures of the Geneva Agreement, particularly the choice of a means of solution by the Secretary General of the United Nations."

The CARICOM Heads of Government meeting held in Trinidad and Tobago during 4-9 July 1983 expressed support for Guyana and called for a peaceful solution of the controversy. At the end of the meeting President Burnham told reporters that "...Venezuela has been violating our air space and our land area. Recently there was a very provocative. Venezuela purchased three patrol boats and named one of them 'Essequibo'". He added that a Venezuelan military helicopter landed at a Guyana outpost, and that only recently at the international communications conference in Geneva had claimed the air waves over the Essequibo region. "And there seems to be a school of thought judicially that anyone born inside the Essequibo doesn't have to apply for Venezuelan citizenship, but is a Venezuelan citizen," Burnham claimed. He said that all that taken together is "rather disgusting".

The Guyana Parliament on the 20 July nominated Ranji Chandisingh of the PNC to replace Hubert Jack on the Parliamentary Committee for the Territorial Integrity of Guyana. Jack had earlier resigned from Parliament to take up a position as Guyana's Ambassador to Brazil.


Meanwhile, the United Nations Under-Secretary General for Special Political Affairs, Diego Cordovez, an Ecuadorian, was appointed to advise the UN Secretary General of the best means of peaceful settlement of the border issue. He already functioned as head of a Special Committee of Experts established by UN Secretary General Perez de Cuellar. On the 22 August 1983, as a representative of the UN Secretary General, he held talks in Caracas with the Venezuela Foreign Minister on matters relating to the border issue. On the following day he met with President Campins. After these meetings he stated that the UN Secretary General would intervene in the controversy "once an exhaustive study of the situation is concluded". He added that his visit was intended to gather information and hear opinions and that he had a preference for "silent diplomacy". He pointed out: "For the moment, we are in the study, conversation and information stage."

Accompanying Cordovez on his visit to Venezuela were Raymond Sommereyns, senior political affairs officer, Alexander Martinovic, special assistant to the Under-Secretary General and Regina Monticone, personal assistant to the Under-Secretary General.

Cordovez and his team arrived in Guyana on the 24 August 1983 and in the afternoon met with Foreign Minister Jackson. The discussions continued on the following morning when the UN delegation met also with Justice Minister and Attorney General, Mohamed Shahabudeen and the Parliamentary Committee for the Territorial Integrity of Guyana. Cordovez also paid a courtesy visit to President Burnham.

The UN team returned to New York on the 26 August, and in a statement issued on the same day, the Secretary General thanked the Governments of Venezuela and Guyana for the assistance they rendered to Cordovez. The statement added that Cordovez conveyed the assurances of the two Governments that they were "determined to exert the utmost efforts to settle the controversy in an entirely peaceful and amicable manner". Accordingly, the two countries "have reaffirmed their readiness to cooperate fully with the Secretary General in the discharge of his responsibility under the Geneva Agreement".

The statement further noted that Guyana and Venezuela undertook to adopt all the measures that may be necessary in order to foster and maintain the most favourable climate for the effective application of the Geneva Agreement. Consequently, the two countries "will refrain from any action whatsoever which might make more difficult or impede the peaceful settlement of the controversy".


An interesting incident occurred on the 14 November 1983 when six Venezuelan fishing trawlers were arrested for fishing illegally in Guyana's economic zone in the Atlantic off the Essequibo coast. The trawlers were arrested by a Guyana Defence Force marine patrol and brought to Georgetown where they were impounded. The captains were later charged by the Police under the Maritime Boundaries Act. On the 22 November, the Ministry of Home Affairs announced that one of the vessels along with its captain was released as a goodwill gesture to Venezuela. When the case came up for trial in Georgetown, the other five captains through their counsel, Jainarine Singh, Snr., pleaded not guilty. However, later in the trial they changed their plea to guilty and were fined G$15,000 each. Upon payment of the fines, the boats were released and they later returned to Venezuela.


The Commonwealth leaders met for their one-week summit in New Delhi, India, and at the end of the conference on the 29 November 1983, they released a communique which reaffirmed the position of support for Guyana on the border issue. The leaders stressed the importance of the sanctity of treaties and respect for defined and demarcated boundaries. And, in mentioning the fact that the territorial controversy was referred by the two countries to the UN Secretary General, the communique declared that "the leaders welcomed the unqualified undertaking given by the Venezuelan Government to eschew the use of force as a means of settling the controversy".


At the Venezuelan elections held on the 4 December 1983, Jaime Lusinchi of Accion Democratica (AD) was elected as the new President (to take office in February 1984). In a major statement on his foreign policy proposals on the 13 December, Lusinchi expressed the confidence that the UN Secretary General would determine a peaceful solution to the border issue during 1984.

On the 10 January 1984, both Venezuelan Foreign Minister Zambrano and his successor Isidoro Morales Paul of the incoming Lusinchi administration, held discussions with UN Secretary General, Perez de Cuellar, and informed him that the new administration would not change Venezuela's stance on the issue. Zambrano later explained that he and Morales informed the Secretary General that the Lusinchi administration would maintain Venezuela's unconditional claim to the western Essequibo, and that they communicated Venezuela's interest in reaching a solution. Morales said that the new AD administration would not back down on the issue since it was seen as one of vital interest to Venezuela.

The inauguration of President Lusinchi subsequently took place on the 2 February 1984. Guyana was represented at the ceremony by its Prime Minister, Dr. Ptolomy Reid.

In an unrelated incident on the 21 February, during a robbery incident at this home in Georgetown, the Venezuelan Ambassador to Guyana and his wife received gun-shot injuries. The Ambassador needed urgent surgery to his eye and he was immediately rushed back to Caracas for hospitalisation during which period his injured eye was removed. He returned to Guyana in early April to resume his duties.


It was during February 1984 that the Guyana Government carried out another nation-wide campaign for the sale of Defence Bonds. The campaign marked the second anniversary of the first sale of these bonds. Heavy advertisement was carried out on the radio and the state-controlled media. An advertisement on the radio called on Guyanese to "stop the land grabbers" by purchasing Defence Bonds. This advertisement was really in poor taste since it was clear that the Governments of both countries were now on more friendly terms and particularly since the border question was now engaging the attention of the UN Secretary General to whom it was referred to find a means for its settlement.


In a statement published in the Venezuelan daily, El Nacional, on the 29 March 1984, the new Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Isidoro Morales Paul, announced that his country was seeking a negotiated settlement with Guyana. He expressed the view that negotiations with Guyana should take place under United Nations auspices.

A conflict of opinions arose during mid-May among leading officials of the Venezuelan Government. It originated on the 16 May 1984 when the Documentation Chief of the Supreme Electoral Council of Venezuela, Humberto Maio Negrete, declared that Essequibo residents would receive documents allowing them to vote in Venezuela's municipal elections planned for the 27 May. He stated that the Venezuelan Government would send mobile units across the border with military guards to register to register the residents of western Essequibo under an old plan which was never implemented. Maio also pointed out that Venezuela had the legal obligation to identify its citizens and that if it was claiming the Essequibo region as its territory, it followed that the Government should go in and register the residents there.

However, two days later, the Interior Minister, Octavio Lepage, and the Foreign Minister, Isidoro Morales Paul, denied that there was any such plan for registration and insisted that Maio had no authority to announce one. Morales explained that when an Essequibo resident requested Venezuelan citizenship it was usually granted, but no Venezuelan official had ever proposed a general documentation campaign in the territory.


On the 4 June 1984, Guyana's Foreign Minister, Jackson, announced that the UN Secretary General would send a representative to visit both Guyana and Venezuela "in another month or so" in his effort to find a peaceful settlement to the border controversy. Jackson noted that the new Venezuelan Government was saying publicly that it would like to develop relations of friendship with Guyana. Guyana, he pointed out, was "taking these asseverations of friendship" seriously. He added that the Guyana Ambassador to Caracas, Rudolph Collins, recently held discussions with Morales on "the way forward".

At the UN on the 5 October 1984, Jackson, in his speech to the General Assembly stated that Venezuela since early 1984 was showing signs that it wanted to develop friendly relations with Guyana. He noted, however, that the two countries were still "some considerable way" from reaching an agreement on the border question. Earlier Jackson and Morales met in New York and reported that their talks were "frank and constructive".

Nevertheless, Venezuela was still concerned over the support Guyana was receiving at the international level. This was reflected when the Cuban Foreign Minister, Isidoro Malmierca, during the last week of November, visited Guyana for discussions with the Guyana Government. At the end of the visit, a joint Guyanese-Cuban communique reaffirmed Cuba's total support for Guyana's "right to have its territorial integrity respected". However, according to a report in the Catholic Standard, the newspaper of the Roman Catholic Church of Guyana, on the 27 January 1985, the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry denounced the Cuban support as a form "of meddling in an issue which exclusively concerned Venezuela and Guyana". Cuba, according to the paper, "responded in strong terms to the Venezuelan criticism".


The Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Isidoro Morales Paul, and a team of officials visited Guyana during the period 6-9 February 1985 for discussions with officials of the Guyana Government. On the 6 February, at a plenary session of talks on bilateral cooperation between the two states at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Morales declared that his country wanted to establish "stable, serious and fruitful" relations with Guyana based on "peace and development". In welcoming Morales, Foreign Minister Jackson reiterated Guyana's desire to have friendly relations with Venezuela. Both Ministers in their opening speeches exchanged views on the territorial issue.

On the following day, Guyanese and Venezuelan officials met in three groups in Georgetown to discuss possibilities of increased trade and for bilateral cooperation in public health, education and fishing. These talks continued into the next day. During the discussions, the Venezuelan officials detailed what assistance in the form of equipment, training opportunities and technological advice they could offer Guyana in dredging of its rivers. Guyana, on the other hand, indicated its willingness to discuss this offer after the completion of a comprehensive study of its dredging needs for the next few years.

The sale of Guyana's bauxite to Venezuela was also discussed.

On the 8 February, Morales held a press conference in Georgetown to discuss the outcome of his visit to Guyana. He announced that Venezuela would purchase 250,000 tons of bauxite during 1985 and that both countries had agreed to undertake a detailed study of the transport and technical needs of Guyana's dredging operations to ascertain whether certain rivers could be dredged to allow for passage of larger draft ships. He also announced that Guyanese would receive scholarships from the Venezuelan Government to study quality control and other related subjects in Venezuelan universities.

Announcing that his visit was "highly successful", Morales called it "the starting point of a new stage in relations" between Guyana and Venezuela. He pointed out that the two countries decided to begin an immediate programme on areas of mutual interest in the health sector. This would include the fight against malaria and treatment of cancer, with Venezuela agreeing to make available post-graduate courses in health sciences for qualified Guyanese. He added that the 1974 cultural exchange agreement between the two countries would be re-activated to allow for the exchange of painters, sculptors and others in the artistic field. This would also be coupled with post-graduate and other diploma programmes of study at institutions in Venezuela.

Morales also mentioned that after careful examination of the priority issues in agriculture, both sides decided that the agro-business area was vital and agreed on an exchange of information and staff involving the pertinent agencies in the two countries. It was also agreed that technical and scientific studies in marine fishing would commence shortly and would involve the sharing of information and documentation.

At a reception for Morales and the Venezuelan delegation on the 8 February, Guyana's Foreign Affairs Minister Rashleigh Jackson said that the dialogue between the two countries showed "more clearly pathways which we (Guyana and Venezuela) might travel together". He described Morales" visit as "a new beginning" in relations between the two countries and added that discussions over the past few days "illuminated several possibilities for cooperation". He urged: "Let us therefore explore to the full a new horizon of peace and friendship, one which can be opened through an enlightened approach."

Jackson described the territorial controversy as "the fundamental problem" between the two countries. He stressed, however, that although relations between the two countries were in the past "cyclical in nature" and subjected to "ups and downs", future relations should not respond to "those traditional rhythms". It was Guyana's desire "to live in peace with you and to engage in meaningful cooperation for mutual benefit", Jackson told the Venezuelan delegation. He also pointed out that the two countries had undertaken to "do everything possible to facilitate the UN Secretary General's efforts".

The Guyanese Foreign Minister noted that the two countries were cooperating in groupings such as SELA and the Group of 77 and expressed appreciation for Venezuela's efforts within the Contadora group, which was at that time trying to find a peaceful solution to the conflicts in Central America. Encouraging Venezuela to maintain these efforts, Jackson contended that if the Contadora process "ends in a stalemate or in a failure, a political vacuum would be created", thus opening the door "for military adventurism, a development which all peace loving countries and peoples would wish to avoid".

In reply, Morales expressed his President's wish to see "a sharing of experiences" between Guyana and Venezuela so that the two countries might become "supporting elements of programmes of economic and social development for both countries".

Morales described the territorial controversy as "a situation inherited from the colonial past". Venezuela, he said, wanted a solution that would be "amicable, reasonable and acceptable to both parties". He declared:

We do not want solutions that history will view as being the result of injustice, action or influence of those who are more powerful, or conspiracies of interests or imperialist eras. The solution must fulfil one single condition: bringing together our peoples.

On the regional ties of the two countries, Morales added that the historical period of the 1980s "highlights ever more clearly the growing inter-dependency of peoples and nations. . . In the present state of the world economy and within the framework of the difficulties facing Latin America and the Caribbean, regional cooperation and particularly economic and technical cooperation between our countries are matters of unquestionable viability".

In a joint statement on the 9 February 1985, both Foreign Ministers noted that the territorial controversy had been examined against "the background of the new spirit of friendship and cooperation" characterising bilateral relations between Guyana and Venezuela. Both Ministers expressed the desire for an early visit to Caracas and Georgetown by Diego Cordovez, the UN Secretary General's special envoy.

Morales explained that there could be "no magic or instant solution to the controversy which is a complex issue". However, he reiterated Venezuela's "political will" to live in peace and cooperation with Guyana.

The Guyana Foreign Minister used the occasion to announce that the had accepted an invitation from Morales to pay an official visit to Caracas at a "mutually convenient time".

The visit of the Venezuelan delegation to Guyana was seen as one which could open a new and favourable era in relations between the two neighbours. Writing in a column, "Politics Today", in the Venezuelan daily, El Nacional, on the 17 February 1985, Oswaldo Alvarez Paz, a member of the Venezuelan delegation, said that the visit could open perspectives which, if handled correctly and without false expectations, could be favourable to stable co-existence on more solid bases than currently existed. He observed: "The only certain thing between Guyana and Venezuela is that we shall be neighbours eternally. It is better to live straight, face to face with each other than to turn our backs indefinitely on each other apprehensively."

Alvarez contended that the Guyana Government seemed to have taken special pains to make the stay of the Venezuelan delegation pleasant and pointed out that "the attitude, the way in which things developed, the undoubtable frankness in the talks held, ratify this conviction".


Diego Cordovez, the special envoy of the UN Secretary General, arrived in Guyana on the 18 March 1985 and immediately opened discussions with Jackson on the border question. Cordovez was accompanied by Raymond Sommereyns, a senior political officer in the UN, and two other officials. At the end of the visit on the 20 March, Cordovez stated that he was "extremely satisfied" with his discussions in Guyana. "I found here a determination to find a solution, a desire to improve relations with Venezuela," he said.

Guyana's desire and determination, he noted, were expressed by President Burnham with whom he held discussions, as well as by Foreign Minister Jackson and other senior Government officials with whom he met.

Cordovez believed that the UN Secretary General was now closer to arriving at a means of helping the two countries find a "definitive and durable solution" to their territorial issue "in the sense that we obviously know the problem much better now".

The UN envoy recalled that when he visited in August 1983 there was considerable tension between the two countries. "This is the reason why I, on behalf of the Secretary General, had requested both countries to undertake to improve those relations to create a better climate for the solution of the problem," he explained. Since then, he added, there were a change in Government in Venezuela, a visit to Guyana by the Venezuelan Foreign Minister Morales (who was shifted from that position in March), and generally improved conditions between the two countries.

The Secretary General, Cordovez explained, was not eliminating any of the possible means of settlement and was not giving himself a time frame for recommending a means of settlement and would have to choose "when it will be the best time to start this very complicated process".

Cordovez left Guyana for Venezuela to hold similar talks with officials there.


According to the Caribbean Contact of May 1985, both Government were holding secret talks to bring about a quick settlement. Ricky Singh, writing in the column, "Guyana -- The Way Forward", stated:

To judge from press reports out of Caracas and Georgetown, Guyana seems to be on the verge of resolving its colonially-inherited border dispute with neighbouring Venezuela.

One Cana-Reuter report actually stated what the great majority of Guyanese have not yet been informed about: that the Burnham Government has been discussing as a possible solution, extending Venezuela's jurisdiction in the Atlantic ocean for Venezuela's renunciation of two-thirds of Guyana's territory in the Essequibo region.

This, incidentally, is a proposal originally raised with the Georgetown administration by ex-President Carlos Perez of Venezuela some years ago.

If the border dispute is resolved, in a manner acceptable to Guyana, it would be a tremendous political victory for Mr. Burnham, and would create very significant opportunities for the development of the sprawling Essequibo region with its largely untapped natural resources, including oil. . .

On the 13 May 1985, Guyana's Attorney General, Dr. Mohamed Shahabuddeen and Noel Sinclair, Permanent Representative to the UN, met with Perez de Cuellar to discussed matters relating to the border issue. They also had a follow-up meeting on the following day with Diego Cordovez.

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On 1 March 1985, Burnham was interviewed at his office in Georgetown by Alfredo Peña, a senior journalist of the Venezuelan newspaper, El Nacional. The lengthy interview discussed the Venezuelan territorial claim and a range of other international issues. An edited Spanish version of this interview was published in El Nacional on 4 March 1985. The Office of the President of Guyana subsequently released the original transcript, and the relevant section dealing with Venezuela-Guyana relations is reproduced below:

PEÑA: Mr. President, based on the Geneva Agreement, Venezuela and Guyana have begun talks on the question of the boundary. Would you accept whatever directions are set out by the United Nations Secretary General? And if not, what would you propose?

BURNHAM: Well, in the first place, it must be understood what is the role of the Secretary General of the United Nations under the Geneva Agreement. His role is to propose the modalities for settlement. In other words, what means should we use. He is not at this stage, under the Geneva Agreement, to make an adjudication. He is to say whether we should proceed by conciliation, or the international Court of Justice or mediation or arbitration. Whatever means he chooses, under the Geneva Agreement, both sides are bound by it, and are obliged to use that means.

PEÑA: Sometime ago, not very long ago, you, Mr. President, said that Guyana will not hand over a blade of grass or a square inch of the territory under dispute. You said at that time that Venezuela was a land-grabber and once you put on a military uniform (that of a General) and said you propose to militarise the Essequibo. Are these plans still pursued?

BURNHAM: Well, first of all, by courtesy, I wear a General's uniform and have worn it for sometime because I am, ex-officio, Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces in Guyana. This has nothing to do with militarization or a military solution. Because in any case, it is not for us to decide on any solution. If it is military solution, then it would be Venezuela's decision, because we are in possession of Essequibo under the Arbitral Award of 1899. It is Venezuela who says that we shall not get possession of it. So any militarization of the conflict must automatically be the choice of Venezuela. But we have reason to believe that Venezuela no longer pursues the idea of a military solution.

PEÑA: You had announced in 1982 that you were going to establish military camps in the Essequibo region. Have you changed this view?

BURNHAM: I couldn't change the view, because I didn't so express it. What I did say was that we are going to have border posts. Hitherto, we had no border posts. Now, we have established a number of border posts.

PEÑA: On one occasion, you also said that you were aligning yourself with the devil if necessary, to face up to an invasion from Venezuela. You said you would accept the assistance of Cuba if Cuba offered such assistance.

BURNHAM: If there were a military demarche by Venezuela, I said so.

PEÑA: But, Venezuela never said it was going to invade Guyana.

BURNHAM: You seem to forget your former Minister of Youth. You seem to forget the seizure of a part of Ankoko Island. You seem to forget some publications in the press by your office.

PEÑA: In Venezuela, the press is free. The Government does not exercise any control over the means of communication. The Minister of Youth is not a Chief of State.

BURNHAM: He is a member of Government.

PEÑA: The Minister of Youth left with a group of young people on a Boy Scout excursion. Venezuela doesn't have a single inhabitant in Essequibo, neither civilian nor military.

BURNHAM: If she doesn't have, but if she is on the border, and making these hawkish statements, what are we to do? Put yourself in the place of a Guyanese. You have a powerful neighbour who is better armed with sophisticated weaponry, and a number of bellicose statements are issuing from that country. What do you do?

PEÑA: But there were statements which were very bellicose emanating from yourself in Brazil.

BURNHAM: We could never make . . . .

PEÑA: And in Vienna.

BURNHAM: I have never been to Vienna, so I don't know who could have. No. Sorry.

PEÑA: In Ocho Rios, Jamaica, you said given an exit Venezuela would if permitted take control of the entire Eastern Caribbean area and give to her an opening to an important region which has oil resources offshore. The statement was made on the ninth of July 1984.

BURNHAM: That's it.

PEÑA: But right now the question is being raised - that same kind of proposals that were raised under the Perez government - of a solution; that is, Venezuela's exit to the Atlantic. Foreign Minister Morales Paul has said that Venezuela would have to have a portion of land and sea for itself.

BURNHAM: We can discuss it. But having an entry into the Caribbean is quite different from owning the land bordering the Caribbean.

PEÑA: The signing of a formula which controls port on the Atlantic and a portion of land.

BURNHAM: And a portion of land? It is not for me to anticipate what discussions may take place.

PEÑA: I would like to ask you if the aggressive attitude, which you had, has diminished.

BURNHAM: You cannot beg the question, because Guyana cannot be aggressive. Guyana is in possession of territory under the 1899 Arbitral Award. Venezuela says that award is void, and therefore, you print on your stamps and you say in statements that Essequibo belongs to you. You call it the area for reclamation. We can't be aggressive, because we are not claiming any land. We are not claiming to move westward; we are not claiming we have the right to move westward. Venezuela is claiming a right to move eastward. We could never be aggressive.

PEÑA: I was only referring to verbal aggression.

BURNHAM: You cannot even be verbally aggressive over something which you possess and which someone else says belongs to him. It may be a matter of semantics; it may be a matter of nuances in the two languages. But, in English (language), he who is in possession and seeks to retain that possession cannot by definition be aggressive.

PEÑA: The Geneva Agreement obliges the three parties, England, Guyana and Venezuela, and today, this Agreement requires a solution acceptable to both parties, independently, because Guyana has possession of the territory which we are claiming all the while. Either we accept the Geneva Agreement or we don't accept it. Venezuela accepts it.

BURNHAM: I don't want in any way to prejudice the informal discussions that are going on. But let me point this out. That both Britain and Guyana have always taken the position that Venezuela, the way it has set out its claim, must first prove the invalidity of the Award. I don't think that it is sufficiently understood in Venezuela that the 1966 Geneva Agreement speaks about the dispute with respect to the validity of the Award. So, you have, first, to prove the invalidity of the Award. And then if you have succeeded, by one means or another, in proving the invalidity of that Award, the question of where the boundary would lie, then arises. But, like I said before, I don't want to prejudice, first of all, the atmosphere of amity which now exists, nor the results of the informal discussions that are going on.

PEÑA: You said that you would accept whatever the United Nations Secretary General said, if the United Nations Secretary General would seek a solution which would favour both parties.

BURNHAM: That is not the role of the Secretary General. The Secretary General is asked to choose the means to resolving the dispute. He is not asked to make a solution. If he were to propose a solution of the basic problem, it would be as a result of the two parties asking him to do so. But at the moment, that is not the position, hence the importance and significance of the informal talks which are going on.

PEÑA: What I wanted to say was that it is felt in some quarters in Venezuela, that the change of tone in your statements is a response to the fact that you would like economic cooperation from Venezuela because of the terrible crisis which Guyana is currently experiencing.

BURNHAM: That is not so. First of all, the present Venezuelan Government has adopted a quiet, friendly, reasonable attitude without necessarily foregoing the basic Venezuelan claim. Venezuela is our neighbour. If there is such an attitude on the part of the Venezuelan Government, it is our desire, nay, our duty to react. You can choose your friends, but you can't choose your neighbours. Therefore, certainly, it is the epitome of wisdom to have reasonable relations with your neighbours. Now take for instance, Suriname. Suriname has a claim for five thousand square miles on the southeast tip of Guyana. But there is no bellicosity about it. And Suriname and Guyana are cooperating economically. We trade with them, supplying them commodities which they don't have. Similarly with Venezuela. Now, the question of economic co-operation with Venezuela has nothing to do with our present economic crisis, because the goods that we are selling to Venezuela we could possibly have sold elsewhere. But, of course, it is much better and more convenient to both parties if the exchange goes on on our border. That very economic cooperation can induce a more reasonable attitude on both sides and make for an atmosphere in which both sides can sit down and talk.

PEÑA: In the talks which you had with the Foreign Minister, Morales Paul, did you request any kind of cooperation for instance in the dredging of rivers, the sale of bauxite, and in other sectors?

BURNHAM: Those were details which were discussed between officials of both sides. I myself was not involved. What I know as a general fact is that it is agreed in principle that Venezuela, this year, will buy some amount of metal grade bauxite. And there were discussions which at the very beginning, with respect to dredging, which would facilitate the movement of the bauxite in larger lots, which would be to the advantage of Venezuela and to the advantage of Guyana. I am not sure of the figure. I think it may be 150,000 or 250,000 tonnes. I was not personally involved. Foreign Minister Jackson may know. But, definitely the head of our bauxite complex, Cde. Bernard Crawford.

PEÑA: You visited the Soviet Union and you spoke with the authorities in the Kremlin and it seems that the visit was not very fruitful from the point of view of economic cooperation.

BURNHAM: We don't visit these countries to seek capital inflows. What I discussed was the widening of trade relations, deepening of trade relations and proper prices for the goods which we can sell. I recall when I went to Venezuela a few years ago that the Venezuelan Ambassador to Guyana said that he expected me to go with an economic plan to get financial assistance. That's not the attitude of Guyana. Guyana, rich in resources, is interested in trade on a remunerative basis, and, or, in projects jointly undertaken for the benefit of both sides. To give you an example, we have a joint project here now with Yugoslavia for the exploitation of gold in certain areas of the Mazaruni. Their expertise combined with our lesser expertise - and our resources should yield results beneficial to both sides. We are not asking Yugoslavia for money. The same applies to a joint project for agricultural expansion on the east side of the Mazaruni, with the Koreans.

PEÑA: Have you achieved any concrete results?

BURNHAM: With the Soviets? Certainly. They have been taking larger quantities of our bauxite. In some cases, that bauxite is used in counter trade. We have been able to get equipment and motor cars and we have signed contracts with reasonable time payments for the purchase of aircraft - civilian aircraft - half of which we pay in bauxite.

PEÑA: Do you continue to give concession to Canadian, American and British companies in the Essequibo region for exploration in that area?

BURNHAM: Well, it just depends on whether applications are made, and whether we are satisfied with the terms that can he agreed on. There is a Canadian company which has a concession jointly with Guyana for the exploitation of gold. As far as I can recall, there is no British. We are in discussions with an American company, formerly Canadian owned, for the exploration of our on-shore oil facilities, in the Rupununi. The French have been doing some exploration in the general area of the Essequibo, for as you know, Essequibo is more than two-thirds of Guyana. That is for uranium.

PEÑA: Under the Geneva Agreement, there is provision for the investment of transnational companies in Essequibo. Would any of the parties be affected as a result of such investment?

BURNHAM: Certainly not. Now let us suppose the impossible happens, that by peaceful means Venezuela gets the whole of Essequibo. If you got the whole of Essequibo, you also get the investments made by the transnationals. In other words, as a lawyer, I say, Venezuela would then inherit all rights to which its predecessors in title had. But, of course, I don't think that Venezuela can possibly by peaceful means get the whole of Essequibo.

PEÑA: I ask this because if there is a zone under claim, if the other party which is administering this zone makes agreements or arrangements for international capital, and with the great powers, these can be influential factors in the maintenance of the status quo.

BURNHAM: Believe me, I never looked at it that way when I interpreted the Geneva Agreement.

PEÑA: Multinational companies might have reached agreement with you and it can be thought that that would have some kind of influence in your favour, to maintain the present situation.

BURNHAM: That is a matter of your interpretation. Not for me.

PEÑA: When you became Premier in 1964, you were an anti-communist and were opposed to Jagan precisely because he, Jagan, was a Marxist-Leninist. Now, you have changed somewhat. You have drifted away to some extent from the United States and have become a friend of Cuba and the Soviet Union. I want to know what happened.

BURNHAM: Now, first of all, I have never been anti-communist. I have not been and never have been and never will be a communist, if by communist you mean taking orders from Moscow, or supporting Moscow automatically on any international matter. I have always said that I am a socialist. I have always said that I am not a Marxist-Leninist. Because Lenin was a Russian politician and I cannot be a Marxist-Leninist; because Lenin was not a Guyanese politician.

PEÑA: Marx was a German politician.

BURNHAM: He was not so much a politician as a political philosopher. He never fought an election. He sat down in the British Museum and wrote his book.

PEÑA: In any case, you arrived in power with the blessings of Washington and of London. You made a rapprochement with Moscow and with Havana.

BURNHAM: As an independent country, first of all we opened diplomatic relations with countries other than Western countries. Secondly, we opened trade relations the same way that the United States has trade relations. Independence connotes the right to have diplomatic relations with whom you want. But, apparently, some circles in the United States feel that small countries, even though independent, have no freedom of choice as to whom they will have diplomatic, trade and economic relations with. In the meantime, the United States is hustling to increase her trade with others. We have found on some occasions that we have bought goods from the United States which are made in Poland. Then why shouldn't we buy it straight from Poland? And cheaper? Does that make us a crony of the Soviet Union? Or Poland? Before we nationalised bauxite, Alcan refused to sell its product from Guyana into Eastern Europe. Now that we are independent, we can sell into Eastern Europe without neglecting our traditional customers in the West. That is what we perceive to be independence and what independence is all about. And it has nothing at all to do with ideology.

PEÑA: You, being the President of a country, which until recently was a colony, and is in some way, part of the family of the Third World, why didn't you support Argentina in an act of sovereignty in trying to recuperate a part of its territory which had been taken from it by British imperialism?

BURNHAM: In Lima, Peru, I think it was in 1975, at a meeting of Non-Aligned Foreign Ministers, we supported the right of ownership that Argentina had to the Falkland Islands. And that position, we have retained. When the war between Britain and Argentina took place two years ago, our position was that we opposed Argentina's using force. That is all. Subsequently, when the matter came up for discussion in the United Nations General Assembly, Britain was flabbergasted to find that we were on the side of Argentina's right. You must distinguish between the right and attempts to exercise that right by force.

PEÑA: But Argentina for more than a hundred years had requested in every way possible, by the use of all means possible, and England, with great disdain, and with colonial arrogance, did not see it fit to sit down at the discussion table.

BURNHAM: I understand what you are saying. But we adhere to the principle that force should not be used in the settlement of disputes. And in the peculiar circumstances, Guyana must always adhere to that. Because you must also look at your rear. If we accept the principle . . .

PEÑA: But your people were the victims of British imperialism.

BURNHAM: It's a question of force. We cannot agree to settling these problems by force. Let me be frank with you. We allow you to settle your problem by force. The present Venezuelan government is a peaceful government. Can I anticipate what kind of government you are going to have that may seek to settle the problem by force?

PEÑA: The Venezuelans used force to free themselves from colonialism, Spanish colonialism, European colonialism the same colonialism which took away a piece of Argentina. Go a little further, the same colonialism which took away Essequibo.

BURNHAM: Go a little further into your history. The colonialist British helped you to chase out the Spaniards. . .


Meanwhile, both Guyana and Venezuela during this period maintained friendly diplomatic dialogue aimed at resolving the territorial controversy, and this situation was reported to the Caricom Summit in Barbados at the beginning of July 1985. The Summit, in its final communiqué issued on 5 July 1985 took note of this development and expressed satisfaction at the "new climate of dialogue" and cooperation between the two countries to resolve the controversy.

Shortly after, a change in political leadership occurred in Guyana when Burnham died as he was undergoing surgery on 6 August 1985 at the Georgetown Hospital. He was immediately succeeded by Desmond Hoyte, who until Burnham's death, was the Prime Minister. It was to him Venezuelan President Jaime Lusinchi sent a message of sympathy saying that "Venezuelans . . . regret the loss of a leader who also manifested a willingness to maintain and develop with Venezuela, friendly relations based on dialogue, understanding and mutual respect."


On 6 September 1985, a Venezuelan newspaper, El Expreso, published in Ciudad Bolivar, reported that a group of private Venezuelan citizens calling themselves "The Committee for the Reacquisition of Essequibo" had initiated action to encourage Venezuelan citizens to settle in western Essequibo. The paper added that the committee, which had no support from the Venezuelan government, was formed in 1984 and was headed by Dr. Gregorio Jesus Barroeta who alleged that one settlement had actually been established and that others were being planned. The committee had earlier urged Venezuelans to settle in the Essequibo region. Applicants for settler status were required to build homes and engage in agriculture and cattle rearing before they could carry on mining operations. According to the newspaper, a large number of prospective settlers had already made applications to the committee.

Responding to this report, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Guyana denied that any such settlement of Venezuelans was established in the Essequibo region owned by Guyana, and was sure that the Venezuelan government would not allow anything to prejudice the work of the UN Secretary General to whom the border issue had already been submitted to propose a method for the solution of the controversy.


Guyana's President Desmond Hoyte arrived in New York on 3 October 1985 to address the UN General Assembly. On the following day he met 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 border controversy. The Secretary General brought Hoyte up to date with some of the developments so far, including the visits of Under Secretary General Diego Cordovez to both countries. 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 desired. In this respect, he described the UN involvement in the process as tedious.

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".


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 petroleum arrangements provided for the supply of petroleum products from Venezuela to help in satisfying Guyana's consumption needs. To this end, the Venezuelan oil company, Maraven S.A., agreed to supply 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.

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

The general principle surrounding this agreement was one of matching increased exports from Guyana to Venezuela, primarily bauxite, with increased imports from Venezuela into Guyana, primarily petroleum products. The terms of the agreement provided for a "roll over credit" type facility in which the redeemed deposits could be used again for the acquisition from Venezuela of goods and services of interest to Guyana in accordance with the financial conditions laid down for financing Venezuelan export.


The 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 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.


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 IMF and the World Bank.

The leader of the PPP, 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, as in the case of Jamaica, 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".


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 (in the same issue of 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."


On 8-10 March 1987, Venezuela's Minister of Foreign Affairs Simon Alberto Consalvi visited Guyana where he attended the meeting of Foreign Ministers of the Non-Aligned Movement an observer. He also met with Hoyte and discussed bilateral relations including the Guyanese President's up-coming state visit to Venezuela. Their talks also centred on the Venezuelan claim and the role of the UN Secretary General who had been asked by both countries, in keeping with the terms of the Geneva Agreement, to identify a method to resolve the controversy. No doubt the meeting was very satisfactory, and according to the Venezuelan daily El Nacional of 13 March 1987, on his return to Caracas he declared: "A climate of trust has been established between the two countries and this climate will allow us to overcome any problem."

On Tuesday 24 March 1987, President Hoyte began a four-day visit to Venezuela where he conferred with President Jaime Lusinchi. Hoyte's delegation included Vice President Mohamed Shahabudeen; Foreign Affairs Minister Rasleigh Jackson; Head of the Presidential Secretariat Cedric Joseph; Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Noel Sinclair, Cecil Rajana, Head of the Department of International Economic Cooperation in the Office of the President; and Marilyn C. Miles, Ambassador of Guyana to Venezuela. His team also included a small group of persons from the private sector who held separate meetings with Venezuelan business entities.

On the first day of his stay, Hoyte visited the National Pantheon, where he laid a floral tribute at the resting place of the Liberator Simon Bolivar.

In addition, he visited to the National Congress where he was received by its President, Senator Reinaldo Leandro Mora, and its Vice-President, Deputy José Rodriguez Iturbe. Later that day, he met with ex-President Carlos Andres Perez and the Presidents and Secretaries General of Acción Democratica (AD) and COPEI respectively.

He also formally opened an exhibition of Guyanese art in the new premises of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Caracas.

His programme included a visit on the second day to the Guri hydro-electric project and the aluminium smelter in Bolivar State. In Caracas, he met with members of the Venezuelan business organisation whom he asked to invest in Guyana and promised them duty free imports of capital goods and repatriation of profits.

At Miraflores Palace on 24 March, the two Presidents reviewed the relations between the two countries and spent much of the session in examining the controversy between their countries. They agreed that the climate of friendship and understanding existing between Guyana and Venezuela was favourable for dealing with this fundamental aspect of the bilateral relations with flexibility and good will.

They reviewed the status of the mission entrusted to the Secretary General of the United Nations, in keeping with Article IV, paragraph 2, of the Geneva Agreement. While thanking the Secretary General for his efforts, the two Presidents reiterated their determination to continue to cooperate fully with him in the selection of a means of solution.

Lusinchi was of the view that the formula of consultations proposed by the UN Secretary General was quite complicated and left loopholes which could be dangerous, and what was needed was something more flexible and one which did not set deadlines. He felt that the mechanism of "Good Offices" provided the required flexibility and would put the Secretary General more in the picture and give both countries greater possibility to adjust.

In response, Hoyte said that he believed that the Secretary General would not wish to pursue a mechanism which was not satisfactory to both sides. He added that Guyana had no rigid position even though his government had in principle agreed to the original formula of "Good Offices" proposed by the Secretary General through Cordovez. He stated that Guyana really had no objection in principle to the means of "Good Offices" as President Lusinchi suggested. He wanted to know how the "Good Offices" would function and asked for further details concerning the mechanism.

President Lusinchi said that within the framework of Good Offices within which the Secretary General would appoint someone, both Governments would be able to adjust their positions. "Good Offices" could be a permanent mechanism under which the two Foreign Ministers would retain control of the evolution of the process leading to a final solution. This mechanism, he believed, would allow both countries to maintain control.

President Hoyte responded by saying that he could see clearly the advantages of "Good Offices". In the first place, people would always know what is going on. Secondly, the mechanism was simple and flexible. He suggested that if there was an agreement in principle, the two Foreign Ministers should get together and work out the necessary approaches.

Lusinchi hoped that a final solution could be found before the end of his term in office; however, if this could not be possible, both countries should not allow any problem to flare up and keep building and expanding areas of cooperation between them.

In the end, they 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.

Meanwhile, the two Foreign Ministers held separate talks on bilateral issues, and on 27 March they 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 an agreement to abolish visas for travel by diplomats between both countries.


The two Presidents met again on 27 March when they exchanged views on a wide range of global and regional issues of mutual interest, with special emphasis on the situation in Latin America and the Caribbean. The final communiqué of their meetings, issued at the end of this meeting, pointed also to other areas that they examined:

The two Presidents took note, with satisfaction, of the positive manner in which relations between their countries have been developing in recent years, following the agreements reached during the visit by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Venezuela to Guyana in February 1985. These relations were characterised by amicable and fruitful bilateral exchanges and practical cooperation.

In this context they recalled, in particular, the arrangements made in April 1986 for the supply of petroleum products and bauxite and the establishment of a financing scheme designed to facilitate these exchanges. Both Presidents expressed their deepest satisfaction with the extension of the agreement for the supply of petroleum products until December 31st of the current year, as well as the related financing arrangements. At the same time, following conversations held among the technical agencies of both countries, it was agreed to establish an important line of credit granted by FINEXPO in favour of Guyana.

The two Presidents likewise expressed their satisfaction with conversations which took place between the Bauxite Industry Development Company of Guyana and a private Venezuela company, with a view to establishing a joint venture for Guyana's bauxite mining operation. The two Presidents also expressed satisfaction at the development of cooperation in the areas of education and training, health and scientific research and between the private sectors of their countries. They expressed their determination to intensify their cooperation in all these areas and to explore the possibilities of cooperation in others.

In this spirit and conscious of the importance of cultural activities as a means of bringing peoples closer together they decided, taking into consideration the cultural agreement, signed in 1974 between Venezuela and Guyana, to proceed to elaborate as early as possible, a cultural exchange programme to be implemented in the second half of the present year.

The two Presidents decided to establish a mechanism of coordination, consultation and evaluation, entitled the Guyana-Venezuela Commission for Economic, Cultural and Technical Cooperation, in order to strengthen their bilateral cooperation and to place its development on a rational and structured basis.

In keeping with the existing spirit of friendly cooperation and inspired by their common desire to further stimulate the development of relations between their two countries an agreement abolishing visa requirements for persons holding diplomatic, official, special and service passport travelling to each other's country was concluded.

Concerned at the far reaching problems created by the consumption and illegal trafficking in narcotic drugs an agreement relating to the prevention and control of the consumption of and illegal trafficking in narcotic and pscychotropic substances was also signed.

In their review of the international situation the two Presidents reaffirmed the commitment of their states to the Charter of the United Nations, to the pursuit of peace, genuine and complete disarmament, respect for the right of self determination and for national independence, non-interference in the internal affairs of states, and the right of states to pursue their own forms of political, economic and social organisation.

They also reiterated their condemnation of the hateful system of apartheid and the need for the intensification of international pressure to assist in the dismantling of this system. With regard to Namibia they called for the early implementation of Security Council Resolution 435 (1978).

The two Presidents expressed special concern over current development in the international economic situation, with particular regard to their adverse effects on the economies of their respective countries and those of other developing countries, exemplified in the problem of external debt and growing protectionism by some developed countries. In this connection they stressed the benefits that could accrue from South-South cooperation and pointed to the current state of economic relation between their two countries as an example of the potential which lay in this direction.

Examining the situation in Latin America and the Caribbean, the two Presidents took note with satisfaction of the strengthening of the democratic process within the region. They also expressed support for the efforts of the states of the region to safeguard national independence and to achieve higher levels of economic and social development.

The two Presidents expressed grave concern over the situation in Central America. They expressed their profound conviction that it is only through diplomatic negotiations and the strengthening of democratic institutions that the problems of the region could be overcome. In that context, they reiterated the importance of the work of the Contadora and its Support Group as an authentic Latin America initiative to achieve peace and understanding in the area.

Turning to the Caribbean the two Presidents noted with satisfaction the coincidence of opinion on the need to promote a greater exchange among Caribbean countries, based upon solidarity, mutual respect and cooperation in areas of common interest.

At the conclusion of their talks, which took place in an atmosphere of amity and understanding, the two Presidents voiced their satisfaction with the outcome of the visit.

On Hoyte's return to Guyana, he did not reveal much information to the general public as to the discussions on the controversy. This lack of information drew this comment from the Mirror on 29 March 1987:

"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."


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 (Interalumina) and the Venezuelan Investment Fund. In the National Assembly, Opposition Leader Dr. 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.


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 while the remaining 45 percent would be deposited in US dollars in the Bank of Guyana by the Venezuela Investment Fund. 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 million 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.


On 16-18 November 1987, President Lusinchi paid a State visit to Guyana. His delegation included: Simon Alberto Consalvi, Minister of Foreign Affairs; Hector Hurtado, Minister of Finance; General Eliodoro Guerrero Gomez, Minister of Defence; Francisco Montbrun, Minister of Health and Social Assistance; Leopoldo Sucre Figarella, Minister of State and Chairman of the Venezuelan Corporation of Guayana; Carlos Croes, Minister of State for Information; Hugo Alvarez Pifano, Ambassador of Venezuela to Guyana; Senator Ruben Carpio Castillo, Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate; Andres Lopez Robles, President of Interalumina; Eduord Mayobre, President of the Institute of Foreign Trade; Hugo Fonseca Viso, President of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Production; Congressman Luis Marcial Ojeda, representative of the Venezuelan Federation of Labour; Mario Rodriquez, Director of Petroleos de Venezuela; Andres Pastrana Vasquez, Rector, University of Oriente; Magaly de Perez, a representative of the Venezuelan Association of Exporters; and Pedro Trebau, special invitee.

At an impressive ceremony held in the Promenade Gardens, President Lusinchi was granted the freedom of the city of Georgetown. After laying floral tributes at the 1763 Monument and at the Bust of the Liberator, Simon Bolivar, he met with the leaders of political parties represented in Parliament, leaders of the trade union movement, representatives of the private sector and executive members of the Guyana/Venezuela Friendship Society.

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 Presidents, in an atmosphere of amity and cordiality, reviewed the relations between Guyana and Venezuela and held discussions on regional and global issues of mutual concern. They paid particular attention to the most recent developments in Latin America and the Caribbean.

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.

The two Leaders noted with satisfaction the continuing efforts of the Secretary General of the United Nations in fulfilment of his mandate in conformity with Article (IV) (2) of the Geneva Agreement. They reiterated the determination of their Governments to cooperate fully with the Secretary General.

In the light of their determination to closely monitor the status of bilateral cooperation, the Presidents agreed that the Guyana-Venezuela Commission for Economic, Cultural and Technical Cooperation should hold its first meeting in Caracas on February 14 and 15, 1988.

In that respect, they both emphasised that the above mentioned meeting would represent a propitious occasion for intensifying economic cooperation, cultural exchange, human resources training programmes and cooperation for the improvement of health conditions.

They took note with satisfaction of the recent contacts made and the steps taken on the implementation of the Agreement between Venezuela and Guyana on the prevention, control and repression of the consumption and illicit trafficking of narcotics and psychotropic substances.

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. . . .


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.


(a) 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. Accompanying Hoyte were Foreign Minister Rashleigh Jackson, Executive Chairman of Guyana Natural Resources Agency Winston King, Ambassador to Venezuela Marilyn C. Miles, and Deputy Head, Department of International Economic Cooperation Patrick Kendall.

Perez' delegation included his Foreign Minister Reinaldo Figueredo, Minister of Energy and Mines Celestino Armas, President of Venezuela-Guayana Corporation (CVG) Leopoldo Sucre Figarella, Ambassador Designate to Guyana Enrique Peinado Barrios, and Head of the presidential Information Office Pastor Heydra.

Shortly after Hoyte and his party arrived in Puerto Ordaz, they along with Perez were taken on a tour of the Macagua II hydroelectric facility (on the Caroni River), expected to be completed by 1994.

The presidential discussions took place on 8 November and it 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. However, Perez' advisors explained that an interconnection from the Macagua project would be cheaper than a line from Guri.

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, headed by the Executive Chairman of GNRA and the President of ELDECA (the largest Venezuelan state-owned hydroelectricity corporation), 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.

(b) 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 "rationalization" 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.

President 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.

Minister 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. (Perez drew a parallel with the solution to the Beagle Channel dispute where the Pope had performed a similar function, viz., presenting a solution based on the desires of Chile and Argentina).

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.

The conversation then focussed on regional and international matters and their conversations were taken up with the political situation in Suriname and Panama.

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.


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.

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.


At the beginning of 1990, Perez de Cuellar announced that after consultation with both Guyana and Venezuela, he had appointed Dr. Alister 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 both countries at the UN 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.


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, and also met with representatives of agencies relevant to the functional cooperation between the two countries.

Jackson was accompanied by Winston King, the Executive Chairman of the Guyana Natural Resources Agency, Cheryl Miles, Ambassador to Venezuela, and Dr. Patrick Kendall of the Department of International Economic Cooperation. The delegation visited the state of Merida where discussions were held with the Governor and other senior state officials.

In their discussions, both Ministers expressed satisfaction with consultations held with 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.

Regarding the contracts between BIDCO and Interalumina, the Ministers agreed that a meeting on the supply of bauxite would be held in Georgetown in July 1990 to evaluate the implementation of the contracts.

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's) planned visit to Guyana later in the year, so that he could have a discussion on the controversy 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's enquiry 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.


Shortly after (in late 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 discuss 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 talks, 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 reflected in a joint press release issued on 17 August at the end of the visit. This release stated, inter alia:

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. They observed that the work done by the technical teams from both countries had brought the electricity link one step closer to its final fulfilment, and decided that the next step should be to formalise the request by both countries to the IDB for financing this project.

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 Interlumina, the Presidents noted that follow up meetings between representatives of both enterprises were held in Georgetown in July, 1990, and that the result 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 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.

The Presidents also discussed the implementation of a programme of cooperation in fishing and fish processing. They also agreed to the implementation of a programme of cooperation in fisheries research and the exploitation of the aquaculture, land and marine resources. Accordingly they instructed the representatives of their relevant agencies to initiate discussions with a view to establishing a framework for effective cooperation between the two countries in this sector.

The Presidents acknowledged the need for the preservation of 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. President Hoyte took the opportunity to brief President Perez on Guyana's Rainforest Project which is being developed under the auspices of the Commonwealth.

Presidents Perez and Hoyte agreed to increase cooperation between their two countries in the fight against the illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. They called for an intensification of activities aimed at combating the trafficking in these substances and expressed the need to implement the Political Declaration and Global Programme of Action adopted by the Special Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. In this sense, the two Presidents agreed that the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of both countries call together for the first fortnight of September 1990, the Mixed Commission established in the subject agreement signed between the two nations. . . .


On 19 April 1990 the Prime Minister of Trinidad & Tobago, A.N.R. Robinson, and President Perez signed a Treaty on the Delimitation of Marine and Submarine Areas. The delimitation of the marine boundaries as set out in this treaty raised serious concern in Guyana since it was believed that the delimitation coordinates overlapped in some areas into Guyana's maritime space.

Ratification of the treaty was delayed by Trinidad & Tobago because the Venezuelan Government attached to the signed agreement a map which included the area of Guyana claimed by Venezuela and shown by the words "Zona en Reclamación". The Trinidad Government indicated its reluctance to proceed with the ratification if this map was attached to the agreement since it felt this would give tacit agreement by Trinidad & Tobago to the Venezuelan claim to Guyanese territory.

However, Venezuela declared it could not remove the map since the Treaty (including the map) was already approved by the Venezuelan Congress. The only option remaining to the Trinidad and Tobago was to place its position regarding the "Zona en Reclamación" on record through a letter of disclaimer.

Discussions on this issue took place between the Foreign Minister of Trinidad & Tobago, Sahadeo Basdeo and the Venezuelan Ambassador in Port of Spain, Dr. Eduardo Soto. Finally, on 24 June 1991, Basdeo wrote to Soto to stipulate Trinidad's position on the ratification of the treaty. His letter stated:

I wish to refer to our discussions of 14 June 1991 regarding the inclusion of the words "Zona en Reclamación" on the map attached to the 1990 Trinidad and Tobago / Venezuela Delimitation Treaty and the understanding we have reached that these words are not to be interpreted as an endorsement by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago of Venezuela's claim.

Consequently upon this understanding and the need to take into proper account our mutual concern, as well as the concern of third parties, on the possibility of such an interpretation, we examined the feasibility of the adoption of the following measures by our respective Governments:

a) The production of a new map, reportedly favoured by your President, omitting the words "Zona en Reclamación";

b) The removal by accepted cartographic methods of the words "Zona en Reclamación" from the existing signed map;

c) The inclusion in the Instrument of Ratification of the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago of an appropriate declaration, such as that indicated in paragraph 1 above, clarifying Government's position on the words "Zona en Reclamación".

d) An Exchange of Letters between the respective Ministers of External Affairs of our two countries which would confirm the mutual understanding of the two Governments that the words "Zona en Reclamación" which appear on the map attached to the Treaty are not to be interpreted as implying Trinidad and Tobago's endorsement of Venezuela's claim.

I took careful note of your comment that a new map or the removal by cartographic methods of the term "Zona en Reclamación" would entail prior Congressional approval which would be time-consuming and possibly result in negative political reaction.

I regret that your Government can not agree to the inclusion of my Government's proposed reservation in its Instrument of Ratification. As you are aware, reservations are inserted in Instruments of Ratification according to international practice. . . .

In view of the information conveyed that your Government can not accept any one of the suggestions at (a), (b) and (c) above, it would appear that the Ministers of External Affairs are left with the option of an exchange of Notes at the Ratification Ceremony to confirm their mutual understanding of the status of the words "Zona en Reclamación" which appear on the Treaty Map. . . ."

In response to a query from Cheryl Miles, Guyana's Ambassador in Caracas, the Trinidad and Tobago Ambassador in Caracas, Knowlson Gift, on 15 July informed her that at the signing of the ratification documents, his Government would submit a Note stating that the attached map did not imply recognition of the Venezuelan claim to Guyana's territory, and in response, the Venezuelan Government would submit a Note of acknowledgement.

The Note, which was subsequently issued by Venezuela, legally removed the words "Zona en Reclamación" from the Treaty map. The ratification ceremony took place in Port of Spain on 23 July 1991.


In early 1990, representatives of Guyana and Venezuela began negotiations on a Partial Scope Agreement which would be a preferential, non-reciprocal arrangement under which a range of Guyanese commodities would benefit from preferential access to the Venezuelan market at significantly reduced rates of duty. Agreement was reached in June and the document was presented to both governments for ratification.

Towards the end of 1990, Rashleigh Jackson resigned as Guyana's Foreign Minister for personal reasons, and Hoyte assumed direct responsibility for Foreign Affairs, with support from Dr. Cedric Grant, the Ambassador in Washington. Grant met with Foreign Minister Reinaldo Figuerdo for a joint meeting with McIntyre in April 1991 at the UN. Shortly after this meting at the UN, Figuerdo was replaced as Foreign Minister by Dr. Araando Duran.

At the beginning of June, the news media in Venezuela revealed that Hoyte would meet with Perez in Venezuela for a one-day consultation. El Diario de Caracas on 5 June 1991, in an article on the upcoming meeting, quoted Hoyte as saying that in the forthcoming discussions "every area is intended to create understanding and well-being, so as to facilitate a solution to the Venezuelan claim of the Essequibo territory."

On McIntyre's task, Hoyte added: "I am sure that continuous dialogue will permit the discovery of realistic and practical methods to resolve the problem. It is difficult to say we will reach a solution tomorrow, or next year; it is difficult to affirm too that we will resolve it in this or that way. We have to examine all the various ideas; the important thing is to proceed with mutual respect, having as a base well-being and understanding."

The meeting took place on Friday, 14 June 1991 at Perez's country residence in the scenic village of Cavanayen, near to the border with Guyana. Hoyte's delegation consisted of Dr. Cedric H. Grant, Special Adviser to the President on Foreign Affairs; Dr. Kenneth King, Personal Adviser to the President on Development and Administration; Rashleigh E. Jackson, Consultant; and Marilyn C. Miles, Ambassador of Guyana to Venezuela.

Perez's team consisted of Dr. Araando Duran, Minister of External Relations; Dr. Beatrice Rangel Mantille, Minister in the Presidency; Dr. Leopoldo Sucre Figarella, Minister of State and President of the Venezuelan Corporation for the Guayana region; Andres Velasquez, Governor of the State of Bolivar; Enrique Peinado Barrios, Ambassador of Venezuela to Guyana; Dr. Pedro Tinoco, Governor of the Central Bank of Venezuela; Dr. Efraim Carrera Saud, President of EDELCA (the managing authority of the GURI hydroelectric project); and Dr. Emilio Figuredo, a legal consultant.


Four days later, on 18 June 1991, Hoyte addressed a press conference on the results of the meeting:

On Friday, June 14, 1991 the President of Venezuela, Mr. Carlos Andres Perez and I met at the scenic settlement of Cavanayen, a border location in Venezuela. This visit was the latest in the series of exchanges which have become customary between Mr. Perez and myself. The visit also forms part of my endeavour to meet periodically with the leaders of countries that are our neighbours.

You would appreciate that there was a wide range of issues that were of mutual concern to us. President Perez and I undertook an assessment of economic and political developments that are of contemporary significance. We exchanged views on the strengthening of the democratic process within the hemisphere and its importance to the promotion of peace and stability, as well as the welfare and progress of the peoples and countries within the region of Latin America and the Caribbean. We noted with approval, evidence of the accelerating impetus towards regional integration. In this regard we discussed the forthcoming Conference of Heads of Government of Caricom Countries, to be held in St. Kitts and Nevis, which President Perez has been invited to address. We also reviewed the activities of the Rio Group in which the Caribbean Community is represented. We also recognised the potential for cooperation between Caricom and Central American countries and the interest of other Latin American countries in the specific proposal for a meeting of leaders of these two sub-regions later in this year.

The proposal of the Andean Group of Presidents for the convening of a meeting of Presidents of member countries of the Treaty of Amazonian Cooperation to discuss the environment in preparation for the World Environment Conference of 1992 in Brazil also engaged our attention. We expressed full support for this initiative and agreed that it should be among the matters to be discussed at the meeting of the Foreign Ministers of Amazonian Countries in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, in August of this year.

On bilateral issues, President Perez and I were extremely gratified with the steady progress of the various arrangements. He was pleased to inform me that the Partial Scope Agreement between our two countries had been ratified by his Parliament. This Agreement is a preferential, non-reciprocal arrangement under which a range of Guyanese commodities would benefit from preferential access to the Venezuelan market at significantly reduced rates of duty. The President observed that this Partial Scope Agreement is separate and distinct from his offer of a preferential and non-reciprocal arrangement to Caricom countries, which he plans to formally announce during his visit to St. Kitts and Nevis.

We devoted considerable attention to the initiatives taken to strengthen functional cooperation between Guyana and Venezuela. We agreed that our two Governments would jointly approach the Inter-American Development Bank to request the support of that organisation for the proposed interconnection between the Guri hydropower system and the Guyana national grid.

The first meeting of the Joint Commission established under the terms of the Agreement between the two countries for the prevention, control and suppression of the unlawful consumption of, and traffic in narcotics and psychotropic substances will be convened in Caracas later this month.

We observed that a draft Fishing Agreement between the two countries was under discussion and agreed that these discussions should be accelerated to ensure their early conclusion.

In the near future, Guyanese officials will discuss with their Venezuelan counterparts a list of those projects which are expected to form the basis of joint ventures between relevant companies of Guyana and Venezuela. These ventures will be funded by the Venezuelan Investment Fund in accordance with the terms of the agreement which that agency has concluded with the Bank of Guyana.

The President and I were pleased that the proposals for cooperation set out in the working programme of the Guyana/Venezuela Joint Commission were being implemented efficiently. During the remainder of 1991, programmes will be advanced in the areas of health, science and technology, mining, the environment, human resource training and culture.

A review of the programmes of cooperation will take place in September in Caracas in preparation for the fourth meeting of the Guyana/Venezuela Joint Commission which is scheduled to be hosted by Guyana in November, 1991.

During the meeting an invitation was issued by the Governor of the State of Bolivar in Venezuela, which is adjacent to Guyana, for a delegation of small businessmen from Guyana to pay a visit in July. The businessmen would examine possibilities of expanding relations with the commercial sectors in Bolivar State. I accepted this invitation with appreciation.

President Perez and I expressed the view that the Good Office of the Secretary General of the United Nations with respect to the controversy arising from the Venezuelan territorial claim to Guyana and which is known as the McIntyre Process, was proceeding satisfactorily. We re-affirmed our commitment to the fostering of the existing climate of friendship and cooperation in which this Process is taking place.

The discussions took place a few days following the first meeting between the armed forces of Guyana and Venezuela in Tumeremo. This meeting was the result of an agreement concluded in Georgetown in October 1990, during the visit of the Commander of the Venezuelan Army. The result of the meeting provided the basis for collaboration in training, sports and culture between the military forces of both countries. Another important aspect of those discussions was the decision to promote the health and welfare of communities in the border regions of Guyana and Venezuela. I conveyed to President Perez the appreciation of the Guyana Government for the generous gesture of the Government of Venezuela in donating supplies of medicines for the use of those communities.

I had arrived in Venezuela with my delegation to a warm and hospitable welcome. I concluded the visit satisfied with its outcome. The visit was fruitful. It provided an impetus to the development of several areas of functional cooperation and to the strengthening of the friendship and goodwill which characterise the relationship between Guyana and Venezuela.


The PNC regime continued its grip on political power in Guyana under Hoyte's PNC regime. However, the opposition forces, led by the PPP, continued to mount an intense campaign in a number of countries, particularly the USA, Britain and Canada, to put pressure on the regime to agree to the introduction of democratic measures, chiefly free and fair elections. At first, the PNC refused to budge, but shortly after former US President Jimmy Carter led a team of members of his Carter Centre to observe the situation first-hand in Guyana, the regime agreed to a number of demands that the opposition had been making for almost two decades. These included house to house registration of voters, a new Elections Commission with an independent chairman, counting of votes at the place of poll, and international observers to watch the poll.

The PNC, despite these agreements, however continued to place impediments in the way of bringing out a speedy materialisation of these rights and deliberately caused numerous errors to appear on the voters' list. This resulted in elections being postponed twice from December 1990 to 5 October 1992, thus ensuring the PNC a further two years of power. At the same time, the regime allowed international election observers from only the Carter Centre and the Commonwealth Secretariat.

After the opposition parties failed to agree to field a joint slate in the elections, the PPP teamed up with a number of non-political influential persons in the business and professional fields to contest the elections as a PPP/Civic coalition. The final results were that the PPP/Civic won the elections with over 53 percent of the votes. Dr. Cheddi Jagan, the PPP/Civic leader was also elected as President of Guyana. It was the country's first free and fair elections in over 25 years.


President Cheddi Jagan on 17-19 February 1993 paid a State visit to Venezuela where he conferred with President Carlos Andres Perez. He was accompanied by a delegation which included Foreign Minister Clement Rohee, Health Minister Gail Teixeira, and prominent representatives of both the private and public sectors. At the end of the visit it was announced that the Venezuelan Government agreed to release US$6 million (750 million Guyana dollars) almost immediately to help Guyana in its housing programme. Guyana was also expected to receive assistance in fertiliser and agri-machinery acquisition; in the supply of diesel-fuelled electricity plants; in hydro-electricity; and in the installation of food processing factories.

Both Presidents reaffirmed their commitment to provide their firm support to the Good Offices Mission exercised by Dr. Alister McIntyre in efforts to assist the UN Secretary General to bring about a quick solution to the border controversy.

During the visit, President Jagan was also decorated with the Collar of the Liberator, one of Venezuela's highest national awards.

President Jagan also visited Bolivar State in eastern Venezuela where he met with the Governor and other state officials. An in the cities of Puerto Ordaz and San Felix he met with large numbers of Guyanese who had taken up residence there over the past twenty years. (At that time, an estimated 60,000 persons of Guyanese origin were living in Venezuela, most of them in Bolivar State).


At the end of the visit, the following joint communiqué was issued by both Governments:

Following an invitation by the President of Venezuela, Mr. Carlos Andres Perez, the President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, Dr. Cheddi B. Jagan, paid an official visit to Venezuela . . . .

The President of Guyana made a floral offering at the tomb of The Liberator, Simon Bolivar, in the National Pantheon.

The Presidents held talks on subjects of bilateral, regional and international interest, which took place in an atmosphere of understanding and cordiality.

The President of Guyana paid a courtesy visit to the National Congress and was received by the President of the Chamber of Deputies, Dr. Luis Enrique Oberto, and the Vice-President.

President Jagan paid a visit to the central office of the Latin American Economic System, where he met with its Permanent Secretary, Ambassador Salvador Arriola, and addressed a special meeting of members of the Organisation.

President Jagan attended a breakfast meeting with Venezuelan businessmen and informed them of trade and investment opportunities in the Republic of Guyana. President Jagan issued an invitation to the Venezuelan private sector to participate in joint ventures in Guyana.

The President of Guyana visited Bolivar State, accompanied by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, General Fernando Ochoa Antich, where he was welcomed on his arrival by the Governor of Bolivar State, Andres Velasquez, and by the Minister President of the Venezuelan Corporation of Guayana, Dr. Leopoldo Sucre Figarella. President Jagan paid a visit to the Interalumina Plant and to the Raul Leoni Hydroelectrical Complex [Guri]. He also addressed businessmen of the region at a breakfast meeting.

The President of Venezuela and the President of Guyana, during their meetings, reaffirmed their commitment to provide their firm support to the Good Offices Mission exercised by Professor Alister McIntyre as personal representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations.

The Presidents reiterated their full support for the democratic system, whilst reiterating the importance of respecting the non-intervention principle. Both Heads of State expressed their satisfaction at the great progress being achieved in Central America in matters regarding the peace and reconciliation process. They also expressed their support for the efforts of the Organisation of American States and the United Nations to restore President Jean Bertrand Aristide to the Presidency of Haiti. They agreed on the importance of supporting the Civil Mission presided over by former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Argentina, Dante Caputo. The Presidents coincided on the importance of supporting the return of Cuba to the Latin American family of nations.

Both Presidents reviewed the progress made in the execution of the programmes of cooperation agreed to under the Guyanese / Venezuelan Joint Commission on Economic, Cultural and Technical Cooperation and expressed their willingness to continue developing such actions by giving particular attention to the health sector, and to trade and economic areas. They agreed to encourage greater participation of the private sectors of both countries in this process.

During the visit, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed that incorporates the priorities of both Governments in trade, investment, agriculture, transport, health, environment and education to be developed within the framework of the Guyana / Venezuela Joint Commission, and they agreed that the fifth meeting should be held as soon as possible.

Both Heads of State reaffirmed their committed support to the decisions and recommendations adopted by the Conference of the United Nations on the Environment and Development; on this matter they underlined the importance of establishing adequate means for bilateral and sub-regional cooperation in order to assure the optimal implementation of such decisions and recommendations.

The Presidents agreed to emphasise the importance of putting into effect mechanism to ensure the rapid execution of the recommendations of the Final Report of the West Indian Commission. In this context, the President of Guyana expressed his support for to Venezuelan aspiration to participate in the meetings of the Caricom Foreign Ministers in which subjects related to Venezuela or Latin America are considered. The President of Venezuela, for his part, stated that the proposed integration project of Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados would be an important and positive step in the process of widening and deepening regional integration and solidarity.

The Heads of State, concerned about the incidence of drug trafficking in both the Guyanese and Venezuelan societies, decided to summon the Guyana / Venezuela Mixed Commission on Drugs, which will meet during the first half of the current year.

The conversations between both Presidents took place in an atmosphere of cordiality and understanding and produced the strengthening of the coordination between both countries on outstanding international issues and bilateral cooperation.

During his visit, the President of Guyana, Cheddi Jagan, was decorated with the Collar of the Liberator by the President of Venezuela, Carlos Andres Perez.

The President of Guyana, Dr. Cheddi Jagan, expressed his gratitude to the Government and people of Venezuela for the warm welcome and hospitality provided to him and his delegation during the visit.


In Venezuela, President Perez was facing mounting political problems. During 1992 there were two coup attempts to remove him from power; one of these attempts was led by Hugo Chavez, a senior military officer, who was later jailed for his action.

Throughout 1993, Perez was also plagued by charges of misappropriating government funds. In May 1993 a majority of members of Congress demanded his impeachment, and he subsequently resigned later that month. Senator Octavio Lepage, the president of the Congress, became the acting President until 4 June when Senator Ramon J. Velasquez was elected by the Congress as the new interim President. (Perez, meanwhile, was placed under house arrest and in May 1996 and he was later convicted in the courts and sentenced to prison. After his release he went into exile in the Dominican Republic).

With an election campaign in full swing to choose a new President, there was a period of instability in Venezuela. A number of bombings of business places occurred, but this situation waned after the election in December 1993 of Rafael Caldera as the new President of Venezuela.

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Sir Alister McIntyre was appointed as "Good Officer" in 1990 by the Secretary General of the United Nations, Perez de Cuellar. Within the context of the Good Officer process the Foreign Ministers continued to meet on a regular basis. The process was given a strong impetus when President Cheddi Jagan visited Venezuela in February 1993.

Following President Cheddi Jagan's visit, McIntyre visited both Venezuela and Guyana in April and October of 1993 and held meetings with the Foreign Minister of each country. He also arranged joint meetings with the Foreign Ministers and the United Nations Secretary-General in June and September 1993. The Foreign Minister of Venezuela also visited Guyana in November of the same year

Under the McIntyre process, each country appointed a representative, termed "facilitator", who met together on a periodical basis with the UN "Good Officer" to examine ideas on a method of settlement of the border controversy. In 1990, Dr. Barton Scotland was appointed as the Guyana facilitator. After the change of government, he was replaced by Ralph Ramkarran in 1993.


During McIntyre's visit in October 1993 to Guyana, he reported on the September meeting of the two Foreign Ministers with United Nations Secretary General Butros-Butros Ghali. As a result of this meeting at the United Nations, McIntyre was requested to pay periodic visits to the respective capitals after which he would then meet with the facilitator of each country.

In further comments on the progress of his meetings with leaders of both Governments, McIntyre noted the receptiveness and cooperative attitude of the then Venezuelan presidential aspirant Mr. Rafael Caldera. He also stated that both Guyana and Venezuela had expressed their unambiguous support for his role and their unswerving commitment to a peaceful settlement of the controversy. He noted that the excellent state of relations which existed between the two countries and the evident goodwill on the parts of the two governments augured well for the success of the Good Officer process.

McIntyre reported that in his two years as the UN Good Officer the political atmosphere had improved between Guyana and Venezuela. He claimed that Venezuela no longer depicted on its map two thirds of Guyana. (McIntyre was obviously misled about this since official Venezuelan maps continue to show the western Essequibo as Venezuelan territory under the depiction, "Zone of Reclamation").

He further disclosed that he did not feel Guyana was in danger of any frontier encroachment from Venezuela. He stated that there was no evidence of a military build-up on the border by either side. This situation, he reasoned, was influenced by factors such as the ending of the cold war, but he intimated that the situation could change.

McIntyre mentioned that he would have to check reports of Venezuelans working to influence Guyanese, especially Amerindians, in the border region to support the Venezuelan position on the border issue.

Interestingly, he disclosed that it was possible for Venezuela to settle for less than was being claimed from Guyana, and hinted that the controversy could be referred to a "Border Group" for settlement. He did not explain who would form this group.

McIntyre divulged that there were different degrees of empathy, within different groups, for Guyana's position. He felt that Guyana was more internationally active than Venezuela, e.g., as in the Non Aligned Movement and that this had kept Venezuela at bay. Guyana's active foreign policy had contributed to its success so far.

When he met President Jagan in April 1993, McIntyre alluded to a recognition, within the ranks of the Venezuelan President's Convergencia Party, of the absurdity of pursuing Venezuela's claim to the territory of Guyana, and informed the Guyanese President of a growing consensus within Venezuela to set aside its claim for a practical solution in which development cooperation would be the basis for future relations.

During another visit to Guyana in September 1996, McIntyre emphasized that the Secretary General's principal concern was with the process, which, after more than five years had not advanced. At his suggestion, the Foreign Ministers of Guyana and Venezuela met in New York in early October 1996 during the UN General Assembly to review the work of the "Good Officer". Both Ministers, Rohee and Burelli, acknowledged that the discussions under the auspices of the United Nations Secretary-General were being conducted in a cordial and positive atmosphere. It was agreed that there should be more meetings between the Guyanese and Venezuelan facilitators, and frequent meetings between the facilitators and McIntyre.

McIntyre visited Guyana after meeting with President Caldera and Burelli in Caracas in July 1997. On 20 July he met with Rohee and reported that the Venezuelan government was very concerned with what it perceived as the continued practice by Caricom countries to insert paragraphs in their communiqués referring to the Guyana-Venezuela territorial issue. Rohee said he was worried over Venezuelan criticisms of Guyana's environmental policies and its continued claims that Guyana was destroying the environment by granting mining concessions too liberally to investors. He said that Guyana was willing to cooperate with Venezuela on environmental issues and that proposals had been made by Guyana on developing such cooperation.

They discussed the "globality" approach proposed in 1995 by Venezuela. Rohee made it clear that Guyana was not prepared to remove the border issue from a multilateral to a bilateral framework. He told McIntyre that Guyana had written to Venezuela expressing its views but had not received a response.

Rohee also told McIntyre that from time to time Guyanese miners in the border areas complained about the closure of the border on the Venezuelan side. Guyanese miners in Etiringbang relied on the supply of fuel from Venezuela since it was cheaper and more accessible than having to buy it from Georgetown. However, when there was a new change of Venezuelan National Guards on the border, this informal arrangement would stop. But as soon as the new guards became acquainted with the system and understood the benefits from this arrangement, the sale of fuel would resume and complaints would subside.

With respect to the delimitation of the maritime boundary, Rohee said that Guyana was taking a careful approach on this matter. He stated that a section of the media was very vicious in its attack on the government's policy towards Venezuela claiming that it was a policy of appeasement.

On 21 July, McIntyre met with representatives of the political parties represented in the National Assembly to brief them on is role as Good Officer and to hear their concerns over the border issue.

After his meeting with McIntyre, Rohee told the media on 23 July that he did not contemplate the possibility of reaching a rapid settlement to the border problem with Venezuela. He added that Guyana was not frustrated by the slow progress of the negotiations.

McIntyre visited Guyana and Venezuela again in 1998 for further discussions with the both Governments.


In Venezuela, the media publicised the complaints of the government regarding the contraband Venezuelan fuel sold to Guyanese across the border. Venezuelan government officials explained that such action interfered with the legal sale of fuel to Guyanese miners in the border region.

On 13 May 1994, State Minister for frontier affairs Pompeyo Marquez said Venezuela would not recognise the concessions made by Guyana to international companies. He said that those who sign agreements with the Guyana government would have to abide by the consequences.

In July 1995 gasoline sold legally to Guyanese miners in the border region (near Cuyuni) was abruptly stopped. The Guyana Miners Association wrote to the Frontiers Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 30 October 1995 requesting a meeting to find a solution to the problem. A meeting was subsequently held, but this did not resolve the situation.

Despite these problems, relations between Guyana and Venezuela were at best cordial in the 1990s, and were characterised by the exchange of high level visits to Guyana.

These visits included that of a Venezuelan delegation of Congressmen in April 1996, another by a Venezuelan military delegation, and one by the Venezuelan Foreign Minister on the occasion of Guyana's 30th independence anniversary.

The visit of the Venezuelan Congressmen was primarily aimed at forging links of cooperation with the Guyana Parliament and discussing bilateral issues, in particular the maritime procedures as implemented by Guyana. During this visit they extended an invitation to Guyanese Parliamentarians to visit the Venezuelan Congress.

The members of the delegation raised the issue of the alleged detention of Venezuelan boats outside of Guyana's territorial waters, as well as allegations of the violation of human and civil rights of the crews. They also referred to the excessive nature of the penalties. In addition, they expressed concerns that the Guyana Government had permitted investment in the Essequibo region which had resulted in over exploitation of timber resources as well as pollution of the rivers by the mercury used in mining.

They were worried, too, over the presence of Guyanese living illegally in Venezuela and the establishment of English-speaking schools in those Guyanese communities. This, they pointed out, contravened Venezuelan laws.

The Guyanese parliamentarians with whom they met reiterated a proposal for a meeting to be convened whereby officials of both countries could address the problem of illegal fishing with a view to possible solutions. They also proposed the need for future meetings to discuss the situation with the miners at the Guyana/Venezuela border and the procurement of fuel.

Guyana's interest in increased cooperation through the Joint Commission as well as in other areas such as counter narcotics, anti malaria cooperation and sports and culture was underscored.

Also in April, a Venezuelan military delegation visited Guyana as a continuation of the wide ranging collaboration in which Guyana was involved with the three border States. The Guyana side proposed the appointments of Guyana Defence Force officers as non resident military attaches to Suriname, Brazil and Venezuela in a move to deepen the relationship with the defence forces of the neighbouring countries.


On 2-3 March 1995, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Dr. Miguel Angel Burelli visited Guyana and held discussions with his Guyana's Foreign Minister, Clement Rohee. During these discussions, he said Venezuela could assist Guyana by making a large-scale financial contribution in the joint development of Essequibo in exchange for what he termed a "practical proposal" for the settlement of the border controversy. Guyana ignored this offer, since it was felt that the proposal would involve ceding territory in exchange for Venezuelan financial development assistance.

Burelli also proposed that the Guyana-Venezuela border issue should be handled under the principle of "globality" under which bilateral relations would be looked at as interlinked. He advanced the view that "globality" was the most appropriate medium in addressing the various areas in Guyana-Venezuela relations.

In the view of the Guyana Government, this proposal was seen as an attempt to shift the border controversy to a bilateral basis thereby putting Guyana at a disadvantage. It was regarded as an attempt by the Venezuelans to eliminate the Guyana/Venezuela joint commission as a mechanism for functional cooperation between the two countries, by proposing working groups to advance this process of "globality" as they (the Venezuelans) understood it. Rohee responded to Burelli with a proposal that the two sides should meet to discuss the concept further. Venezuela did not respond to this proposal.

The Venezuelans maintained that this concept of "globality" was applied to their bilateral relations with other neighbours such as Brazil and Colombia. However, the Venezuelan-Columbia border dispute and Venezuela-Brazil border relations were always addressed at a bilateral level, while the Guyana-Venezuela existing controversy was being dealt with at the multilateral level through the United Nations.

On 5 May 1995, Rohee stated to the media that Guyana would continue to pursue relations with Venezuela on the territorial issue within the multilateral framework offered by the UN Good Officer process. According to a report in the October 1995 issue of the Guyanese monthly magazine, Guyana Review, Rohee's statement apparently irked the Government of Venezuela and caused Burelli sent a note to Jamaica's Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, then chairman of Caricom, accusing Rohee of misrepresenting Venezuela's "globality" proposal. The magazine added: "The note allegedly accuses Clement Rohee of implying that Venezuela's proposal for tackling the territorial controversy effectively represented a call for the abandonment of the McIntyre Process."

The Guyana Ministry of Foreign Affairs rejected this charge by Venezuela and insisted that Rohee's statement on 5 May could not be interpreted as an attack on Venezuela's commitment to the UN Good Officer process. It added that what the Minister sought to do was to establish the separateness of bilateral economic relations between the two countries, on the one hand, and the search for a resolution of the territorial controversy within a multilateral framework, on the other.

Some Venezuelan pressure was felt shortly after when Venezuelan suppliers withheld fuel supplies to Guyanese gold miners in the border area. This resulted in a sharp cut-back in gold production for a few weeks, after which the fuel supplies were restored.

The Caricom Heads of Government met in July in Georgetown, and in a final communiqué issued on 7 July at the end of the meeting, a paragraph dealing with Guyana-Venezuela relations stated: "Heads of Government noted the report of the President of the Guyana on recent developments in Guyana-Venezuela relations and took note of Guyana's apprehension at the concept of "globality" being advanced by Venezuela to guide the management of Guyana-Venezuela relations."

Venezuela immediately raised objections to this statement, and requested that the paragraph should be extended with the words, "which is under consideration of Guyana's Government". No doubt, this protest to Caricom was an attempt to obtain Guyana's endorsement of the "globality" proposal.

Burelli had earlier the year (1996) set out his "globality" proposal in a document entitled "Summary for a comprehensive approval for the re-orientation of relations between Venezuela and Guyana" which he sent to Rohee. The latter responded on 23 September 1996 by letter making the following comments:

"There are some questions . . . . which arise from my examination of the document and on which I would be grateful for some clarification.

"The most important of these is the link, if any, which exists between the mechanism proposed by the Globality Approach and the McIntyre process. On the one hand, the document states that the approach 'does not pretend to relinquish or interfere with the good offices of the Secretary General'. On the other, it affirms that the Political Working Group would 'contribute' to the process by 'addressing all subjects directly or indirectly with the territorial claim of the Essequibo which due to their nature cannot be addressed by this international body'. I find this statement somewhat perplexing and am concerned that the work of the Group may impinge on the integrity of the McIntyre process. I am sure that given our joint commitment to support the good offices of the Secretary General, we will wish to avoid that risk.

"There are other aspects of the proposal such as the 'temporary' nature of the approach, and "guarantees by mutual consent, for the preservation of the environment and the development of a sustainable economic growth of the said Territory', i.e., (the Essequibo) which need to be further adumbrated. In the pursuit of these ideas and indeed all others contained in the document, Guyana would of course be concerned to see that its sovereignty and territorial integrity, particularly in regard to the Essequibo, is in no way jeopardised.

"In order to clarify these and other issues relating to the proposal, I would suggest a meeting of officials to discuss how the Globality Approach would function in practice. I believe that such an exchange would help to remove any misconceptions which may exist on either side and to enhance the feasibility of the proposal. . . ."

The Venezuelan Foreign Minister never responded to Rohee's letter.

In Venezuela, the "globality" concept again gained prominence in September 1996 when at the First National Congress of Frontiers, the Venezuelan Foreign Minister noted the successful application of the concept of globality to Venezuela-Colombia relations. He explained that this concept entailed amplifying the agenda to include the simultaneous discussion of all matters of mutual interest.

At the same Congress, Vice-Admiral Elias Daniels, the Adviser of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the border controversy with Guyana, pointed out that the best option for Venezuela was the fulfilling of the Geneva Agreement. He stated that the Venezuelan objective was to advance naval patrols that would reinforce Venezuelan presence in the zone. With this in mind, the Navy was assigned missions since the beginning of 1996 to carry out patrol operations in the zone to protect Venezuelan fishermen from Guyanese authorities.


On 19 August 1995 a major environmental mishap affected part of the Essequibo River after massive leaks developed in the tailings pond dam of Omai Gold Mines Limited, causing a discharge of effluent containing up to 28 parts per million cyanide into the Omai River, a small tributary of the Essequibo River. Initial flow rates were estimated to be as much as 90,000 cubic meters per hour. By the time the flow was finally stopped on August 24 an estimated 4 million cubic meters of effluent entered the Omai River, a stream a few meters wide, and flowed along it for about a mile before entering the Essequibo River.

Omai Gold Mines Limited - a privately-owned entity headquartered in Canada - began operations in Guyana two years before. The Mines, jointly owned by a Canadian company with 60 percent of the shares, an American company with 35 percent, and the Government of Guyana with the remaining 5 percent, used cyanide as part of its gold separation process. The gold mine, located in the heart of Guyana, was then regarded as the largest on the South American continent.

Immediately upon learning of the spill, the Guyana Government dispatched a special team to the Omai site for an independent assessment of the situation, and a special monitoring team which included regional authorities was established at Bartica, a town located 75 miles downstream from Omai. Water and mud samples were taken in the area downstream along the Essequibo River to determine the toxicity of the river water. Personnel from the Pan American Health Organisation assisted with this exercise. Samples of fish and other marine life were also kept for scientific investigation.

The Ministry of Health dispatched its own team to the affected areas, and measures were put in place to prevent the sale and consumption of fish caught in the river areas between Omai and Bartica. In addition, steps were also taken to inform the Amerindian and other communities in the affected areas of the need to take precautionary measures. A general appeal was made to citizens of these areas, including the Amerindian villages, not to drink water or consume fish or other substances from the Omai or Essequibo Rivers within the affected area.

The Guyana Government also requested immediate international assistance to deal with the disaster. A permanent inter-agency disaster control committee, headed by Prime Minister, Samuel Hinds, was established to monitor the situation. This body included the Office of the President, the Ministries of Health, Finance, and Regional Development, and other organizations and individuals with expertise relevant to the situation. The Government also initiated consultations with opposition parties so that there would be national consensus on the measures to be taken.

President Cheddi Jagan in a major address to the Guyanese nation on August 22 touched on the issue of foreign investment and its effects on the environment. He said: "My government has time and again expressed concerns over the investments made before the PPP/Civic took office. From various quarters came severe criticisms and accusations that my government is not in favour of foreign investments. I want to repeat that our developing economy needs more investments to come. I also want to repeat that when the investors come, we will ensure that they respect our people, our laws and our environment."

The President declared the 50-mile stretch of the contaminated Essequibo River an environmental disaster zone. He also announced immediate and favourable responses to appeals by the Government for international assistance to what he said was a continuing "dangerous situation".

President Jagan also insisted that Omai must bear full responsibility for the accident. He was supported by the members of the Guyana parliament who on 24 August 1995 unanimously approved a resolution placing full responsibility on Omai Gold Mines Limited for the cyanide spill.

The Organisation of American States was also informed of the situation on 30 August 1995 during a special meting of its Permanent Council which was addressed by Guyana's Permanent Representative, Ambassador Odeen Ishmael.

Shortly after the spill occurred, the Venezuelan Government demanded an end to what it described as the "unilateral and irrational exploitation of the Essequibo Region." In the statement, Venezuela pointed out to Guyana "the risks of an indiscriminate policy of mining and timber concessions in the Essequibo Region, without adequate control and without the necessary security measures to avoid the kind of disaster now being witnessed". The statement added: "The Government of Venezuela, notwithstanding its good relations with the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, reiterates its firm opposition to this indiscriminate policy of mining and timber concessions, as well as any action taken by the Guyana Government which permanently and irreversibly alters the very region over which we claim sovereignty."

The statement, in addition to criticizing environmental standards in Guyana, opposed the country's efforts to economically exploit the natural resources of the region west of the Essequibo River. It left little doubt that Venezuela was strongly opposed to Guyana's granting of mining and timber concessions to foreign investors.

This Venezuelan declaration received no response from the Guyana Government.


On 17 August 1995, Presidents Jagan and Caldera met in Port of Spain during the inaugural summit of the Association of Caribbean States. At the end of the meeting, the Guyanese president said that both governments were seeking new ideas for resolving the border controversy. Caldera was later reported by the Venezuelan media as saying that he anticipated a favourable resolution with Guyana regarding the "demarcation of land and marine areas."

Two months later, (in October 1995), Jagan made a private visit to Venezuela and spent most of the time holidaying on Margarita Island. There he was paid a courtesy visit by Minister Burelli.

Towards the end of his visit, he met with Guyanese nationals in Ciudad Bolivar, Ciudad Guayana and El Tigre. He then traveled to Caracas where he stopped over on the way to Cartagena, Colombia, for the meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement, and he took the opportunity to pay a courtesy visit to President Caldera at Miraflores Palace. The issue of the border controversy did not come up in their conversations.

In Guyana the meetings between the two Presidents in Port of Spain and Caracas drew strong comments from the privately-owned Stabroek News. In an editorial on 15 October, the paper launched a bitter attack on President Jagan over his discussions with President Caldera. The editorial accused Jagan of secretly negotiating a solution to the border issue and alleged that he could not safely handle the border issue. The paper claimed that it had factual information that Jagan was having secret negotiations with the Venezuelan Government. It also openly questioned the President's patriotism by stating that he "he needs to reassure the Guyanese people in word and in deed that Guyana's 83,000 square miles mean as much to him as they do to every other patriotic Guyanese."

The Stabroek News suggested that Rohee was sidelined from the border issue and professional help from the Foreign Ministry had been refused for the supposedly clandestine discussions with President Caldera and Minister Burelli during Jagan's private visit to Venezuela. Rohee himself was at the time of that visit participating in meetings at the UN General Assembly in New York.

The Government, through Minister of Foreign Affairs Clement Rohee, immediately lashed out at the Stabroek News for making such unfounded allegations and insisted that no secret agreement was every discussed or reached with President Caldera. He explained that Jagan paid a courtesy call on the Venezuelan President and there were no discussions on the border issue.

Almost immediately Opposition Leader Desmond Hoyte and some anti-government commentators jumped in to defend the Stabroek News. They said the editorial had the right to speculate because Jagan met with Burelli in Margarita and Caldera in Caracas, event though he was on a private visit to Venezuela. They justified their support of the Stabroek News on the grounds that there were no press releases on Jagan's visit to Venezuela.


The state-owned Chronicle jumped into the fray to sharply criticize the Stabroek News. In an editorial on 18 October 1995 it stated:

The Stabroek News in its editorial of 15 September 1995authoritatively pronounced that President Cheddi Jagan had gone to Venezuela to solve the border problem.

It proceeded to lecture the President about the "serious implications of signing an agreement with Venezuela" and patronisingly hoped that the "President and his advisors have considered seriously the implications of signing an agreement with Venezuela".

To make matters worse, the editorial challenged the President to prove his patriotism by implying quite clearly that Guyana's territorial sovereignty may mean less to him than to other Guyanese. What else can this concluding sentence in the editorial mean? "At this point he (President Jagan) needs to reassure the Guyanese people in word and in deed that Guyana's 83,000 square miles mean as much to him as they do to every other patriotic Guyanese."

The Stabroek News need to explain this viscous attack on the President's integrity.

The Stabroek News has revealed an obsession with the Guyana-Venezuela border issue because it has published about three editorials on the matter in as many months. It sings the tune of the New Nation, as it does from time to time, in accusing President Jagan in clandestine diplomacy relating to the matter.

The Stabroek News paints President Jagan as an irresponsible statesman bent on signing a secret agreement with Venezuela without taking professional advice or informing the opposition or the public. The President will no doubt respond to these charges which suggest that Guyana's territorial integrity is not safe in his hands. We will not be surprised if the nature of the President's response bears a direct relation to the base level and defamatory nature of the charges.

The Stabroek News needs a lesson in history.

It was the PPP Government led by Dr. Jagan in the early '60s which refused to open the border issue with Venezuela, offering only an examination of the records by the British and Venezuelan experts who found no new material.

It was the PNC Government led by the late Forbes Burnham which, without any consultation of any sort and with no new information, signed the Geneva Agreement in 1966 which formally reopened the controversy which had been the subject of a full and final solution since 1899 and had been accepted by all parties concerned.

The Stabroek News should cease its provocations over the border issue and withdraw its insulting and patronising opinions against the President.

The Chronicle editorial drew a sharp response from Dr. Patrick McKenzie, General Secretary of the PNC. In a letter published in the Chronicle on 24 October 1995, he insisted that the Geneva Agreement never "formally" opened the border controversy. He claimed that the PPP Government's policy towards Venezuela and to the border controversy was in a state of disarray. He questioned whether the attempt to cast blame on the PNC would help the government achieve the "alleged objective" of seeking an all-party consensus on the issue.

In a follow-up editorial on 28 October, the Chronicle referred to McKenzie's letter and showed that on the Geneva Agreement, Burnham consulted only with the British Government and not with the Guyanese people. The editorial stated:

On the eve of the independence of Guyana, the British Government would have ensured that Mr. Burnham agreed to the Geneva Agreement or else it would not have been signed.

The evidence that he was consulted is his signature which he appended without consulting the Guyanese people. Dr. McKenzie significantly declined to let the Guyanese people know that the then PNC leader had signed the agreement. He disingenuously created the impression that it was an imposition by the British.

Guyana-Venezuela relations remained very cordial despite these skirmishes in the Guyanese media. In May 1996 Venezuelan Foreign Minister Burelli visited Guyana on the occasion of Guyana's 30th independence anniversary and he discussed with President Jagan possible cooperation with Venezuela in the form of joint venture arrangements in such areas as saw-milling, logging and food processing.

Towards the end of 1996, Guyana's Ambassador to Venezuela, Satydeow Sash Sawh, returned to Guyana to take up the post as a Cabinet Minister. He was replaced by Bayney Karran who presented his credentials to President Rafael Caldera on 21 January 1997.


The detention of fishing boats remained an issue of importance to both countries given the economic significance of the fisheries sector. Discussions were held in 1993 between the fishing sectors of Guyana and Venezuela relating to the conclusion of a memorandum or understanding which, inter alia, provided for the establishment of a commission to develop a draft fishing agreement.

This issue generated much publicity and some controversy. The Venezuelan Government in January 1996 issued a statement of protest expressing discontent over the incidents in which Venezuelan fishing boats were arrested in waters off the Essequibo coast. Venezuela claimed that the arrests violated "the most elementary norms of international law as well as for the actions exercised and the severe sanctions that have been imposed in previous cases". It was shortly around the same time relations between Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago became strained as a result of the arrest and detention of Trinidadian fishing boats and crew by Venezuelan Coast Guards in Trinidad waters.


There was not much progress in the area of economic cooperation since the visit of President Cheddi Jagan to Venezuela in 1993 during which he signed a memorandum of understanding incorporating the areas of trade, investment, agriculture, transport, health, environment and education.

The fifth meeting of the Joint Commission was held in Guyana from on 11-12 August, 1993, and it was agreed that a line of credit was secured from the Venezuela Investment Fund for the financing of low- income housing in Guyana. Venezuela also announced it would provide technical assistance to Guyana for the development of mining and tourism, while both sides endeavoured to provide further cooperation in the areas of environment, trade and malaria eradication.

Several of these programmes were affected by slow implementation. This was attributed to the preoccupation of the Venezuelans with their own domestic political and economic situation during that period.

The Venezuelan airline ASERCA in 1994 began to ply the route between Caracas and Georgetown, but within a few months the flights were halted after they were found to be uneconomical.

Also in 1994, a contract was signed with MARAVEN, the Venezuelan petroleum company, to supply Venezuelan petroleum products to Guyana.

In August 1995, a Venezuelan trade mission visited Guyana to strengthen commercial links. The mission also examined the possibility of supplying the Guyanese market with products at more competitive prices than those imported from Europe and North America. One of the positive results of this visit was the commencement of the building of a number of housing schemes utilising the resources of the Venezuelan Investment Fund.

Both Guyana and Venezuela acknowledged that there remained considerable untapped potential for increased trade, economic and functional cooperation, particularly in the promotion of joint ventures involving the public and private sectors; collaboration against drug trafficking; and cooperation in such potentially beneficial areas as health and fisheries.


Since the early 1970s, unrestrained illegal trade developed on the Guyana-Venezuela border. In an attempt to formalise trade activity, Guyana placed the issue of border trade, in particular, the sale of fuel to miners, as one of the agenda items for discussion at the first meeting of the administrative commission of the "partial scope agreement" (or trade agreement) held in Caracas in 1994. But although the agenda was agreed upon almost two months before the convening of the meeting, the Venezuelan side, during discussion, announced that owing to the unavailability of the relevant personnel, the issue could not be dealt with.

A few months after this meeting, strict control of the frontier crossing between Bolivar State and Guyana by Venezuelan customs authorities resulted in Guyanese miners in the upper Mazaruni and Cuyuni areas not obtaining a steady supply of fuel. The reasons Venezuela gave for this action included the desire to stamp down on the illegal export of state subsidized gasoline and diesel, as well as to prevent ecological depredation of the Essequibo territory by curtailing the activities of miners and lumber companies.

In 1995, the Government of Guyana, with respect to fuel imports, decided to negotiate an arrangement to purchase fuel from Corpoven, the Venezuela State Oil Company serving the border areas in Venezuela. The Government hoped to obtain fuel at a price between the subsidised domestic Venezuela fuel price and the international price. It stated it would examine existing agreements relating to the trade in fuel on the Colombia-Venezuela border to see if similar arrangements could be applied to Guyana. It also decided to encourage further development of storage facilities in the Essequibo region with the aim of reducing Guyana's dependency on outlets on the Venezuelan side of the border.

Reports in the Venezuelan press stated that resolution of this problem would not be easy, given that the sale of fuel even at international prices would create legal problems, since the mining activity was being carried out in a "disputed" area. The Venezuelan government eventually refused to sign a sales agreement since it felt that recognition would be given to the border as laid out in the 1899 Arbitral Award. As a result, this fuel agreement was not implemented successfully.

In the latter half of 1996 and during the first quarter of 1997, there were some isolated incidents of robberies on Guyana miners by persons crossing from the Venezuelan side. These incidents pointed to the need for Guyana to be vigilant against the incursion of Venezuelan nationals across the border.


President Cheddi Jagan suffered a heart attack on 14 February 1997 and was flown to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington DC for urgent medical attention. He never recovered from the affliction and died on 6 March. One week later, on 13 March, after a massive funeral, his remains were cremated at Port Mourant, the village of his birth.

Immediately after his death was announced, Prime Minister Samuel Hinds was sworn in as President. In April, the late President's widow, Janet, was named Prime Minister. She was later chosen as the Presidential candidate of the ruling PPP/Civic for elections to beheld in December 1997.

Elections were held on the 15 December and the PPP/Civic was returned to power with 54 percent of the votes. Janet Jagan who won the presidential election was sworn in as President four days later.


Guyana's decision to accept applications of foreign investors for exploratory leases for logging in the Essequibo generated much publicity in Venezuela. In the media coverage, as well as in a foreign policy statement made by Foreign Minister Burelli in May 1997, incorrect assumptions were made concerning Guyana's concern for the environment. The impression created was that Guyana was not implementing proper measures to safeguard the environment.

To counter negative publicity on this issue, the Guyana Government issued a statement outlining the Government's position on the matter, as well as actions undertaken to protect the environment.

In August 1997, Venezuela emphasized the necessity of clarifying the territorial marine limits. Venezuela claimed it was placed in a disadvantageous position because these limits were not defined. It said that because Guyana was insisting on the criterion of equidistance, it was not possible for Venezuela to have an outlet from the Amacura Delta to the Atlantic Ocean. This issue was raised by Venezuela at the meeting between UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and the two Foreign Ministers on 26 September 1997. Rohee said that Guyana needed time to study this proposal.

In a joint statement after the meeting, the Ministers observed that excellent bilateral relations existed between both countries. They expressed the view that by cooperating in areas such as the environment, trade, tourism and transportation, the two countries had created a climate of confidence which could contribute significantly toward a peaceful resolution of the controversy. They also expressed confidence in McIntyre and the Good Officer process.

But Burelli said he was worried over activities undertaken by Guyana in Essequibo. He told the media said that Venezuela had offered to work with Guyana to ensure that the operations were carried out in an environmentally sound manner. Rohee responded that Guyana needed to exploit its resources and assured that development activities were being carried out in a sustainable manner.

The environmental issue was raised again on 28 April 1998 when Rohee wrote to Burelli proposing that the two governments begin discussions with a view of reaching an agreement on environmental matters.


Meanwhile, President Caldera and President Janet Jagan had their first official meting in Santiago, Chile, on 18 April 1998 during the second Summit of the Americas. At this meeting, in which Foreign Minister Rohee and Dr. Odeen Ishmael, Guyana's Ambassador to the United States, were also present as part of the Guyana delegation, the border issue was not mentioned in the conversations between the Presidents. However, Caldera invited the Guyanese President to make an official visit to Venezuela.

Arrangements for this visit began soon after, and on 21 July 1998 President Janet Jagan arrived in Caracas for the official visit to Venezuela. She was accompanied by a 21-member delegation made up of her advisers, four ministers and a group of businessmen. She held discussions with the Venezuelan business community and met with Guyanese residing in Venezuela. The ministers and businessmen accompanying her held separate meetings with their Venezuelan counterparts on matters of mutual concern.

Mrs. Jagan was decorated with the Venezuelan national award, the Order of the Liberator, and later addressed a special session of the Venezuelan Congress.

President Janet Jagan on 22 July and her delegation met with Alfredo Gonzalez Amare, President of the Banco de Comercio Exterior (Bancoex) to discuss the feasibility for financing the export of non-traditional Venezuelan goods and services a line of credit. After the meeting Gonzalez Amare said both countries could establish a trade goal of US$100 million annually, since this objective met the capacities of both nations. He added that two lines of credit worth US$2 million have been opened in Guyanese banks to promote trading activities.

Gonzáles Amaré also called on the Guyanese government to study the possibility of joining one of the economic integration groups, such as the Andean Community or Mercosur.

President Jagan also met with the Board of Directors of Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA). Representatives of the Guyanese private sector were present at these meetings on the possibility of purchasing fuel from Venezuela. She also held a meeting with Venezuelan and Guyanese businessmen convened under the auspices of FEDECAMARAS. As a result of this meeting a Binational Entrepreneurial Committee was created.

When the two presidents held their official meeting, President Caldera proposed an ecological co-operation agreement, under which the two countries would jointly define the ecological considerations underpinning mining and logging operations in the Essequibo. Mrs. Jagan expressed support for this proposal saying that it did not affect the agreement between the two countries to resolve their border controversy within the framework of the Geneva Agreement and the UN Good Officer process.

Also discussed by the presidents was the problem of fishermen and their boats arrested in each other's territorial waters. Concerns were expressed by both presidents over the long periods of detention of the fishermen which caused severe economic problems to their families.

At the end of the meeting between the two presidents, the following joint communiqué was issued:


At the invitation of the President of the Republic of Venezuela, Dr. Rafael Caldera, the President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, Her Excellency Mrs. Janet Jagan, paid an Official Visit to Venezuela from July 21 to 23. 1998. President Jagan was accompanied by a high level Delegation.

During her stay in Venezuela, the President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana laid a floral wreath at the tomb of the Liberator at the National Pantheon.

The Guyanese President was also declared Illustrious Guest of the City of Caracas and received the Keys of the City from the Mayor.

President Caldera conferred the Collar Order of El Libertador on the President Cooperative Republic of Guyana.

The Head of State of Guyana addressed a Joint Session of the Congress of the Republic of Venezuela.

During her visit to Venezuela, the President of Guyana held talks with the President of Venezuela. They reviewed matters of bilateral, regional and international interest. At the same time, the members of the accompanying delegation held meetings with their Venezuelan counterparts.

The Presidents noted that 1998 marked the twentieth year of the signing of the Amazonian Cooperation Treaty. They expressed satisfaction at the level of progress towards the institutionalisation of the Pro-Tempore Secretariat. They reiterated their commitment for the principles and objectives of the Treaty.

As neighbouring countries of the Amazon region and the South American continent, both Presidents reiterated the need to consolidate their efforts to secure progress for their peoples while ensuring balanced human and social development and the protection and perpetuation of the principles of democratic government in the region.

Both Presidents reiterated the firm commitment in their countries towards the preservation of democracy and respect of human rights. They underscored their firm adherence to the principles of the sovereign equality of States, the respect of self-determination of peoples and non intervention, as enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations.

The two Presidents emphasised the atmosphere of cordiality and friendship which has characterised the two countries relations, and the direct dialogue sustained as a result of Presidential encounters over the last decade.

They also expressed their satisfaction with the level of progress attained in bilateral relations, emphasising that this was the result of dynamic contacts among different officials at the highest political, economic and commercial levels of both countries. In that regard, both Presidents expressed their wish for the expansion and deepening of those relations.

The Presidents evaluated the ongoing process for a mutually satisfactory solution to the territorial controversy which exists between Guyana and Venezuela and reiterated their firm commitment to peacefully resolve the controversy. In this regard, they expressed their appreciation to the efforts of Sir Alistair McIntyre, Personal Representative of the United Nations Secretary General and reaffirmed their decision to continue to avail themselves of the McIntyre Process, in order to reach a final settlement as called for by the Geneva Agreement of 1966.

Conscious of the extreme importance of sustainable management of the environment for economic and social development, both Presidents agree that under the aegis of the McIntyre Process, Guyana and Venezuela will initiate negotiations leading to and Agreement on Environmental Matters.

In an effort to accelerate the promotion of bilateral relations, the Presidents agreed to adopt an integral and global approach to the bilateral agenda and to establish an integral framework for consultation and cooperation:

A High Level Bilateral Commission headed by Ministers of Foreign Affairs, which, on a regular basis, will monitor the work of the Sub-Committees to be established in the following areas: Political Consultation, Environment, Trade and Economic Cooperation, Culture, Health, Agriculture, Livestock and Agro-Industry, Transportation, Consular Matters.

A meeting of Officials will be convened within forty five (45) days to finalise the Terms of Reference and work programme. The date and venue will be agreed upon through diplomatic channels.

Acknowledging the importance of the development and rational exploitation of living marine resources, both Presidents agreed to assign technical Working Groups, through diplomatic channels, for the purpose of identifying specific areas for the exploration and exploitation of living marine resources. This includes the establishment of joint enterprises for the processing and marketing of these resources.

Aware of the threat of drug trafficking and its related crimes, the Presidents acknowledged the need to collaborate in this area within the Hemispheric Anti- Drug Strategy. They agreed to give priority status to the meeting of the Guyana/Venezuela Mixed Commission for the Prevention, Control and Suppression of Consumption and Illicit Trafficking of drugs and other psychotropic substances.

They urged that greater efforts be made to pursue cooperation in the health sector and encouraged the relevant organisations to continued joint endeavours under the programme agreed to by the two countries, particularly in the area of malaria and other vector control diseases.

Both Presidents agreed that, at the bilateral level, measures should be encouraged for enhancing cooperation and exchanges between their Armed Forces.

Both Presidents expressed the opinion that the fight against crime requires joint action by the parties, and that increased cooperation between the police authorities of both countries will result in providing protection and more tranquillity to their respective communities.

During her visit, President Jagan met with the authorities of the Venezuelan Investment Fund with whom Her Excellency exchanged views with regard to the continuation of economic cooperation agreements and the exploration of other possibilities for financing development programmes. President Jagan also met with the President of the Bank of Foreign Trade. The discussions included the feasibility for a line of credit for the financing of exports of non-traditional Venezuelan goods and services. A meeting was also held with the Board of Directors of Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA). Representatives of the Guyanese private sector were present at these meetings.

The President of Guyana held a meeting with Venezuelan and Guyanese businessmen convened under the auspices of FEDECAMARAS. As a result of this meeting a Binational Entrepreneurial Committee was created.

President Caldera expressed his satisfaction with the presence of the private sector delegation that accompanied President Jagan to Venezuela. The discussions with their Venezuelan counterparts augured well for the improvement of the commercial and economic relations between the two countries, particularly in the promotion of trade, investment and the consolidating of their institutional links.

Aware of the importance to their two countries, of educational and cultural links, both Presidents agreed to give emphasis to the work of the Venezuelan Institute for Culture and Cooperation in Georgetown in the teaching of the Spanish language and other cultural activities.

Both Heads of State considered as favourable for bilateral relations, the further enhancement of cultural activities which could benefit both communities. They also encouraged the promotion of youth exchanges between the two countries, including the system of infant and juvenile orchestras of Venezuela.

Both Presidents expressed their satisfaction with the decision adopted by the Heads of State and Government during the II Summit of the Americas held last April in Santiago de Chile, to commence negotiations for the establishment of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). They expressed their strong desire for special attention to be given to the needs and peculiarities of the small and vulnerable economies as well as those of intermediate developing countries to allow them to effectively participate in the free trade process. In that context, President Jagan pointed out that the establishment of a Regional Integration Fund would help alleviate the plight of the smaller and vulnerable economies.

They acknowledged the role of the Organisation of American States (OAS) in the Summit of the Americas process. In exchanging ideas on the subject of the Inter American Convention against Corruption, the Presidents expressed their satisfaction with the advances made and expressed their wish for the Convention to be signed and ratified by all countries of the Hemisphere.

In acknowledging the need to increase the links between the two countries within the framework of the Caribbean Basin, the Presidents expressed their commitment to support the activities of the Association of Caribbean States. In this regard, both Heads of State were of the view that an ACS Summit should be convened early next year to give further impetus to the work carried out by the Association.

President Jagan noted with appreciation the attendance of President Caldera at the Nineteenth Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Governments of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) which was held in St. Lucia from June 30 to July 4, 1998.

The Presidents took note of the progress being made by the CARICOM countries for the creation of a Single Market and Economy which would facilitate the removal of barriers to free trade amongst the countries of the Community and contribute to the further enhancement of the integration process of the sub-region.

The two Presidents also manifested their interest in identifying different ways to contribute to the economic growth of the region, through the expansion of bilateral and multilateral trade. In this regard, they were in favour of facilitating the negotiation of a Free Trade agreement between CARICOM and Venezuela.

They expressed their satisfaction with the ongoing discussions between the Andean Community and the Caribbean Community towards the negotiation for a free trade area between the two sub-regions.

They reaffirmed their commitment to the eradication of poverty and unemployment. President Jagan took the opportunity to reiterate the call for a New Global Human Order with universal improvement of economic, social and political conditions.

During her visit President Jagan took the opportunity to meet with Guyanese nationals residing in Venezuela.

The President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana expressed her sincere appreciation for the warm hospitality extended to her and her delegation by the Government and People of the Republic of Venezuela.


The visit of the Guyanese President attracted much attention in the Venezuelan media. The Venezuelan newspaper, El Globo, on 22 July 1998 claimed that through the proposed environmental treaty "Venezuela may intervene in the granting of mining and forest concessions in the Essequibo." The paper quoted Foreign Minister Burelli as saying that in the proposed treaty the two countries were preparing a mechanism of consultation for the granting mining and forest concessions "in the zone under reclamation."

He added:

"The matter of subscribing a treaty on ecological or environment cooperation was discussed, which would permit Venezuela to contribute with the preservation of the natural resources of that territory where many lumber and mining concessions have been granted in the last years. This is a very important point of cooperation which brings us nearer to consider other things to the extent that the negotiators of the two parties on this matter have confidence to realize that neither one wants to tear apart the other, but to reach a fair and acceptable solution for the parties".

Burreli explained that the treaty should be drafted within two months and that its preparation was the responsibility of his Ministry which would be assisted by the Ministry of Environment and the Faculty of Forestry Sciences of the University of the Andes.

In Guyana, opposition critics of the Guyana government's frontiers policy commented on President Janet Jagan's visit to Venezuela. They complained of non-consultation with the opposition PNC which they said had "a more than fair record in the management of relations with Venezuela, over a long period, and in the face of frightening provocation." They argued that the Venezuelan Foreign Minister had long sought to sell Caracas's so-called "globality" policy, the central element of which was the idea of the joint Guyana-Venezuela development of the Essequibo zone which Venezuela continued to claim. This, they said, was in contrast to Guyana's long held policy of the Essequibo being part of Guyana's sovereign territory, and there could be no question of joint development of that land or restrictions on Guyana's sovereign right to the exploitation of the mineral- and timber-rich Essequibo.

On her return to Guyana, President Jagan held a media conference and answered questions relating to her visit to Venezuela. In responding to questions she expressed that she was unaware that Venezuela was occupying Guyana's half of Ankoko Island. This revelation was pounced upon by the former Foreign Minister Rashleigh Jackson who immediately wrote to the President to register his distress over her remarks. In his letter, published in the Stabroek News on 14 August 1998, he complained about statements made by the President:

"The first is a statement which indicated that you were unaware of the occupation by Venezuela of the Guyana portion of Ankoko Island. The second is your statement about the involvement of the United Nations in the search for peaceful solutions to the controversy. The third is what I call the cavalier way in which you responded to questions about the statements appearing in the Venezuelan press which have been attributed to the Venezuelan foreign minister in relation to the conclusion of an environmental treaty between Guyana and Venezuela."

With regard to the involvement of the UN in the border issue Jackson attached to his letter a press release dated March 30, 1983 issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs when the government of Guyana and the government of Venezuela agreed in accordance with the Geneva Agreement to refer to the Secretary General the question of the choice of means of settlement of the controversy. "It is not as you are alleged to have asserted that the UN moved in because that is the UN's job. The UN is involved in the issue as a result of a conscious decision by the governments of Guyana and Venezuela," Mr. Jackson pointed out.

Referring to statements attributed to Foreign Minister Burelli of Venezuela on the proposed environmental treaty Mr. Jackson said he was amazed at the President's reaction. He wrote:

"I would have thought that a statement purporting to come from a very senior functionary like the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Venezuela would be analysed rather more carefully than being dismissed in a cavalier manner in which you said virtually that he could say what he likes. I believe that the proper thing for the Government of Guyana to have done was to seek clarification on the issue. After all, there is a Venezuelan Ambassador in Georgetown and a Guyanese Ambassador in Caracas. Surely enquiries could have been made about the authenticity of the statement because if Mr. Burelli confirms that the newspaper reports we are correct, very serious issues and implications arise for Guyana's sovereignty since he talks about the granting of concessions in the Essequibo region."

Mr. Jackson said he was not clear whether the treaty being negotiated related only to the Essequibo region or to the whole of Guyana or whether territory in Venezuela is included as well. He further questioned why the treaty was being negotiated under the aegis of the McIntyre process rather than the Treaty of Amazonian Cooperation or any bilateral agreement between the two countries in which they agreed to implement that treaty. "Bringing the Treaty under the McIntyre process would be inferentially associating environmental matters with the border controversy which I think is fraught with danger," he stated.


In response to statements made by Minister Burelli on the proposed environmental treaty, the Guyana Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued the following statement on 14 August 1998:

The Government of Guyana has noted several recent statements attributed to the Foreign Minister of Venezuela in connection with the decision arrived at to negotiate an agreement on the environment on the occasion of the visit of President Janet Jagan to the Republic of Venezuela.

While the Government of Guyana seeks to verify the accuracy of these statements, in the meantime it would like to clarify its position on the matter.

Arising out of discussions under the McIntyre Process, it was proposed that the Governments of Guyana and Venezuela may wish to consider entering into discussions leading to an agreement on the environment based on the multilateral commitments of the two countries. The Government of Guyana found favour with this proposal and the Foreign Minister of Guyana wrote to the Foreign Minister of Venezuela on April 28, 1998 proposing that the two Governments "commence discussions with a view to concluding an agreement on environmental matters based on their multilateral commitments."

Consequently, the position advanced by the Government of Guyana to the Government of Venezuela is that any Treaty between the countries on the environment must embrace those principles contained in international agreements to which the two Governments are parties. Such principles could be derived from; the Treaty of Amazonian Cooperation, the Convention on Climate Change, the Convention on Biological Diversity, Agenda 21 and the Declaration arising out of the Bolivia Summit on Sustainable Development, among others. Further, the Government of Guyana made it clear that such an agreement must not be exclusive to any particular region in any of the two countries, but must be global and all embracing.

During preliminary discussions in Georgetown between officials representing the Foreign Ministries of Guyana and Venezuela on the text of the draft Communiqué in preparation for President Jagan's visit to Venezuela, it was agreed that the two Governments would commence discussions on such an agreement. This decision was reflected in the Draft Communiqué which was agreed to by the two sides before the Guyana delegation left for Venezuela.

While in Venezuela and before the Communiqué was issued, the Venezuelan Government requested certain amendments to that section of the Communiqué dealing with the agreement on the environment. After careful consideration, the following text was agreed to by the two sides and incorporated in the Communiqué issued on July 27, 1998:

Conscious of the extreme importance of sustainable management of the environment for economic and social development, both Presidents agreed that under the aegis of the McIntyre Process, Guyana and Venezuela will initiate negotiations leading to an agreement on environmental matters.

The Government of Guyana wishes to make it abso1utely clear that at no time did it undertake to enter into any agreement with Venezuela relating to the joint monitoring by Guyana and Venezuela of the environment in the Essequibo region or consulting with Venezuela on the granting of mining and forestry concessions in that area of Guyana. Further, no discussions took place between the two Governments as to the place or the circumstances under which such an agreement, if arrived at, would be signed.

The Government of Guyana wishes to make it known that the issues raised in the press attributed to Venezuelan Foreign Minister Burelli Rivas were never raised in the discussions on the contents of the Communiqué. In fact, had they been raised, they would have been rejected by Guyana. The Communiqué reflects the fill extent of the agreement reached between the two Governments on the matter.

Minister Rohee's letter to his Venezuelan counterpart stating that any such agreement would be based on the multilateral commitments of the two countries is unambiguous about Guyana's position in relation to the nature of the agreement contemplated.

The Government of Guyana is proud of its stewardship as regards the protection of the environment. The fact that Guyana has donated 360,000 hectares of pristine rainforest, known as the Iwokrama International Rainforest Project, for research and study for the benefit of the rest of the world, should be an inspiration to all environmentally conscious people the world over.

In accordance with our national efforts strict laws are being applied and fortified to avoid environmental degradation. The establishment of an Environmental Protection Agency and a Presidential Commission on Sustainable Development, as well as the fact that Guyana continues to be the lead country in Caricom on environmental matters are all living testimony that our commitment to the protection of the environment is beyond the reproach.

The Government of Guyana reaffirms its positive appraisal of the recent visit by President Jagan to the Republic of Venezuela and intends to place equal emphasis on those aspects of the Communiqué which are aimed at increased trade, functional cooperation, political dialogue and other forms of cooperation between the two countries.


On 17 August 1998, the Venezuelan Ministry of External Affairs issued a press communiqué on President Jagan's visit to Venezuela. The Guyana Government felt that the press communiqué contained inaccuracies and as a result sent the following official note to the Venezuela on 20 August 1998:

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Guyana presents its compliments to the Ministry of External Relations of the Republic of Venezuela and has the honour to refer to the Press Communiqué issued on August 17, 1998 by the Ministry for External Relations of Venezuela referring to the Joint Communiqué issued at the conclusion of the recent visit to Venezuela by Her Excellency Mrs Janet Jagan, O.E., President of the Republic of Guyana.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Guyana wishes to clarify that the statement carried in paragraphs two and three of the August 17, 1998 Communiqué does not accurately represent what took place at the Meeting which took place at the United Nations Headquarters in September 1997. Media Reports based on these statements are equally misleading.

This Ministry's record of the September 1997 Meeting with Mr. Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations is that while the Hon. Minister of External Relations of the Republic of Venezuela did in fact mention his Government's offer to cooperate with the Government of Guyana to ensure that activities in the area under claim by Venezuela were carried out in a sustainable manner, this offer was not pursued. Indeed, in his own presentation to the Meeting, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guyana declared that the preservation of the environment was also of concern to Guyana, that issues relating to the environment are treated in a comprehensive manner, and that his Government was doing everything necessary to ensure that activities were carried out in a sustainable manner.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs further wishes to recall that the reaction of United Nations Secretary General to the remarks by the Foreign Minister of Guyana on the issue of the environment was to express pleasure at the reference to sustainable development adding that it was important for the country to continue its development. At no time did the United Nations Secretary General make any reference to any Agreement on the Environment to be signed much less one to be signed in his presence. Copies of a Report detailing Guyana's activities to protect its environment were presented to the United Nations Secretary General and to the Hon. Minister of External Relations of the Republic of Venezuela.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Guyana avails itself of this opportunity to renew to the Ministry for External Relations for Venezuela, the assurances of its highest consideration.


Meanwhile, Rohee met with the Ambassador of Venezuela to Guyana, Hector Azocar on 18 August 1998 and complained that Burelli not responded to him regarding discussions on the environmental agreement. He said media reports were reporting that the Venezuelan Foreign Minister was stating that any investment in Essequibo would require the agreement of Venezuela. He said he was surprised at such statement since this was not the understanding of the Guyana Government. He added that Guyana was willing to enter into an agreement based on other multilateral agreements such as the UN Conference on Climate Change.

The proposed ready engendered differences of opinion in both countries. The Venezuela government wanted the agreement to deal with only western Essequibo while Guyana felt that it should not be limited to the area being claimed by Venezuela.

On 28 August 1998, a CANA report quoted Alister McIntyre as agreeing with the Guyana position. This immediately raised the ire of Venezuela. El Nacional of 12 September 1998 reported that Burelli contacted McIntyre over the report and the latter claimed he was misinterpreted by the media. The paper felt that McIntyre's intention (in agreeing with the Guyana position) was "probably to calm down the spirits in Guyana where there was uneasiness about the affirmation that the agreement would imply . . . . the possibility of Caracas counselling Georgetown on the process of granting lumber and mining concessions in the Essequibo territory." The paper added that Venezuela objected to the agreement covering both countries "because it would imply the possibility of Georgetown protesting, for example, in the case of an oil spill in the state of Zulia. . .

By this time the elections campaign had already started in Venezuela. In June Hugo Chavez, leader of the Fifth Republic Party, told a meeting of students of international studies that Venezuela could not hope to reclaim the entire Essequibo territory except by war, but he did not believe in resolving international disputes by such a method. Then, during October, in a discussion on his proposed foreign policy, he stated that relations with Guyana should move beyond the territorial issue and should strengthened in other areas.

On 21 September 1998, El Mundo, in an editorial headlined "Meeting between Venezuela and Guyana will lower the tone of the discussions" reference was made to the upcoming meeting at the UN involving the Presidents, the Foreign Ministers and the facilitators of both countries with Annan and McIntyre. The editorial said the two sides should take advantage of the meeting to clarify some of the issues which questioned Venezuela's position on the proposed environmental agreement. The paper stated that the document signed in Caracas during President Jagan's visit in July did not bind either country to carry out any specific activity, "but rather to seek for points of coincidence that would permit to handle the Essequibo territory with greater equanimity to their mutual benefit inasmuch as rivers, basins and other national resources could be affected seriously by their exploitation, causing irreversible damage in their territories, including those outside the area of reclamation."


At the beginning of December 1998, one week before the general elections, presidential candidate Hugo Chavez, who was favoured to win, gave an interview to El Nacional. A former Lieutenant Colonel of the Venezuelan Army, Chavez led an unsuccessful coup attempt against President Perez in 1992 and was subsequently imprisoned for two years. After his release from prison he organized his own political party, the Fifth Republic Party, and began his political campaign to win power. The interview was published on 7 December after the elections were concluded and Chavez declared the winner.

Chavez told the paper he did not believe the McIntyre process was functioning well. He said it might be necessary to look for other mechanisms, "especially government to government negotiations." He insisted that "the Essequibo is Venezuelan land", but was careful to explain that the claim would be continued "as a policy of peace" because "we don't have any intention of damaging the relations with the sister Republic of Guyana - we have good neighbours there."

The Venezuelan electorate surprised the political establishment by electing Hugo Chavez Frias, as president by an overwhelming majority. The populist leader campaigned on a platform that he could bring change to a nation struggling with corruption and a faltering, oil-dependent economy.

Chavez, who presented himself as the champion of the poor and an enemy of the established "oligarchy," settled in rapidly to his new role of a national political leader intent maintaining democracy. Huge celebrations in Caracas' barrios greeted his electoral victory because the poor people who lived there saw him as their saviour. The two major political parties, Social Christian Party (COPEI) and Accion Democratica (AD), which inter-changeably held the reigns of power and which safeguarded the interests of the rich for the past 40 years, were completely rejected by the Venezuelan voters.

Chavez sworn in as President on 2 February 1999. President Janet Jagan attended the inauguration and the two Presidents met for a half-hour private meeting during which they spoke about issues affecting relationships between the two countries, including giving support to the UN efforts to bring about a solution to the border controversy.

Jose Vicente Rangel was appointed the new Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Affairs. He met with McIntyre on 15 March 1999 in Caracas. He reaffirmed Venezuela's interest in the continuation of the McIntyre process, despite reservations made earlier by Chavez. Rangel visited Guyana at the end of March and held meetings with Rohee and President Janet Jagan.

On 13 July 1999, Rangel wrote to Rohee and McIntyre protesting that Guyana, "ignoring the most essential obligations imposed by the Geneva Agreement and international law, . . . . has granted in an unilateral manner concessions for exploration of hydrocarbons to the Century Company, which, far from being limited to submarine areas which correspond to the zone under reclamation, include submarine areas which constitute the marine projection of the Delta Amacuro coast between Punta Arauapiche and Punta de Playa up to the outer tip of the continental margin."

In a reply a few days later, Rohee stated that Guyana had "taken due note of the preoccupations expressed" by Venezuela over the granting of the concessions. He added that Guyana would appreciate if Venezuela could clarify its reservation as to why it felt that Guyana had granted concessions in areas falling under the sovereignty of Venezuela.

Rangel did not respond to this request, but on 9 September he wrote to the Venezuelan Minister of Defence, Raul Salazar, asking him to stage "an act of reaffirmation of sovereignty and jurisdiction over the marine and submarine areas which correspond to the coastal front of the Delta Amacuro with the attendance of the Honourable President of the Republic."

Meanwhile, President Chavez attended the Caricom summit in July 1999 where he announced that Venezuela would offer the facility, as set out under the San Jose accord, for Caricom countries to purchase fuel from Venezuela at reduced prices. On his return to Venezuela, he was asked by the media why he was planning to extend the San Jose oil facility to Caricom countries even though they were backing Guyana on the border issue. Chavez replied that Caricom's position on the issue was long established and that it was now necessary to pursue integration initiatives.

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In early August 1999 Janet Jagan resigned as President of Guyana due to complication of ill health and shortly after the 35-year old Finance Minister Bharrat Jagdeo was sworn in as the new President.

Guyana's Foreign Minister Clement Rohee and Rangel met with Kofi Annan at the UN on 22 September 1999. Also at the meeting were McIntyre and other senior officials of the UN, as well as the Guyanese and Venezuelan facilitators, Ralph Ramkarran and Carlos Ayala Corao. During the meeting the two ministers emphasised the importance of the UN Good Officer process. A statement by the office of the Secretary General said that "the ministers noted that relations between the two countries were good and were improving in a number of areas."

A Stabroek News report on 23 September 1999 announced that McIntyre would soon resign as the UN Good Officer. The UN subsequently announced the resignation of McIntyre.

The Venezuelan Government, sought on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the Arbitral Award to influence Barbados public opinion by publishing a paid advertisement of Venezuela's statement on the anniversary in a Barbados newspaper. Guyana also was not idle. In November 1999 at the Commonwealth Conference in South Africa, Guyana was able to get the Commonwealth Secretariat to form a Commonwealth ministerial group to monitor developments on the border issue. South Africa, Great Britain, Canada and Antigua and Barbuda, along with Guyana, were named as members of this group which would meet from time to time to assess the situation. Bangladesh and Belize later joined the group.

In October 1999, Venezuela protested to Guyana and to the UN Good Officer that oil exploration licenses granted by Guyana earlier in the year to two foreign companies, Century Offshore Management Corporation and Maxus Energy Corporation, extended into Venezuelan territory. Later, Cabinet Secretary Roger Luncheon confirmed that the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission might have used the wrong boundary markers in granting the licenses.

On 8 October 1999, the Venezuelan daily El Nacional and a Bloomberg News Agency reported that Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jose Vicente Rangel said that the oil companies granted permission to explore for oil offshore from Guyana had agreed to suspend their operations until Venezuela's claim to the Essequibo region had been settled. He also said that a settlement could involve an agreement to share the resources of the area being claimed by Venezuela. But these reports were firmly denied by the two oil exploration companies.

Commenting on these news reports, Guyana's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Clement Rohee, declared, "The Essequibo belongs to Guyana and if we give concessions to anyone to exploit the country's resources we expect them to do so." He stated that there was no agreement which provided for the non-exploitation of the resources of the Essequibo and of any proposals to share the resources to be exploited with Venezuela.

Later in the month, Venezuelan helicopters intruded into Guyana's airspace and several shots were fired by Venezuelan National Guardsmen from Ankoko Island, the Guyana half of which was occupied by Venezuela since 1966. There were also Venezuelan troop movements in the border area. The Guyana Government informed the Venezuelan Government of these incidents, and while promising to investigate, assured Guyana that the unusual movements of Venezuelan troops along the border posed no threat to Guyana's territorial integrity and national sovereignty. The military movements were said to be exclusively related to an exercise being conducted to counter the trafficking of drugs in the area.

Around the same time, the Assembly of Caribbean Community Parliamentarians (ACCP) meeting in Grenada passed a resolution in support of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Guyana, stating their desire for a peaceful settlement to the controversy between Guyana and Venezuela. And on 27 October 1999, a communiqué from the conference of Heads of Government of Caricom in Trinidad and Tobago fully endorsed the resolution approved by the ACCP in Grenada, reiterating their firm support for sovereignty and territorial integrity of Guyana and their desire for a peaceful settlement with Venezuela.

A similar statement was issued on 15 November 1999 in South Africa by the Commonwealth Heads of Government who in their communiqué expressed their firm support for and solidarity with the Government and people of Guyana in the maintenance of their territorial integrity and sovereignty. The statement also commended Guyana for its continued commitment to a peaceful settlement to the controversy with Venezuela.

Towards the end of the month, Venezuela's Constitutional Assembly, in writing a new constitution for the country, approved an article recognizing only those territorial treaties and rulings "not considered null." Included under this null category is the 1899 decision of the International Tribunal of Arbitration which awarded the Essequibo region to then British Guiana. This article was included in the new constitution which was subsequently ratified by a national referendum in December 1999.


In May 1999 officials of Beal Aerospace Technologies Inc., a company based in Dallas, Texas, held talks with the Government of Guyana regarding the construction of a satellite launch site on the northern bank on the Waini River in the Essequibo area claimed by Venezuela. The Beal company, headed by Andrew Beal, subsequently applied to purchase a sizeable portion of state land, 10 acres of which was to be used for the launch site, 26,000 acres as its primary site and 75,000 acres for a buffer zone. For this project, Beal proposed to set up infrastructure, the cost of which was projected at US$50 million. The project entailed carrying out basic structural works, which would include buildings, fuel storage, launch pad and 10,000 feet of runway. For the initial stages of the project Beal said that 500 jobs would be made available.

In Guyana, the project received strong support, particularly from the Amerindians in the proposed project area, since it was recognised that the investment had the potential of bringing short and long term financial and technological benefits to the economy.

Immediately, Venezuela expressed its opposition to the proposed satellite launch site in the Waini area, and declared it was planning to study the environmental implications of the proposed project. The Government of Guyana made every effort to reassure the Government of Venezuela that the Beal investment was not a threat to the security of Venezuela. In bilateral discussions held during the OAS General Assembly in Guatemala in June 1999, Guyana's Foreign Minister Clement Rohee advised his Venezuelan counterparty that if Venezuela had any questions with respect to this investment, the Government of Guyana was willing to provide answers. Advantage was not taken of this offer, but public pronouncements were made by Venezuela alleging that the facility would be used for military purposes with US military personnel stationed there. Guyana immediately sought to reassure the Venezuelan Government that the contract with Beal was for purely economic and non military purposes and that no foreign troops would be based at the facility.


Meanwhile, the discussions between the Guyana Government and Beal continued and meetings were held in Texas and also in Georgetown to work out the agreement. These negotiations were conducted in confidence and with little disclosure from either side on many aspects of the project and nothing at all on the terms and conditions which were likely to be agreed upon. There was evidently a sense of urgency on the part of the Guyana Government with the expectation that the final agreement with Beal would be completed by 31 December 1999.

Against this background, some non-governmental organisations, opposition political parties and individuals began to express fears that the final agreement would not be beneficial to Guyana. They voiced concerns over the proposed sale of land, the potential loss of sovereignty over a large portion of the country's territory in a military sensitive area, the safety factor, and the environmental impact of the project on resident community, plant and animal life.

In late November 1999, an organisation calling itself "Guyana Is First" called a meeting of some non-governmental organisations, namely, the Guyana Association of Professional Engineers (GAPE), the Amerindian Peoples Association (APA), Guyana Human Rights Association, Shell Beach Adventures and a number of interested individuals to discuss the implications of the "Beal deal". A delegation from these organisations met the Prime Minister Samuel Hinds on 1 December 1999, with the hope of receiving from him as much information as possible on the project and the state of negotiations. The Prime Minister gave assurances that there should be no fear over the project, but revealed no details on the progress of the negotiations which did little to reassure the delegation on a number of issues that bothered them.

"Guyana is First", apparently not satisfied that the Government was revealing anything much about the negotiations with Beal Aerospace Technologies, carried out a picketing exercise in protest and alleged that the Government was intent on compromising the sovereignty of Guyana. The opposition People's National Congress (PNC) supported this protest exercise and stated that it was opposing the proposed project. On the other hand, "Guyana Is First" and the PNC were strongly condemned for their stance against foreign investment by supporters of the project.

On 20 March 2000, both of Guyana's daily newspapers, Guyana Chronicle and Stabroek News, reported that President Hugo Chavez vowed to maintain Venezuela's longstanding claim over three-quarters of Guyana. President Chavez also expressed his opposition to plans by Beal Aerospace Technologies to build the rocket-launch facility in the sparsely populated area claimed by Venezuela.

Nevertheless, negotiations continued with Beal Aerospace Technologies and, finally, on 19 May 2000, the Guyana Government finally signed an agreement with Beal Guyana Launch Services, LLC (a Texas-based firm), a subsidiary of Beal Aerospace Technologies Inc., to establish the space launch facility. The agreement involved an investment of US$100 million. The signing of the deal took place amidst tight security at the Office of the Prime Minister, with the Prime Minister signing on behalf of the Government and Vice-President of Beal Aerospace Technologies, David Spoede, signing for his company. Officials of the United States Embassy including Charge d'Affaires Sheila Peters and Henry Bisharat, Political and Economic Chief, witnessed the signing. Also at the signing were Local Government Minister, Harripersaud Nokta, Minister of Amerindian Affairs, Vibert DeSouza, head of the Guyana Office for Investment (GO-INVEST) Deochand Narain, and the chief Government negotiator in the discussions with Beal, Edgar Heyligar.

The agreement granted a 99-year tax-holiday to Beal. The "primary site" of the launch facility would comprise 10,120 hectares (25,000 acres) located between the Waini River and the Atlantic Ocean, and surrounded by a buffer zone encircling the "primary site" of approximately 30,360 hectares (75,000 acres). The agreement included the purchase of a "remote site" of approximately 4.5 hectares (10 acres) about 40 km (25 miles) southeast of the primary site where a radar and tracking station would be established.

The "primary site" and "remote site" were sold to Beal for US$3 per acre and were to be surveyed prior to payment for the land. The buffer area would be leased to Beal for US$1 per acre paid annually; that was estimated to be US$75,000 per annum. Beal was also to pay this amount to Guyana within 30 days of the signing of the contract Existing acreage fees in the region for timber sales agreements were between US$0.08 and US$0.15. The agreement specified that the buffer zone area would be accessible to residents within its environs for the purpose of fishing and other activities. Beal was not permitted to engage in mining, forestry or any other commercial activity in any of the land sold or leased to it which was not directly related to the launching operation without the specific approval of Guyana.

The accord indicated that if Beal had no more than six successful launches in a calendar year it would pay the Government US$25,000. If it did more than six but no more than 12 successful launches in a calendar year, it would pay US$50,000 per successful launch. If it did more than 12, but no more than 18 successful launches in a calendar year, it would pay the government US$75,000 per successful launch. If 19 or more successful launches were done in a calendar year, the company would have to pay a fee of US$100,000 per successful launch. However, Beal's obligation to pay Guyana for a successful launch should not exceed one percent of the contract amount between Beal and its customer for any such launch. Beal would also pay Guyana US$100,000 per year for consideration of all administrative expenses and fees incurred or chargeable by the Government in connection with the project, but not limited to the cost of stationing and housing customers and administrative officers at the facility. Beal would also pay up to US$400,000 in relocation expenses for some 50 families currently living too close to the space port site. As part of the agreement Beal would obtain a 99-year reprieve on taxes.

The launch facility would be designated as a port of entry, both by air and sea and Beal would operate docks on the Waini River for access to the "primary" and "remote sites". With the Government's approval, it could also establish docks outside of these sites.

The deal with Beal was not considered closed until an environmental permit was issued by the Guyana Environmental Protection Agency. Beal, in the meantime, applied or an interim permit to drain and clear the area on the coast between the Waini River and the Atlantic Ocean.

The opposition People's National Congress immediately threatened to use its "full political might" to ensure that the deal did not materialise. A statement from the party said that it would support the efforts of all other groups in their objections to the agreement. "The PNC wishes to repeat its position that while we welcome appropriate foreign investment, we are opposed to this . . . . incompetent sell-out of our national resources," the party declared.


The agreement with Beal continuously engaged the attention of the Venezuelan Government. A Reuters report from New York on 15 July 2000 quoted President Chavez as saying: "The commercial rocket launch site in Guyana, in the area subject to a long standing territorial dispute, could be used for military purposes. It will be protected by US officials, meaning [they will] have troops from the United States here. We're not prepared to allow this; the equipment on the base could be used in an armed conflict, because we are talking about rocket launch here." Chavez's position was repeated in a New York Times article on 21 July 2000.

Guyana's Prime Minister Samuel Hinds responded that the base would be used only for the launching of commercial satellites and not for military purposes. He pointed out that the agreement with Beal did not include military use and that there will be no US troops at the site.

During July, Venezuela's Foreign Minister Vicente Rangel visited Washington and met with senior State Department officials. On his return to Venezuela he told the Venezuelan media the "security adviser" to President Clinton and the Under Secretary of State for Hemispheric Affairs were informed of Venezuela's opposition to the Beal investment in Guyana and that the former expressed "surprise" at had no knowledge of the contract. This was a strange revelation since American Embassy officials witnessed the signing of the contract in May.

El Nacional reported on 26 July 2000 that President Chavez, in addressing personnel of the Venezuelan armed forces the day before, stated: "We are not going to permit them (Guyana) to install a rocket launch base on Venezuelan soil. We cannot tolerate it. . . . The Venezuelan people have to stand up with their armed forces."

Aggressive language was also used by Rangel, who indicated in a television interview in Caracas on 26 July 2000 that Venezuela would grant oil exploration concessions in western Essequibo. According to a Reuters report on the same day, the Foreign Minister stated, "We have warned oil companies that have accepted concessions there from Guyana that we would take measures."

Rangel also continued to voice strong opposition to the Beal project. He wrote in El Nacional on 27 July 2000: "The Beal-Guyana deal is nothing but a vulgar 21st century edition of colonialist arrangements imposed by force or bribe on venal governments. (It is a) partial cession of sovereignty. . . . The facilities will be located very near Venezuela, between the Guianía River and the Atlantic Ocean. . . . compromising the currently Guyanese and potentially Venezuelan sovereignty over a total 100,000 acres."

In a response, Guyana's President Bharrat Jagdeo on 28 July 2000 accused Venezuela of trying to scare serious investors away from Guyana. He said that Guyana would spare no effort to counter Venezuela's offer of oil concessions on Guyana's territory.

This was followed by a statement on the next day by Guyana's Ministry of Foreign Affairs accusing Venezuela of blatant interference in trying to block the development of the Beal commercial rocket launch site. The release also expressed deep concern at recent statements by Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez against the Beal project.

There was a further effort to put pressure on Guyana when, according to a report in the Venezuelan daily El Nacional on 1 August 2000, Venezuela's Energy Minister Ali Rodriguez Araque stated that his country would not explore for oil off the Essequibo coast if Guyana decided to suspend oil exploration licenses granted to Century and Exxon in the disputed area. The newspaper quoted him as saying:

"We had respected the disputed area, but given that the other party (Guyana) has created an imbalance we cannot remain with our arms crossed because it will be very unsuitable. The country has to prepare itself to give an adequate response to these actions by Guyana which is granting concessions in a zone that is in reclamation and that was snatched away from Venezuela during the British rule. The option is Guyana's. If it decides to suspend the concessions granted in the marine area of Essequibo, the Venezuelan Government will do the same thing with respect to the plans relating to the fourth round of PDVSA agreements."

Six days later, Foreign Minister Rangel, claimed that the two oil companies were ready to cancel oil concession contracts which they were granted by the Guyana Government in the disputed Essequibo area. He noted that Century has already indicated to the Guyana Government that it intends to cancel its contract and that Exxon was studying the move. Both oil companies stoutly denied any such plans.

Addressing the diplomatic corps in Caracas on 2 August 2000, President Chavez stated: "It is not Venezuela's desire to have a conflict (with Guyana). Venezuela will not permit the establishment of the [space launch rocket] base. Venezuela will ask the United States not to permit the transfer of technology so that the project will not be implemented. Venezuela will not allow this base to be established."

Faced with bellicose statements from Venezuela (and also from Suriname over the maritime boundary), the Guyana Government on 4 August 2000 established a broad-based advisory committee, made up of representatives of political parties represented in parliament and individual specialists, to deal with matters pertaining to he frontier with Venezuela on the west and Suriname in the east.

Also on 4 August 2000, the Guyana Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement accusing Venezuela of "blatant interference" in trying to block development of the Beal commercial rocket launch site in the Essequibo region. The Ministry also registered its "deep concern" at recent statements by Venezuela President Hugo Chavez against the satellite-launch project.

"The Government of Guyana reaffirms its strong opposition to any attempt by Venezuela to undermine its economy by hindering investment possibilities which have the potential to contribute significantly to Guyana's national development efforts", the Ministry said.

It stated that such "blatant interference by Venezuela is not only in breach of the existing Good Officer mechanism aimed at reaching an amicable solution to the controversy with Venezuela, but is also repugnant to the spirit and intent of Guyana's efforts over the years to settle the controversy."

In restating Guyana's position that the international arbitral award in Paris of October 3, 1899 established the existing border between Guyana and Venezuela, the Ministry stressed: "Accordingly, the government has always maintained and continues to reiterate that the region of Essequibo forms an integral part of Guyana. The Government of Guyana therefore, views as unacceptable statements emanating from Venezuela which in effect constitute threats to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Guyana."

It said Venezuela's "spurious claim that the Beal rocket launch site will be used as a military base is ill informed, and lacks evidence. There is no provision in the agreement with Beal Launch Services for troops from the United States or any other foreign country to be stationed at the space launch facility."

Further, the Ministry declared, there was also "no basis for Venezuela's threats to grant concessions in the same area and for that country to use its navy to facilitate such activity." It said that even while these "threats of aggression are being perpetrated against Guyana, the Government of Guyana remains committed to the peaceful and satisfactory solution of the controversy with Venezuela currently under the aegis of the United Nations Secretary General."

The statement concluded by insisting that Guyana was also committed to the further deepening and strengthening of its relations with Venezuela as evidenced by the interest demonstrated in advancing bilateral cooperation with Venezuela under the aegis of the High Level Bilateral Commission.


In the meantime, Oliver Jackman, a retired Barbados diplomat, was appointed as Good Officer in October 1999. The appointment came after consultations between Annan and the Venezuelan and Guyanese Foreign Ministers. Jackman, a lawyer by profession, was a member of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and a former Ambassador to the UN.

Jackman made his initial visit to Caracas on 14-16 March 2000 and held discussions with Rangel, Jorge Valero (Vice-Minister), Ivan Rincon, the chief of the Supreme Court of Justice, General Ismael Hurtado Sucre, and the Minister of Defence, Luis Miguelena. He also met with the Venezuelan Vice-President, Isaias Rodriguez and President Hugo Chavez. Meetings were also organised with the executives of Fedecameras (the business sector organisation) and the President of the National Legislative Commission, a move which was interpreted as a move to open the reclamation process to other sectors of the society

Rangel, in his discussions with Jackman, explained that one of the priorities of his government was to complete the negotiations on the environmental cooperation treaty proposed in the joint communiqué of 23 August 1998 during the visit of President Janet Jagan to Venezuela. Rangel also expressed objections to the proposed satellite launch project, the granting of oil exploration and lumber timber concessions over the past four years to foreign companies in the area claimed by Venezuela. Venezuela also claimed that it opposed the granting of the concessions because exploitation of the oil and timber resources could cause ecological damage to the territory.

On 19 March 2000, President Chavez, on his weekly radio programme, said that Venezuela was pressing it claim because his country had "historical rights" to the territory. He said that Venezuela, with the assistance of Jackman, would take the matter to the negotiation table in the effort to seek a peaceful solution.

Rangel told Jackman that it was Venezuela's desire to speed up the negotiations with Guyana with the purpose of getting an early agreement. Rangel's delegation included Vice-Minister Jorge Valero, Ambassador to Guyana, Hector Azocar and the facilitator, Carlos Ayala Corao.

Rangel welcomed the "re-launching" of the Good Officer process and assured that the dialogue with Guyana "would not exclude anything." According to a report on El Nacional on 17 March 2000, Vice-Minister Valero declared: "We do not intend to snatch away the totality of the territory from Guyana. It's obvious that we'll have to reach a negotiation in which, replaying the fundamental content of the claim, we go and recognise that there has been a century in which new situations and realities have been created and which we have to contemplate."

Jackman then visited Guyana on 21-23 March and met with Foreign Minister Rohee and President Jagdeo. He also met with representatives of political parties represented in the National Assembly, the heads of the security forces, and the leadership of the TUC.

At a press conference on 22 March at the end of Jackman's visit to Guyana, Rohee dismissed the Venezuelan objection to the Beal project and stated that "the Essequibo region is part of our national territory and that Guyana is indivisible." Rejecting any interference by Venezuela, he contended that "there is precedent for foreign investment in the Essequibo" and what the government was doing in trying to conclude an agreement with Beal Aerospace was nothing new.

On 12 May Jackman met at the offices of the UN Secretary General in New York with the facilitators to analyse the results of his meetings in Caracas and Georgetown. The meeting did not discuss any substantive subjects; it was an introductory meeting to inform Jackman on the process and procedure of meetings of the facilitators.

President Jagdeo on 7 July 2000 accused Venezuela of tying to scare serious investors away from Guyana. He asked Jackman to visit Georgetown after the Venezuelan government announced that it would grant oil concessions in Essequibo. According to the Guyana Chronicle of 8 August 2000, the Guyanese President told the media that his government "rejects this policy of interference on the part of Venezuela and will spare no efforts to counter these acts of interference."

He declared that as far as Guyana was concerned "the land borders have been settled since 1899" but the maritime boundaries have not been delimited. "We are willing to move forward in that regard, we have some proposals that we will be putting to the Venezuelans," he added.


Venezuela's opposition to foreign investment in western Essequibo was further intensified when Guyana granted a forestry concession to the Jilin Forest Industry Group Corporation of China through its subsidiary Jilin Industries (Guyana) Inc. This concession formed part of a program to bring economic development to Guyana through activities to diversify the economy. In this context a forestry concession was granted on 26 June 2000 in western Essequibo (near to the border with Venezuela) to a subsidiary of the Jilin Forest Industry Group Corporation of China. The size of the concession was 167,125 hectares. The exploratory lease was for three years, with an initial capital investment of one million US dollars for the period. Jilin also announced that it would invest between 11 million to 15 million US dollars for the second phase of this project.

But this project immediately ran into problems when the Venezuelan Government formally stated its opposition to this investment in a letter to the Guyana Government on 28 July 2000.

The Venezuelan Government also raised its objection to the Chinese Government and compared the Jilin investment as if it was being made in a "rebel" province of Venezuela. The Caracas media quoted Foreign Minister Rangel as stating that both the Ambassador of the People's Republic of China to Venezuela and the Foreign Ministry of the People's Republic of China were informed of Venezuela's objections to concessions granted to Chinese firms in Western Essequibo. Rangel was reported by El Nacional on 31 July 2000 as saying:

"The situation with regard to Venezuela and the Essequibo is comparable to that of the People's Republic of China and Taiwan. The Ambassador of the PRC has been so advised and has been told of Venezuela's uneasiness with the concessions granted to Chinese firms in the Essequibo. We have already addressed the Foreign Ministry of China making the same criticisms and warning the Government of that country that that situation would create problems that we do not wish to have."

The Caracas English-language Daily Journal of 2 August 2000 reported that President Chavez, in making his own objections, told the international press corps in Caracas that "the Government of Guyana is unilaterally granting concessions and the sale of land in the Essequibo region without previously consulting the Venezuelan Government or the United Nations." The president added: "We were taken aback by the unexpected sale to a Chinese company of a considerable portion of land for the exploitation of timber an area of approximately 40 square kilometres plus the concession granted for an American rocket launching station that ultimately violate the agreements made by the two countries. The truth is that the land is ours."

The objections by Venezuela to the Chinese Government apparently convinced the Jilin Company to reconsider its investment in Essequibo, and the company quietly withdrew its investment on the forest concession.

The Guyana Government sent a formal note of protest to Venezuela protesting the interference. Rohee also called in the Chinese Ambassador to Guyana voice Guyana's concern over the withdrawal of the Jilin investment and to reassure him of Guyana's support for the "one China" policy.


While all of this was going on, Guyana's eastern border region was also having its share of problems. A Canadian oil company, CGX Energy Inc., was on 2 June 2000 preparing to drill off the coast of Guyana under a production-sharing contract with the government of Guyana, when Suriname military patrol boats and aircraft approached the floating oil rig and forced it to retreat. Suriname claimed that the oil drilling rig was operating in its territorial waters, a position strongly disputed by Guyana. CGX had secured exploration rights from Guyana's government in 1998 for a 5,970-square-mile (15,280-square-kilometre) area running along the Guyana coast and including continental shelf area claimed by Suriname. Other companies with concessions granted by Guyana in the same area included Exxon to the north and a joint venture involving ENI of Italy and Repsol of Spain to the west. CGX invested more than $12 million during 1998-2000 to explore the area where seismic surveys suggested the possibility of huge oil deposits.

A series of meetings between Guyana and Suriname took place over the next two months in Guyana, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica in an effort to resolve the issue, but Suriname remained adamant on its position of not allowing the drilling rig to return to the area.


On 30 July 2000, President Chavez was re-elected to office under the new Venezuelan constitution. Four days later, Jackman returned to Caracas for a new round of talks with him and Rangel. El Universal on 2 August quoted Chavez as saying that Venezuela requested the meeting "to search anew for a route to an understanding." The paper also reported that Venezuela had requested a meeting with the US government to discuss the Beal project in Guyana.

In their discussions on 5 August with Jackman, both Chavez and Rangel expressed the need for more meetings between Guyanese and Venezuelan authorities on the border issue. Jackman said his meetings were productive and praised Venezuela for jump-starting the process which he said would lead to more substantial discussions. According to the English-language The Daily Journal of 6 August 2000, Rangel told Jackman that the Guyana government would have to increase negotiation meetings in order to resolve not only the territorial issue, but other matters related to contracts Guyana had signed with Chinese and US business to invest in the western Essequibo.

From Caracas, Jackman visited Georgetown and met with Rohee and later with President Jagdeo on 7 August. In his meeting with Rohee, the Minister noted that the recent developments in Guyana/Venezuela relations necessitated urgent consultations with the UN Good Officer.

Rohee expressed concerns over remarks and actions especially by the President and the Foreign Minister of Venezuela in opposing the proposed Beal investment in the Essequibo. These remarks, he said, were taken seriously by the Government and people of Guyana since they could have very adverse consequences for Guyana's efforts at poverty alleviation and economic and social development.

Rohee informed Jackman that Guyana viewed the situation as serious since the President of Venezuela had stated publicly that he would not allow the investment to proceed; be had instructed the Venezuelan Navy to make deployments east of their normal base; there are stated intentions to conduct military activities in Guyana's waters; and the Government of Venezuela was making every effort to intensify its policy of economic aggression against Guyana.

Jackman stated that in his conversations with the Venezuelan Government, the authorities there argued that Guyana had done nothing to move the process of arriving at a practical settlement and there was therefore some doubt with regard to the purpose of the Geneva Agreement. He advised, that, in his opinion, the issue of the different interpretations should be put before either the International Court of Justice or the Secretary General should be granted permission to empanel an expert group to give an international opinion on Article 5 of the Geneva Agreement. He noted that his preference was for the latter. Failing a resolution of the question of interpretation, and a clear indication of the terms of reference for the Good Offices Process, the Good Officer would not be able to facilitate an end to the "intransigent" positions of the two sides.

Rohee informed Jackman that if there were to be an international interpretation of Article 5 of the Geneva Agreement which did not meet Venezuela's interpretation, that country would still continue to engage in economic aggression against Guyana. Indeed, any interpretation that is not in Venezuela's favour would be ignored in the same manner as that county had sought to ignore the 1899 Arbitral Award.

The Good Officer stated that he directly asked President Hugo Chavez what Venezuela meant by "practical settlement of the controversy" - whether Guyana would have to cede territory to Venezuela. According to Jackman, the Venezuelan President said that Guyana did not have to cede "the whole thing".

The same question that was posed to Chavez was therefore asked of Rohee who stated that for Guyana "a practical settlement" would be one that would take full cognisance of the 1899 Award and could not therefore include the ceding of territory nor a revision of the existing frontiers. He went on to add that there was no territorial controversy with Venezuela - only a controversy over the contention by Venezuela that the Arbitral Award of 1899 is null and void.

Jackman stated that the two positions did not lend to a diplomatic settlement. Rohee argued the contrary and stated that there was sound reason for a juridical settlement based on the 1899 Award. Jackman noted that President Chavez was insisting that the Geneva Agreement made no mention of a legal settlement but of a "practical" one.

Jackman was informed that any contemplated settlement that would not give full recognition of the 1899 Award would be impractical. Indeed, even in the context of the Mixed Commission which met under the aegis of the Geneva Agreement, the Venezuelan authorities were asked to provide proof of the nullity of the 1899 Award, but this was studiously avoided by Venezuela. Rohee explained that any attempt to cede "part of territory" to Venezuela would actually be to the detriment of the 1899 Award since the entire treaty would thus be undermined. This, according to Rohee, was really "the thin edge of the wedge" of Venezuela's strategy.

Jackman intimated that it was his view that the Venezuelans were especially disturbed with the Beal investment because they viewed it as being susceptible to dual usage: military and civilian. The Government of Venezuela was acutely aware of the fact that there were US helicopters in Colombia and that the proposed space port will be in (too) close proximity to the existing border with Guyana This was viewed as a provocation and indeed as an involvement of a third party in the "disputed" area since the investment required US Government approval. In other words, Venezuela was convinced that there was a US agenda in relation to the Beal contract. The concession to Jilin was perhaps just another act to apply diplomatic pressure. However, the Venezuelan Government was of the view that it had every right to object to the Jilin investment because it was not "developmental in nature but extractive and exploitative."

Jackman said that the Venezuelan Government was claiming that Guyana had admitted that part of an exploration concession had encroached Venezuelan maritime territory and sought confirmation from Rohee. The Minister stated that Venezuela's claim was based on the treaty which that country signed with Trinidad and Tobago. Guyana was not a party to that agreement. There was therefore no question of an encroachment as far as Guyana was concerned.

The Good Officer noted that the Government of Venezuela seemed disposed to entering into negotiations on delimiting the maritime boundary with Guyana and having the Good Officer process play a role in this. Jackman expressed some support for this proposal; however he was informed that Venezuela was attempting to present Guyana with a fait accompli, since that country had already arrived at an agreement with Trinidad and Tobago - an agreement which regarded a significant portion of Guyana's Exclusive Economic Zone as part of Venezuela's.


In Caracas on 21 August 2000, Rohee and Rangel met to plan an agenda for a meeting between Jagdeo and Chavez in Brasilia during the period of the Summit of South American Presidents. The two Foreign Ministers also reviewed the activities of the Guyana/Venezuela High Level Bilateral Commission and agreed that the work of the Commission should be further energised. They agreed that efforts would be made to convene the outstanding meetings of those sub-committees of the Commission. On the issue of the illegal traffic of drugs and arms smuggling, they agreed that concrete initiatives should be taken to support a coordinated approach in order to intensify the fight on both their home fronts.

In their discussions on the Guyana/Venezuela border controversy and the concessions the Guyana Government granted to foreign investors in the Essequibo region, they recognised that there were differences between the two sides on these matters but agreed that through a process of positive dialogue and mutual understanding the gaps could be narrowed. They also reaffirmed the commitment of their respective governments to the UN Good Officer process, and agreed to the steps which would give impetus to the course.


The Summit of South American Presidents, hosted by President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, was held in Brasilia on 31 August-1September 2000. The Summit, held at Itamaraty Palace examined a 10-point action plan to bring the 12 South American nations closer together, and discussed issues such as human rights, democracy, drugs and related crimes and information technology.

Arriving in Brasilia on 30 August, President Chavez, at a news conference at the Hotel Nacional, said he was looking forward to his meeting with President Jagdeo, and was optimistic about finding a peaceful solution to the border controversy. He stated that he wanted a speeding up of the settlement process under the auspices of the United Nations. "We want to find a peaceful and useful solution", he declared.

A map of Venezuela showing the shaded portion of the Essequibo as Venezuela's "Zone of Reclamation"', was placed on the wall behind him for the news conference. Chavez used a metal pointer to illustrate on that and another map the historical outline of the controversy, giving Venezuela's side of the arguments. He restated Venezuela's concerns about the spaceport project by the Beal company claiming it would be used to launch not only satellites but rockets.

With Venezuela's Ambassador to Brazil, Dr. Milos Alcalay translating in English, Chavez claimed the Beal scheme was "also very ambitious because they also want to build a town, port, runway" and other facilities at the site. He pointed out that the Beal project was also in an area where Venezuela has an exit to the Atlantic Ocean. Chavez claimed that the Beal firm would not allow Guyanese authorities into the area and said Venezuela was concerned about the environmental impact of the spaceport. "We want to be oriented in the Geneva Agreement. . . . we want a practical solution. . . . this is what we are looking for."

The Guyana Chronicle on 31 August reported that Rangel, in a separate statement, said that Chavez would raise Venezuela's concerns about the Beal satellite launch project, the concessions Guyana granted to foreign investors in the region, the border issue, drugs trafficking and cooperation in education, the environment and other sectors under the high level bilateral commission.

Both Presidents Jagdeo and Chavez had met briefly at the South Summit in Havana during April 2000, but they held no formal discussions. Their meeting in Brasilia was significant because it came at a time when the rhetoric on both sides was very sharp, and Guyana needed to clarify the situation regarding the satellite launch project in the North West District.

When the two leaders met in a conference room at the Hotel Nacional on 31 August, they greeted each other very warmly, and they spent about an hour in a private one-on-one meeting with no advisers. During the meeting Jagdeo presented a copy of the contract for the satellite launch project to Chavez to assure him that the agreement was not of a military nature.

As the two Presidents talked, the Guyanese and Venezuelan Foreign Ministers, Rohee and Rangel, accompanied by other members of their delegations, met for general discussions in a room nearby.

At the end of the presidential meeting, the following joint communiqué was issued:


The Presidents of Guyana and Venezuela met on August 31, 2000 on the margins of the Meeting of the Presidents of South America which took place in Brasilia, Brazil, from August 31 to September 1, 2000.

The two Presidents reviewed the prevailing regional and international situation. They exchanged views on matters of common interest including poverty alleviation, the effects of globalisation, integration, South-South cooperation, debt relief and the illegal traffic in drugs and arms.

Upon reviewing the bilateral relationship, the Presidents assessed the work of the Guyana-Venezuela High Level Bilateral Commission and noted with satisfaction that meetings of the Sub-Committees responsible for Health, Drugs, Marine Resources and Culture had already taken place. They agreed on the need to expedite the work of the Commission in order to enhance trade, economic ties and functional cooperation while building on the traditional ties of friendship between the two countries.

The two Presidents referred to issues relating to fishing activities and agreed that problems identified in this area would be addressed. The two Presidents ratified their intention to give added momentum to the Good Officer process under the aegis of the Secretary General of the United Nations in order to intensify the search for a practical and satisfactory solution of the controversy by peaceful means as contemplated by the Geneva Agreement of 1966. In this regard they exchanged opinions over various concessions in the Essequibo region.

They reiterated their mutual desire to work towards the maintenance of a positive and amicable environment in the relations between Guyana and Venezuela.


Commenting on their meeting, Jagdeo told the media that Chavez raised his concerns about the Beal spaceport project in northwest Guyana, but he assured him that "we have no intention of allowing an American base in the Essequibo."

President Jagdeo said the meeting did not go into specifics but he pointed out to Chavez the need to reduce tensions to which Chavez agreed.

"Rather than getting into specific proposals, we spent more of our time discussing general issues, cooperation between the two countries and the need to enhance that . . . . to create a climate that is conducive to development (and) free of suspicion," he told journalists.

The Guyana Chronicle on 1 September 2000 reported that President Jagdeo told journalists that Guyana would to put to Venezuela a proposal to delimit their maritime boundaries while Venezuela would recognise the existing land boundary. However, Jagdeo said this matter was not raised at the meeting with Chavez. The proposal, he said, would be for the process of delimitation to be outside the UN Good Officer arrangement with possible technical assistance from the UN.

Chavez told journalists he viewed the meeting as "very, very important" and he had "profound faith and hope that we would find a peaceful way to solve the problems with Guyana."

In Guyana, Opposition Leader Desmond Hoyte was critical of the decision by Jagdeo to make available a copy of the satellite project contract to Chavez. Hoyte claimed that the government had not given him a copy, but this was denied by senior officials of the Office of the President who said that all political parties in Parliament were given copies. (Shortly after, it was learned that the Venezuelan Government had already received a copy of court documents of the "Guyana is First" organisation that had filed a court action against the government to halt the project. These documents included a copy of the agreement signed between the government and Beal Aerospace).

The Stabroek News, which was critical of the Beal project, commented on the Jagdeo-Chavez meeting with this sharp editorial, headlined "Appeasement", on 4 September 2000:

In case anyone had been misled by effusive headlines to the effect that Presidents Jagdeo and Chavez had agreed to reduce tensions while attending the summit of heads of state in Brazil last week, the front page of our Thursday edition should have alerted them to the reality. There, captured for all eternity on our front page, was the President of Venezuela in the act of pointing towards our Essequibo region on a map. He had been photographed while addressing the foreign media on the subject of his country's claim.

And then there was what was not said in the reports coming out of Brasilia. There was plenty about energizing the bilateral commission between this country and our western neighbour, and a snippet about initiatives to reduce poverty, but not a word about Caracas backtracking on its declared intention to explore for hydrocarbons in our maritime zone, or the abandonment of its campaign to block the Beal project, among other ventures. And after all, these are the things at the bottom of the tension. Perhaps we can reduce the rhetoric, which means that discussions can take place in a more congenial atmosphere (always to be preferred), but Venezuela's aggressive stance remains exactly what it was before the two Presidents sat down to confer in the cushioned comfort of the Hotel Nacional.

In the meantime, Suriname has been busy on her own account. Just in case anyone had been misled into believing that the new government led by President Venetiaan would be more open to dialogue on the matter of the CGX rig than its predecessor, then last week's events should have raised some doubt in their mind. The incident where Surinamese soldiers in a dinghy pursued a Guyanese boat onto the Scotsburg foreshore, disembarked and then fired shots into the air as a crowd gathered, is truly astonishing. What is even more astonishing is that there has been no reaction from the Guyanese authorities as yet. Where are the ringing denunciations? Where are the strongly worded official protests?

Suriname has not been idle in other ways as well. Recently the Paramaribo daily De Ware Tijd reported that our eastern neighbour had deposited maps showing "Suriname's correct borders" with the United Nations, the Organization of American States and Caricom. Maps were also provided, it said, to all UN member countries, "while documents have also been passed on to travel agencies and other relevant organizations." And to complete what for Guyana has been a none too rosy week, the media were informed that a bilateral meeting between Presidents Chavez and Venetiaan took place in Brasilia.

President Jagdeo is certainly displaying more energy on the question of the borders than any other member of the administration has done previously. He is to be commended, for example, for going prepared to Brasilia, and answering President Chavez' spurious claims which were made to the foreign media in a briefing of his own. Despite a contradictory official press release, he has reassured the public that his administration is committed to recapitalizing the army, and in general, he appears much better informed about the issues than he was only a short while ago.

All that is good news. However, this country is still giving off disturbing signals of appeasement, which could feed the aggression of our neighbours, and make frontier friction more difficult to manage, rather than less so. The President's gravest error in Brasilia was to give President Chavez a copy of the Beal agreement before it had been made available to Guyanese in its entirety, or laid in Parliament. The Venezuelan allegation about the rocket launch site being intended as a military base was so obviously absurd, that it was probably not believed by President Chavez himself, who was just employing it as a convenient rod with which to flay Guyana. Giving the neighbouring head of state a copy of the contract will not prevent him from opposing the project; it will, however, land the Guyanese head of state in a whole lot of unnecessary hot water at home....

Guyana is still conveying the impression of being too effete, appeasing, and uncertain about what to do. Is long-term strategic planning in relation to our borders being done at all? The Guyanese public needs to be reassured that it is.


On 23 October 2000, Beal Aerospace Technologies Inc. abruptly announced that it was dropping all efforts to develop a commercial aerospace program in Guyana. In a statement issued from his Dallas, Texas, headquarters, the chairman and founder of Beal Aerospace Technologies, Inc., Andrew Beal cited unfair competition from the US Government-subsidised National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA) as the reason for the decision. He added:

"Other significant and uncontrollable risks we face include (1) federal laws mandating our potential liability for pre-existing environmental contamination at the only available Cape Canaveral launch pads, and (2) uncertainty over US Government State Department approval to launch from our own launch facilities in the foreign country of Guyana. In spite of these additional risks which we have faced for some time, we would have remained in business if the government would have simply guaranteed that NASA's subsidized launch systems would never be allowed to compete with the private sector."

On the following day, the Guyana Government, through the Office of the Prime Minister, issued the following statement on the termination of the Beal agreement:

Beal Aerospace Technologies Inc. has notified government that it has ceased all business operations effective October 23rd, 2000, inclusive of Beal Guyana Launch Services LLC, thereby giving notice of termination of the Agreement between Guyana and Beal Guyana Launch Services LLC.

The Beal agreement offered considerable investment benefits for Guyana, in particular for the Northwest Region, and provided for Guyana becoming a significant participant in the international commercial space industry. Government, while obviously disappointed at the failure of the Beal Agreement to deliver its potential, is not discouraged and will continue to actively explore the unique possibility which Guyana offers for entry into the international commercial space market from the construction of a space launch facility in Guyana.

Government entered into the agreement with Beal with the full knowledge and understanding that the commercial international space is a high risk, competitive business and that failure to realise the potential of the agreement with Beal was always a real possibility. Nevertheless, government welcomed the opportunity the agreement offered for a US$300 million investment establishing the world's first private commercial spaceport in Guyana.

The international space industry had suffered a growing number of financial failures of new business entries into the space market, the most noticeable being the failure of Iridium. A July study of the US aerospace industry by Booz-Allen and Hamilton Inc. confirmed a major loss of investor confidence in the industry and "uncertain financial performance, production over capacity and a loss of independence in corporate research and development." The study disclosed and excess capacity of some 50 percent in global production resulting in significantly increased overheads is space launch vehicle manufacturing costs and a 35 percent excess capacity in launch services.

In committing Guyana to the Beal agreement for a space launch programme and the development of a commercial space launch facility in Guyana, government took careful account of the current and projected state of the commercial space market and ensured against the possibility of any actual financial loss to Guyana. Government, at the same time, sought to facilitate a successful and viable investment. Criticisms of the Agreement, for not providing sufficient returns to Guyana from an allegedly high profit market, were obviously grossly misinformed.

The contingency sum of G$11million approved by the National Assembly in connection with implementing the Beal Agreement was requested to cover of a public information programme to address resettlement and fully inform the nation about the Beal investment and also to correct a deliberate campaign of misinformation mounted by the political opposition intended to undermine the investment.

It is clear from the statement issued by the chairman and founder of Beal Aerospace Technologies Inc., Mr. Andrew Beal, that his decision to terminate all business operations is as a consequence of competitive and financial developments within the US space industry and not directly related to the agreement with Guyana.

The Beal statement has, however, referred to "uncertainty over US government State Department approval" to launch from Guyana. Construction of the launch facility in Guyana by Beal required approval by the US government under the US Arms Export Control Act (AECA). The Government of Venezuela's declared opposition to US approval of the location of the launch facility in Guyana reinforced by orchestrated political opposition and a lawsuit in Guyana served to contribute to this uncertainty.

In accordance with the terms of the Beal agreement provided under Article 23, termination of the agreement by Beal "on or before the third anniversary of the agreement by providing Guyana with thirty (30) days writing notice" will result, under Article 5.7, in Beal reconvening to Guyana "the primary Site, the remote Site and the easement covering the additional buffer area upon reimbursement (to Beal) by Guyana of the amounts paid by Beal for such immovable property". Beal has paid the sum of US$75,000 to government for the purchase of the primary and remote sites. Payment for easement to Guyana of US$1 per acre was not due until the first February 28th following closing.

A cadastral survey of the primary and remote sites at a cost of US$95,584, payable by Beal has been completed and payment to the amount of US$81,246 has been made. The completion of the survey provides valuable information for government with regard to any future development of the areas surveyed whether for a spaceport or any other development.

Government is proceeding to settle all outstanding matters with Beal pertaining to the termination of the agreement in accordance with the terms of the agreement. Government will keep the nation fully informed about further developments.


In October 2000, Venezuela announced that under its San Jose Energy Accord - to be expanded into a wider Caracas Energy Accord - it would sell an additional 80,000 barrels of oil daily to a number of Caribbean and Central American states at concessionary terms to ease their problems resulting from current oil imports. The Caribbean countries identified to benefit from the arrangement were Cuba, Belize, Jamaica, Haiti, Suriname, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Commenting on the exclusion of Guyana, the Venezuelan newspaper, El Universal, on 9 October 2000 quoted Venezuela's Foreign Minister Vicente Rangel as saying that "oil has always been a political weapon over the years", and that Guyana would be excluded from the arrangement "because we have talks of another nature".

Prime Minister Lester Bird of Antigua and Barbuda immediately urged Caricom to show solidarity with Guyana by refusing the Venezuelan offer.

The Guyana Government on 9 October alerted its Caricom partners to the implications of Venezuela's move to exclude it from among Caribbean countries to benefit from a preferential oil sales arrangement. In a letter to Caricom's chairman, Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, President Bharrat Jagdeo noted that a reason for Guyana's exclusion from among impending beneficiary Caribbean states, was because Foreign Minister Rangel said "we have a conversation of a different kind" with that country.

"Guyana, as a matter of principle", stated President Jagdeo, "has always been opposed to petroleum or food-exporting countries using these commodities as political weapons against importing countries, especially small vulnerable economies such as those of the Caribbean Community".

On 10 October 2000, the Chairman of the Caricom, Prime Minister James Mitchell of St. Vincent and the Grenadines said he was "disturbed" by the exclusion of Guyana from a new preferential oil sales arrangement being offered by Venezuela to some Caribbean and Central American states. He was at the time reacting to a letter from the President of Guyana, Bharrat Jagdeo who informed him of the development.

"What is required is dialogue to avoid the exclusion becoming a reality. Guyana, after all, is a member state of Caricom and faces the problems of so many of us in having to import oil at the current burdensome cost," said Mitchell.

In Guyana, this matter received a comment in a Mirror editorial headlined "United we stand, divided we fall", on 11 October 2000. The editorial stated:

"There were no particular reasons to deny Guyana this facility although mention was made by Venezuela's Foreign Affairs Minister, that oil is a political weapon.

Seemingly, soaring world prices for oil have made the Venezuelans think that this could be used as an instrument to suppress Guyana, forcing the country into submission to their unjust claims of the Essequibo territory.

"But all Guyanese are fully aware that the claims by Venezuela are false and misguided and any attempt to confiscate any inch of our country, will be ably dealt with.

"Surprisingly, however, there hasn't been any noticeable reaction from the main opposition, the People's National Congress, condemning the exclusion. The PNC, seemingly prefers to be silent. After all, the Venezuelan action could work, to some extent, negatively for the PPP/Civic government. . . .

"It is hoped however, that the United Nation's Good Officer will intervene and that better sense will prevail on the part of the Venezuelans, to cease this nonsensical aggression towards Guyana.

"Other Caricom member states are also expected to condemn the actions of Venezuela and to show their solidarity with their sister Caricom state - Guyana.

"All Guyanese should also stand firm against this latest uncivilized practice of Venezuela.

"United we stand divided we fall."

The Caricom Bureau met on 16 October in Barbados to discuss a number of issues including the Venezuelan oil offer. Those participating in the Bureau meeting were Chairman, Sir James, Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines; Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas of St Kitts and Nevis (previous Community Chairman); and the Deputy Prime Minister of Barbados, Miss Billie Miller, who represented Prime Minister Owen Arthur as the incoming Caricom Chairman. Also attending part of the meeting was Guyana's Foreign Minister Clement Rohee who urged the Caricom states to reject "Venezuela's few pieces of silver" and show solidarity with Guyana by rejecting the Venezuelan oil offer.

However, the Bureau rejected Guyana's plea and welcomed the accord. The Bureau stated that it took note of the public statements made by Rangel which confirmed that access to the facility was open to other Caricom states, and approved the oil facility offer made by Venezuela. This decision by the Bureau was firmly condemned by the Antiguan Prime Minister who said he did no consider it binding on his government.

The Caracas Energy Accord between Venezuela and the beneficiary states was signed on 19 October 2000 during the First Business Forum of the Association of Caribbean States on the Venezuelan island of Margarita. The countries signing the agreement on October 19 were Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Panama and the Dominican Republic.

Meanwhile, other countries within Caricom including St Lucia and Suriname were invited to join the second phase of the agreement when non-members of the San Jose energy accord would be asked to accede to it. Cuba signed on at the end of October to an agreement which involved a barter arrangement whereby Cuba could pay in commodities such as sugar or even in medical services.

With the exclusion of Guyana retaining prominence in the media in Guyana and the Caribbean, the Charge d'Affaires at the Venezuelan Embassy in Guyana, Fernando Rincon, said that Venezuela would consider any application by Guyana to join the Caracas Energy Accord, but because each country has special needs there would have to be negotiations.

In an effort to win sympathy for its position, the Venezuelan government through its Foreign Ministry sent a note in mid-October 2000 to all the foreign ministries in Caricom states including Guyana. The note stated, inter alia:

"In taking into consideration the interest that could be expressed by other countries in the Great Caribbean to participate in a similar scheme of cooperation, the national government would be willing to examine the energy situation of each country and to arrange an agreement of this nature, with the sole purpose of contributing to mitigate the impact that the current international energy scenario, exercises on the economies. . . . The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela . . . . as an energy exporter could never be absent from the current situation that the Great Caribbean faces."

Shortly after, according to the Venezuelan paper La Hora of 25 October 2000, President Chavez stated he was not excluding Guyana from the cheaper oil offer. "We have no interest in excluding Guyana and I think the Caribbean Community understands this and has applauded the Caracas initiative," he said.

Three days later, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jose Vicente Rangel said countries which were not part of the San Jose Accord would have to make a request to be a part of the enhanced Caracas Energy Accord. He said that if Guyana should make such a request its inclusion would be considered and that the same situation pertained to Suriname. Both El Universal and El Nacional newspapers quoted Rangel as saying, "We have not discriminated against Guyana. That is a spectre which is going around in the head of my dear colleague (Guyana's Foreign Minister Clement) Rohee. . . . He is a very intelligent man, I'm sure that he is a very intelligent man. What is happening is that an election campaign is on. He understands perfectly Venezuela's position. He knows that we are not discriminating against Guyana but he has an electoral campaign. It appears that an anti-Venezuela campaign will give votes... If Guyana wants to enter into an agreement as it says we'll sit down and analyse the conditions."

He denied that he had spoken about excluding Guyana from an agreement which would give countries included in the original San Jose agreement and others from the Caribbean soft loans to finance oil purchases. At present only Belize, Barbados and Haiti are part of the San Jose agreement, but Venezuela has invited Jamaica, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada, Suriname, St Lucia and Cuba to join an addendum to the agreement.

Rangel added: "We have not discriminated against Guyana. I said that the Guyana case was being considered as was being considered the case of all the countries which do not form part of the San Jose agreement. We have no plans to confront Guyana. We wish to have the best relations. We aspire that it may be that they receive the benefits of the agreement of Caracas. We have no problem in that respect."

The exclusion of Guyana from the Venezuelan offer, drew this strong editorial comment in the Guyana Stabroek News on 30 October 2000:


Whenever the dust has settled and the issue is crystal clear, there are three concerns that Guyana will retain on the Caracas Energy Accord.

The first is that access to the facility should not be used as an economic and political weapon by Venezuela as Caracas' foreign minister Jose Vicente Rangel had originally telegraphed. Secondly, Georgetown would be concerned that the oil largesse is not offered or received in such a way that it weakens even by a smidgeon Caricom's longstanding backing for Guyana in its territorial controversy with Caracas or sows the seed of division in the movement. A third concern is that if and when it is clarified officially that Guyana can join, if she decides to do so Venezuela should not apply conditions that would have the effect of giving it an advantage in the simmering border controversy between the two countries.

No one would begrudge any Caricom or Latin American country the opportunity of benefiting from the oil available from Caracas on concessionary terms. Roiled by the Middle East crisis and with the spectre of greater output discipline among key OPEC players, it is a reasonable bet that oil prices will continue to sting and get hotter. Guyana also sources its oil from its western neighbour precisely because it is getting a reasonable deal. But it does have legitimate concerns over this addendum to the San Jose Accord and it behoves Caricom in particular to address these.

While Rangel has intimated to Caricom that no one in the region will be excluded from accessing the accord, his original remarks in a Venezuelan newspaper that oil has always been used as a political weapon and that Guyana will not be included because of a "different conversation" between the two countries prejudiced early discussion on the accord. These remarks have still not been adequately explained and they transmitted that Venezuela was seeking political and other capital out of the energy accord.

Further, the method of invitation to this Venezuelan oil bonanza left much to be desired and exposed ulterior motives. Access to the Caracas Accord is automatic for beneficiaries of the San Jose Accord but not for other Caricom countries and Guyana. Yet, several Caricom countries were apparently given clear signals that this accord was definitely open to them and they simply had to give the word. This has not been the case with Guyana and in his most recent communication with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Rangel did not extend an invitation to Guyana.

It seems that Guyana will have to make the first approach to Venezuela.

What are the conditions that Caracas will apply for accession to the deal? Have Caricom countries been told? Will it be broadly uniform for all these countries including Guyana? Does Guyana have to be concerned that in any bilateral engagement with Venezuela on the accord that Caracas will seek to turn the screws as it has shown a willingness to do in the past? Shouldn't Caricom be concerned about this? If Venezuela's intentions were straightforward should it not have offered the oil facility to Caricom as a whole as opposed to sending conflicting signals to its various members and shouldn't Caricom have made this suggestion to it?

The Caricom Bureau meeting in Barbados that welcomed the accord could not have had answers to all of these questions if Guyana is still in the dark. It is difficult to understand, therefore, how no reservations were attached to its welcome and how there was no mention at all of Guyana's concerns. Was it simply the case of oil dollars doing the talking? Jamaica's announcement before the Bureau meeting that it was accepting the offer made it impossible for an objective assessment of the pros and cons and for a unified stand to be taken. Guyana should have insisted on its presence at the Bureau meeting and should have been there.

There are three final considerations. If Venezuela applied artifice to this offer of oil to gauge where Caricom would stand with respect to Guyana's concerns then it has learnt a lot about the inner workings of the movement from this gambit. It would not be an unreasonable conclusion to draw from the medley of events, starting with Rangel's remarks, that Caracas was indeed testing the resolve of Caricom.

The concatenation of events also begs the question as to whether Guyana should have resorted to quieter diplomacy within Caricom and with its neighbour to the west to prise out the crucial information it needed and table its anxieties. The shrill tone of Guyana's objections in the open could have annoyed its fellow Caricom members who simply saw the offer as a welcome respite from the recent higher oil prices. Perhaps Guyana also has to choose more carefully which issues it seeks a Caricom stand on so as not to wear out the goodwill that we would have built up with our fellow members. The movement is already fully engaged in the political turmoil here and with Guyana's territorial concerns to the east (with a fellow Caricom member Suriname) and to the west with Venezuela.

Finally, Venezuela's offer has nudged Trinidad into contemplating its own facility. For Caricom and Guyana having such an option would be an improvement on the present situation.

The statements by Chavez and Rangel drew a comment from Caricom's Secretary General, Dr. Edwin Carrington. In an interview reported in the Stabroek News on 2 November 2000, he said the only way Guyana can test Venezuela's claim that it was not excluded from the oil offer was to test it by applying for it.

Four days later, the Stabroek News again commented editorially:


Venezuela is playing games. Exactly which countries (other than Cuba and those already encompassed by the San Jose Accord) are to benefit from the concessionary oil facility being offered by Caracas is still not altogether clear. The confusion has its origins in remarks attributed to Foreign Minister Rangel by the Venezuelan daily El Universal. He was reported as saying that historically oil had always been used as a political weapon, and as suggesting that Guyana was being excluded from the deal because Venezuela had conversations of a different nature with this country - a clear reference to the border controversy.

Somewhat inadvisedly, Foreign Minister Rohee precipitately called on other Caricom nations to decline the Caracas offer as an expression of solidarity with Guyana. Even supposing that the Government's record with the regional organization had been rather less flawed than it was, expecting our sister states to forgo an economic benefit in these difficult times was unrealistic, to say the least, and left Guyana open to be snubbed.

The situation became murkier when Jamaica accepted the Caracas offer, and Prime Minister Patterson was reported as stating in a letter to the Community's chairman, Mr James Mitchell, that "it does not appear that the non-inclusion of Guyana in the Caracas Energy Accord, is due to its territorial [controversy] with Venezuela." He went on to say that the Venezuelan Foreign Minister had declared that Caracas was willing to include Guyana.

Some days later a news release from the Association of Caribbean States, quoting the Venezuelan newspaper La Hora, had President Chavez as stating, "We have no interest in excluding Guyana and I think the Caribbean Community understands this and has applauded the Caracas initiative." As far as is publicly known, Caracas' only direct communication on the subject to Takuba Lodge does not make it clear whether the concessionary offer is intended to embrace this country or not.

Last week Caricom Secretary General Edwin Carrington expressed the view that since Caracas had made it clear that Guyana was not embargoed in relation to the deal, this country should apply to access the facility. If Guyana "doesn't get it," he said, "we are sure they are excluded . . . . This will probably be the only way."

So here we have a situation whereby everyone except Guyana, it would appear, has been told that this country has not been barred from the new accord. Furthermore the only way that we can find out if we are in or out, is if Georgetown performs a volte face and humbly asks the Venezuelans if we can be numbered among the chosen. Surely if President Chavez is serious he would have clarified the situation with the Guyana Government on a bilateral basis, and invited us to apply. As it is, he has succeeded in embarrassing this country, and in driving a wedge into Caricom on this issue while conveying the impression that he intends no discrimination.

From the outset the Government should have given serious attention to the issue of whether attempting to be included in the Caracas offer was at all prudent. Given the uncompromising statements on the border controversy which have been emanating from Miraflores since President Chavez took up residence there, the question has to be asked as to whether oil dependence on our neighbour to the west represents the best of wisdom.

The ideal solution from Guyana's point of view would be if Trinidad were to offer a similar facility - a concession which that country's Energy Minister is reported to have said would be actively considered. Trinidad has done it before, of course, and it was the late President Burnham's abuse of that credit line which resulted in our huge debt to the twin island republic. Should Trinidad decide to resuscitate the scheme, we would not, of course, be allowed to be so irresponsible the second time around. Properly managed, however, such an arrangement would have benefits for Port of Spain, more especially when the next oil slump comes around, while the gains for the region would be self evident.

Once again this recent sequence of events illustrates the need for a comprehensive border policy which takes into account all dimensions of our relationship with our neighbours. Until that is done we will always be operating from the back foot.


The Guyana/Venezuela Inaugural Sub-Committee Meeting on the Environment was held on 2-3 November 2000 at Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Georgetown. Guyana's delegation was led by Navin Chandarpal, Adviser to the President on Science, Technology and the Environment and included representatives of several ministries and agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Guyana Energy Agency, the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, the Ministries of Health and Labour, Home Affairs, Public Works and Communication, and Foreign Affairs.

Venezuela's delegation was headed by the Vice-Minister of Environment and Natural Resources and included representatives from the Ministries of External Relations and Energy and Mines.

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As expected, Guyana continued to receive regional support from Caricom Heads of Government. The regional leaders reaffirmed their support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Guyana, including its maritime resources, during their seventh Inter-Sessional Meeting in Barbados on 14-16 February 2001. This declaration came after Guyana's representative at the meeting, Foreign Minister Clement Rohee, gave a report of the publicly stated opposition by Venezuela to foreign investments in the Essequibo region. He also told the meeting of reports of Venezuela's plans to explore for hydrocarbons in an offshore area including part of Guyana's maritime zone.

At the time of this meeting, President Jagdeo was holding official meetings in London with the British government. In his discussions with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, he raised the issue of Guyana's border problems and asked the British government take a position on the award which settled the border as a full and final settlement. Straw responded that the British Government would have to seek legal advice on the matter.

Jagdeo also asked the British government for a helping hand in putting together historical data relating to the Venezuela controversy and the Suriname dispute.

The Guyana Chronicle on 24 February 2001 reported that Jagdeo said he had also written the US government on the issue considering that both the USA and Britain had been involved in the process that led up to the 1899 award.

Guyana remained very concerned over Venezuela's objection raised with China over the withdrawal of the Jilin investment in the Essequibo region. No doubt, this interference against foreign investment in Essequibo was a worrisome matter. On 19 February 2001, Guyana's Ambassador to the United States, Dr. Odeen Ishmael, wrote to the Ambassador of the People's Republic of China to the United States, Li Zhao Xing, to express Guyana's position on this issue. Ishmael stated, inter alia:

"My Government is also alarmed to read reports in the Venezuelan media that the former Foreign Minister of Venezuela, José Vicente Rangel, compared the situation with regard to Venezuela and Western Essequibo (the part of Guyana that Venezuela is claiming) to that of the current situation that exists between the People's Republic and Taiwan. . . . .

"Your Excellency is aware that Guyana has consistently maintained a "One China" policy. However, the situation which exists between the People's Republic of China and Taiwan is no way comparable to that which exists between Venezuela and Guyana's territory in Western Essequibo. The Arbitral Award of 1899 established the boundary between Venezuela and Guyana and has been accorded recognition by the international community. The western part of Essequibo is therefore an integral and indivisible part of the sovereign territory of Guyana. As such, my country welcomes investment from China into any part of our sovereign territory."

Ishmael's letter also informed the Chinese Ambassador that the Geneva Agreement of 1966 recognised the rights of both Guyana and Venezuela to develop their respective territories as demarcated in accordance with the 1899 award.

The letter concluded:

"My Government, therefore, is alarmed that Jilin decided to withdraw from its investment in Guyanese territory, because of undue pressures from Venezuela."


On 19 March 2001, President Bharrat Jagdeo of the PPP/Civic was re-elected as president of Guyana. The PNC refused to accept the results which also returned the PPP/Civic to power, and claimed that the elections were rigged. However, international observers including the OAS, the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Carter Center confirmed that the elections were free and fair. A leading member of the PNC on the Guyana Elections Commission, Haslyn Parris, also stated that the elections were fairly conducted and, for this, he was given a severe beating by PNC supporters at the headquarters of the party. Deadly riots and acts of arson encouraged by the PNC also flared up and the situation took over three months to get back to normal.

Shortly after his election, Jagdeo again met Chavez, this time in Quebec (Canada) during the third Summit of the Americas on 21 April 2001. They had no official meeting, but met informally during the private session of the summit and during the official dinner when the two of them were seated side by side. Their conversations centred on proposals for cooperation between Guyana and Venezuela. The border issue was not discussed.

In May 2001, Rudy Insanally replaced Rohee as Guyana's Foreign Minister. Around the same period, Luis Alfonso Davila Garcia succeeded Rangel as Venezuela's Foreign Minister.


Caricom Heads of Government, meeting in the Bahamas on 3-6 July 2001 again expressed regret over attempts by Venezuela to constrain Guyana's development in the Essequibo region. A communiqué issued at the conclusion of their 22nd Conference stated that the leaders "supported the position taken by Guyana that the Geneva Agreement does not preclude it from fully exploiting all of its natural resources." The Heads further reaffirmed their solidarity with Guyana in its determination to counter the threat posed to its sovereignty and territorial integrity as a result of Venezuela's non-acceptance of the 1899 Arbitral Award which, they said, had "definitively settled the border between the two countries." At the same time, they welcomed the commitment of both countries to the Good Offices procedure established under the auspices of the United Nations Secretary-General, and encouraged the two to utilise this mechanism to find a peaceful settlement to the existing controversy.

The Caricom leaders in their communiqué also rejected the public statements by President Chavez claiming Bird Island, a tiny intermittently submerged rock located near to Dominica and more than 350 miles away from the Venezuelan coast, as Venezuelan territory. Both Dominica and Antigua and Barbuda had always asserted the claims of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) to Bird Island. The communiqué stated:

"Heads of Government stressed that any future discussions on this issue must be conducted in accordance with applicable principles of international law. In this regard, they highlighted the critical importance of the UN Law of the Sea Convention 1982 as the universal instrument representing the codification of the international law of the sea. Heads of Government declared their support for the maritime integrity of the affected member states of the Community, including relevant maritime areas and called on all states to respect the rules and principles contained in the Convention."

On 21 July, two weeks after this renewed Caricom expression of support for Guyana, a high-level team of Venezuelan lawmakers, headed by the Foreign Minister Davila and National Assembly President William Lara, suddenly visited military posts on the bank of the Cuyuni River bordering Guyana. However, despite their physical presence in the area, they did not visit the military posts on the Guyana half of Ankoko Island, illegally occupied by Venezuela since 1966. But they visited the Venezuelan settlement of San Martin de Turuban on the Venezuelan side of the island where they signed a document reaffirming the Venezuelan claim and reiterating the desire to find a peaceful and satisfactory solution to the border controversy. In response to media inquiries that the visit could be regarded by Guyana as an act of provocation, Davila said they were under no obligations to give prior notification to Guyana. He went on to reaffirm his country's claim to the Essequibo region.

As the year drew to a close, the issue of the Venezuelan oil offer disappeared from the limelight, and relations between Guyana and Venezuela reverted to one of cordiality. In Guyana, opposition street protests continued intermittently, while in Venezuela the Government was being pressured by strikes supported by the opposition. The political activities in both countries did not allow for a settled state of affairs, and no doubt this was one of the reasons that prevented the UN Good Officer, Oliver Jackman, from continuing his visits for consultations in both capitals during 2001.


This improved state of cordial relations between the two countries resulted in an official visit to Guyana by Davila on 29-30 November 2001 for discussions with Insanally. Davila met also with President Jagdeo and paid courtesy visits to Speaker of the National Assembly, Ralph Ramkarran, the Leader of the Opposition, Desmond Hoyte and Secretary General of the Caribbean Community, Dr. Edwin Carrington.

Guyana's delegation accompanying Insanally during discussions with Davila included Minister of Foreign Trade and International Cooperation, Clement Rohee; Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Elisabeth Harper; Ambassador Donald Abrams; and Foreign Service officers, Barbara Haley, Rosemarie Cadogan, Charlene Phoenix, Keith George and Colonel Lennox Wilson.

The Venezuela Foreign Minister's team included Venezuela's Ambassador to Guyana, Jean Francois Pulvenis, Ambassador Francisco Velez, Minister Counsellor Oscar Hernandez, Brigadier General Alfonso Nunez, Ambassador Blanca Verlezza, Ambassador Hernani Escobar, Dr. Luis Herrera Marcano, Vice Admiral Elias Daniels, and Minister Counsellor, Fernando Rincon.

The discussions held at Herdmanston House in Georgetown dealt with bilateral cooperation at several levels and Venezuela's claim to the Essequibo. There were also some intense discussions on how Guyana could become a beneficiary of the Caracas Energy Accord. In the course of these conversations, Davila stated that Venezuela was willing to grant Guyana beneficiary status under the Caracas Energy Accord and an agreement to this effect could be signed when the Presidents of both countries during the ACS Summit on Margarita Island in December.

Insanally and Davila agreed that new dynamism should be given to the cooperation between the two countries. They decided that the sub-committees of the High Level Bilateral Commission (HLBC) not yet activated would be convened early in 2002 at a meeting of the full commission which will then be given political direction. (The High Level Bilateral Commission was established during discussions between President Caldera and President Janet Jagan during the latter's visit to Caracas in 1999).

Insanally and Davila also discussed the UN Good Officer process in the effort to arrive at a settlement of the border controversy. In the end, they decided to pursue new initiatives to improve bilateral relations in the backdrop of the border controversy including the setting up of a "hotline" for continuous contact.

But agreement on the initiatives did not mask the difference in approaches to the issue of investment in the Essequibo - (claimed by Venezuela) - with Venezuela believing that it should be dealt with under the auspices of the High Level Bilateral Commission. On the other hand, Guyana insisted that as a sovereign country it had a responsibility to develop its natural resources for the benefit of its citizens.

One of the new initiatives announced by Davila was the intention to have more frequent meetings between the facilitators of the UN Good Officer process - the Good Officer, the UN Secretary General and the two foreign ministers - during the first quarter of 2002. He said he anticipated that in the climate of cooperation, such meetings should be able to advance a programme of activities, which should lead to a peaceful and practical settlement of the border controversy.

Commenting on the state of the relations between the two countries, Insanally on 30 November 2001 told a news conference, jointly hosted with Davila, that Guyana's accession to the Caracas Energy Accord was indicative that it had moved pass the stage where petroleum was considered a political weapon as Davila's predecessor Jose Vicente Rangel had remarked when Venezuela had initially seemed to have excluded Guyana from the offer of beneficiary status to the rest of Caricom.

He added that the HLBC was intended to address the irritants in the relations with Guyana when asked if the activities by the Venezuelan military in the past two years, which gave rise to much concern in Guyana, would not undermine the climate being created. He explained that the need for advance notification of these activities was critical in both countries' joint endeavours at ridding their societies of the traffic in illegal drugs.

About the treatment of Guyanese living illegally in Venezuela, both Insanally and Davila said that it was an issue that was covered by the mandate of the HLBC sub-committee that dealt with consular matters. Davila said that in his previous office as Home Affairs Minister, he had addressed this problem, calling it a great task and one for which the HLBC should be able to find an appropriate response.

With regard the issue of the demarcation of the maritime border between the two countries, Davila said that this would be addressed under the Good Officer process. He stressed, however, that there existed the possibility that progress could be made on a number of other issues, which did not have to await the resolution of this issue.


Davila's visit attracted much attention from the Guyanese media. It attracted this editorial comment from the Guyana Chronicle on 1 December 2001:


The "window of opportunity" for matured good neighbourly relations resulting from last week's official visit to Guyana by Venezuela's Foreign Minister, Luis Alfonso Davila Garcia, is to be welcomed as a necessary development as the two states peacefully pursue a practical resolution of the age-old dispute arising out of Venezuela's claim to two thirds of Guyana's 83,000 square miles.

Credit for the positive atmosphere that prevailed during the meetings that took place, culminating with a shared press conference, must go to both Davila and host Foreign Minister, Mr. Rudy Insanally. Their upbeat mood was quite evident.

The Insanally-Davila dialogue in Georgetown, with their respective diplomats and technocrats in attendance, has clearly laid a good foundation for an expected positive meeting next week between Presidents Bharrat Jagdeo and Hugo Chavez.

The two heads of state will meet on Venezuela's Margarita Island during the Third Summit of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) being hosted by Chavez.

Jagdeo and Chavez, in addition to giving their own endorsement for improved Guyana-Venezuela relations in the spirit of the Davila-Insanally dialogue, are expected to sign an agreement that would grant access by Guyana to the Caracas Energy Accord which was established last year by Venezuela to facilitate the supply of fuel on concessionary terms to Latin American and Caribbean states.

The new "hotline diplomacy" to be pursued by the Foreign Ministers of both countries, with a view to quickly and effectively address misunderstandings arising from any statement or action by either country, is a move that should prove worthwhile as the High-Level Bilateral Commission gets down to substantive issues under the Good Officer process of the United Nations Secretary General.

Since every independent state has the sovereign right to attract investment for economic development and to pursue such development in any part of its internationally recognised boundaries, it is understandable why Guyana cannot be expected to have the issue of investment for development in the Essequibo region be restricted to consideration by the High Level Bilateral Commission.

This would be to compromise its sovereignty while negotiations are still being pursued on Venezuela's territorial claim to the Essequibo region. Official rhetoric in Caracas over the years has had the effect of scaring off potential foreign investment in the disputed region under past and present governments.

Foreign Minister Davila himself has acknowledged that the UN Good Officer process was a useful tool in the ongoing efforts to find a mutually satisfactory solution to the territorial row. Therefore, while this process remains relevant, there is no valid reason why Guyana should not be free to pursue state or private sector-financed development in the Essequibo.

The hope is that with the Davila-Insanally dialogue behind us, and meeting of Presidents Chavez and Jagdeo to follow, there would be a new beginning in efforts to advance the work of the High Level Bilateral Commission and, generally, sustain the momentum for mutual respect and cooperation between Guyana and Venezuela.


The third summit of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) was hosted by Venezuela on Margarita Island on 10-11 December 2001. Decorating the wall of the conference centre was a map of Venezuela showing Guyana's Essequibo region as belonging to Venezuela. The Guyana delegation, headed by President Jagdeo, objected to the display of this map and it was quickly removed. Information about the display of the map was brought to the Venezuela government's attention even before the Guyana delegation left for the summit, and the matter was also raised with the Caricom Heads and with the ACS Secretary General, Professor Norman Girvan, but apparently they did not pursue the matter.

The highlight of this summit for Guyana was its accession to the Caracas Energy Accord. President Jagdeo and President Chavez signed the agreement on 11 December to enable Guyana to receive fuel at a concessionary price from Venezuela.

According to the agreement, once oil prices hit between US$15 and US$30 per barrel, Guyana would benefit from a developmental loan under a 15-year repayment condition and a grace period on the capital of one year, at an interest rate of two percent.

On the evening of 11 December, the two Presidents also discussed a proposal for a coastal road from west to east to join Venezuela, Guyana and Suriname, thus opening up tremendous possibilities for economic and trade expansion. This was in accordance with decisions at the Brasilia Summit of South American Presidents in 2000, to collaborate in building infrastructure which would facilitate contact and communication between the two countries.

The map incident at the ACS summit was seen in Guyana as a serious breach of protocol and also as an unfriendly act. The state-owned Sunday Chronicle of 16 December wrote: "If Venezuelan strategists on the border dispute had hoped to score a propaganda point in having such a map on display, then they had seriously miscalculated in revealing surprising diplomatic insensitivity for such an occasion." But the privately-owned Stabroek News on 17 December 2001 was more hard-hitting in the following editorial comment:


Just last month the visit here by Venezuela's Foreign Minister Luis Alfonso Davila led to the proclamation of the opening of a "Demerara Window" of goodwill in relations with Guyana.

That spirit of good neighbourliness has unfortunately been adulterated by Caracas' continuing proclivity to embarrassing Guyana at international fora and nakedly pressing its spurious claim to the Essequibo region. The latest exhibition of this was the unveiling of a map at last week's Association of Caribbean States (ACS) meeting in Margarita Island, Venezuela which depicted the Essequibo as a zone of reclamation which it is not. The internationally recognized boundaries of this country are well known to both Venezuela and the ACS.

Venezuela could not be oblivious to the acute concerns that Guyana would have had over a stunt like the one it pulled with the map at the ACS meeting. Nevertheless, it proceeded with it and the inevitable happened. Guyana's delegation protested and as President Jagdeo said at a press conference here on Friday [14 December], Venezuela "graciously" withdrew the map.

By that time, however, Venezuela had already made the point it wanted to make while at the same time playing up its claim to the Essequibo region in the full view of Guyana's Caricom partners - including Suriname with which Guyana has had a protracted border dispute - and South American and Latin American countries.

Not only Guyana would have felt the unease over the map, it also would have discomfited the ACS Secretariat which should have been alert to the possibility that Caracas might have attempted something like this and which therefore should have taken pre-emptive measures.

What made Caracas' unneighbourly map even more distasteful was that Guyana was preparing to sign the Caracas Energy Accord on the same Margarita Island upon the conclusion of the two-day ACS meeting. It therefore behoved Venezuela to comport itself in a manner that betrayed no impression that Guyana was signing on for oil to which a political price tag was attached. It is one of the concerns in Georgetown over this deal and certainly as a result of the famous remarks of former foreign minister Rangel that oil has been used as a political weapon from time immemorial.

With the way things turned out, the casual observer would not fail to discern a strong whiff of political grandstanding by Caracas over the oil deal. We are grateful for Venezuela's oil but it must not be delivered with arm twisting. It just won't be worth it.

The aggressive pursuit by Venezuela of its claim at international meetings must be addressed by this government. One of the most outrageous of these performances was by President Chavez himself not so long ago at the summit of South American Heads in Brasilia where upon his arrival an offensive map depicting Essequibo as an area of contention was unfurled and he proceeded unabashedly to present his country's case in front of the international media. It was an issue that was clearly irrelevant to the meeting of the heads.

Guyana must ensure that it transmits as strongly as possible to Venezuela that any progress in relations could be set back if it continues with this campaign. There is a place for both countries to air their views on the border controversy and it is not at these meetings.

Second, Guyana must ensure that prior to the start of bilateral or multilateral gatherings that it impresses upon the hosts and organizers that all maps must convey internationally recognized boundaries. Anything else must be excluded. Suriname has shown in the past that it, too, is capable of this gamesmanship and we must put our foot down.

Third, these actions must be formally reported to the Commonwealth monitoring group and other organizations such as Caricom as evidence of Caracas' vicious and calculated crusade to dissuade investors from the Essequibo, thereby robbing Guyana of the opportunity of economic development of its resources.

If Caracas insists on continuing this practice, perhaps Guyanese living in influential places like London, Toronto, Ottawa, New York and Washington could be mobilized to protest at international gatherings and at the UN where Venezuela is present over its continuing campaign of harassment.

Friendly relations between Guyana and Venezuela is a myth in the face of Caracas' continuing confrontational attitude over the Essequibo. President Chavez and Mr. Davila should do nothing to close the "Demerara Window' that has been opened up.


The two Foreign Ministers led their respective delegations to the meeting of the Guyana-Venezuela High Level Bilateral Commission which met in Georgetown on 25-26 February 2002. During the meeting discussions among a number of sub-committees, including those for Trade and Economic Cooperation, Culture, Consular matters and Transportation, also took place.

Arising out of the discussions, the Commission agreed to set up as soon as possible a technical committee to determine the establishment of a direct road link between the two countries. The committee would also be responsible for examining the possibilities of funding for this project.

This proposed road would complement and be in addition to the road between Brazil and Guyana already agreed to in the framework of the Integration of Regional Infrastructure of South America (IIRSA) that was adopted during the Summit of the Presidents of South America in Brasilia in September 2000.

Guyana also agreed to explore the possibility of entering into an agreement with Venezuela on maritime cooperation in the fight against drugs. In this respect, Guyana proposed that the areas of cooperation, (exchange of information, training, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation and control and interdiction), which were identified at a previous meeting of the working group on drugs, should provide the basis for the future activities of the working group.

The two delegations recognised the importance of regular direct flights between Georgetown and Caracas and noted that the respective private sectors have an interest in providing such a service. It was agreed that the civil aviation authorities of both countries should meet to discuss arrangements to give effect to the establishment of regular air services.

At a news conference jointly hosted by the two Foreign Ministers, Insanally said the talks were frank and friendly, adding that it was important to give a new dynamic to Guyana-Venezuela cooperation in the interest of being able to resolve their differences and establish a new climate of understanding and friendship between the two countries.

Davila took the opportunity to announce his country's offer of cooperation between the military forces of Guyana and Venezuela was in the context of strengthening links between the two nations against the trafficking of drugs. He said Venezuela was willing to offer cooperation in training, intelligence and other areas so that the two armed forces could work in cooperation. Insanally welcomed this offer and noted that Guyana was already taking advantage of some of the courses that are being given at one of the universities in Venezuela, specialising in maritime affairs. The Venezuelan offer, he added, would create an atmosphere of mutual trust and confidence necessary for building cooperation and eliminating differences between the two countries.

At another meeting, the two ministers discussed the progress of the UN Good Officer process. Davila announced that it had named Ambassador Luis Herrera Marcano as its new facilitator to be involved in the process. He noted that the Good Officer process was inactive for some time and declared that the political will was fully established to recommence the process. The two ministers also agreed to work on settling differing views that would allow investment in the western Essequibo.


In February 2002, Guyana sent protest notes to the Governments of Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela over the Treaty on Delimitation of Marine and Submarine Areas between the Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela signed at Caracas on April 18, 1990 and entered into force on 23 July, 1991. The Guyana protest came after both Trinidad and Venezuela began to offer concessions for oil exploration in areas overlapping into Guyana's maritime space.

In its protest, the Guyana Government stated that it had concluded a review of its provisional maritime boundaries and of its potential claims to its extended continental shelf areas. From this review, it was of the opinion that the treaty concluded between the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela gave rights over certain maritime areas in Guyana's maritime space.

Guyana pointed out that the geographical coordinates of the maritime boundaries between Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela set out in the treaty encroached and would continue to exercise sovereign rights over the maritime areas in Guyana's territorial waters. Guyana urged both countries to review their geographical coordinates forming their boundary lines.

The concessions areas, termed "Blocks", offered by Venezuela initially attracted interest from foreign oil companies, but this subsequently waned, apparently because of the Guyana protest. A British oil company and the Norwegian state-owned Statoil, both of which initially were keen to formulate investment agreements with Venezuela to explore for oil in that area, pulled back after observing that the eastern part of the area marked as "Block 5" overlapped into Guyana's maritime space.

Support for Guyana was boosted by the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference held in Coolum, Australia. President Jagdeo briefed the heads of government on the territorial controversy on 2 March 2002, and the final communiqué expressed support for Guyana's sovereignty and territorial integrity and supported Guyana's desire to pursue development projects in the western Essequibo region. More support came on 4 April 2002 when British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Mr. Jack Straw, expressed his country's support the position taken by the Government of Guyana in dealing with claims to its territory by its neighbours to the east and west. Straw was in Guyana for the Third Caribbean/UK Forum.


Meanwhile, in Venezuela, President Chavez was facing a growing opposition from a variety of sources (including oil executives, organized labour, and large land owners) unhappy with his "Bolivarian Revolution" policies aimed at social and economic reform. Some sections of the military also refused to fully support him, and there were massive street protests opposing him in Caracas. There were also large counter-demonstrations in support of Chavez.

Ever since his landslide election victory in 1998 Chavez faced opposition from the small ruling elite which could not accept the loss of power. Using new political procedures, Chavez began to dismantle the power of the old ruling class. He implemented policies of land redistribution, free education and health services for the poor, and to finance these, he demanded that profits from the oil industry should be made available. This did not win the support of the old ruling class who controlled the management of the oil industry. As a result, Chavez fired the executives of the national oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) and appointed a new company president and board of directors.

The political opposition, supported by dissident military officers and trade unions, called a general strike in early April. On 11 April, the opposition, referring to itself as "civil society," held a huge anti-Chavez demonstration. The protest was publicised as giving support to the fired oil company executives, but it turned out to be an anti-Chavez demonstration demanding his resignation.

The protest march was led by Pedro Carmona Estanga of the business organization Fedecamaras, and Carlos Ortega, president of the Accion Democratica (AD)-controlled trade union organisation, Confederation de Trabajadores de Venezuela (CTV). The march, well publicised on the opposition-owned media, was supposed to go to PDVSA headquarters, but the leaders of the protest led it to the Miraflores presidential palace where several thousands of Chavez supporters were gathered to show support for the President. Violence erupted when the two groups met and at least 14 people were killed by gun-shots when people from rival groups fired into the crowd.

The dissident military officers shortly after entered the palace and demanded that Chevez should resign, and after he refused, he was taken into custody and removed from the palace. The military officers shortly after announced that Chavez had signed a letter of resignation but this document was never made public. The officers also named Pedro Carmona as the new President who said he would uphold the principles of freedom, pluralism, and democracy, and ensure respect for the state of law."

The United States signalled its support for the coup when its Ambassador in Caracas, Charles Shapiro, made a courtesy visit to "President" Pedro Carmona. And Chavez's loyalists stated that officials at the Department of State and the Permanent Mission of the United States to the OAS were engaged in an intense lobby campaign in the OAS and among the Latin American and Caribbean diplomatic corps in Washington, to justify the coup d'etat in Venezuela.

Despite his pledge to uphold principles of freedom and democracy, Carmona, within 24 hours, abolished the 1999 Constitution, fired the justices of the Supreme Court, the Attorney General, the Comptroller General, the Public Defender, and members of the National Electoral Council (CNE). He abolished the National Assembly, cut off oil shipments to Cuba, and said he would call elections "within a year." He also named a Cabinet that excluded all sectors of society except the far right, even cutting out the CTV, his main backer.

Surprised by Carmona's actions, the same generals who had named Carmona as President, turned against him and openly criticised him in television and radio broadcasts.

Meanwhile, several key military units refused to support the coup insisting that Chavez had not resigned. Carmona, realising he had no support, decided to resign on 13 April. He tried to turn over power to the National Assembly (which he had dissolved), and after finding no one to accept his "resignation", he simply vacated the post. Chavez's Vice President Diosdado Cabello then announced he was assuming power under provisions of the constitution, and he would hand over power back to Chavez.

In the early morning hours of April 14, military loyal to Chavez brought him back from the Caribbean island of La Orchila, where he had been taken. In a nationally broadcast message later that morning, Chavez called for national reconciliation and said he was convening a Federal Council of Government in which all branches of power as well as opposition governors and mayors would take part. Chavez, in an effort to bring about reconciliation, announced that the new PDVSA board of directors opposed by company executives had resigned.

Many of the ringleaders of the coup, including the dissident military officers, were jailed briefly and then released. Carmona was placed under house arrest, but soon after he was released from custody and allowed to leave for the United States.

Latin American leaders were among the first to condemn the removal of Chavez. The 19-member Rio Group, meeting in Costa Rica on 12 April condemned the coup and said it could not recognize the provisional government. They immediately invoked the Inter-American Democratic Charter, signed in Lima in September 2001, which was drawn up to strengthen democracy in the hemisphere and which bound the member states of the OAS not to support the removal of a democratically elected government by non-constitutional means. However, the Government of El Salvador immediately expressed its recognition of the new regime in Venezuela.

The OAS called a private emergency meeting on the evening of 12 April to discuss the situation. However, the Secretary General, Cesar Gaviria, did not invite the Venezuelan Permanent Representative, Ambassador Jorge Valero, to the meeting. Gaviria said that there was a new Government in Venezuela and that Valero was no longer its representative. He circulated a letter from Carmona whom he referred to as the President of Venezuela. Carmona's letter, which announced that a new Venezuelan representative would be appointed, called upon the OAS to give support to his administration.

The exclusion of the Venezuelan representative drew strong objection from many delegations, particularly those from Caricom and Chile, who insisted that their governments recognised the Chavez government as the constitutional authority in Venezuela and that Valero, as Venezuela's accredited representative had the right to be present at the OAS. This position won unanimous support, and it was agreed that Valero would be invited to the meeting which would resume the next morning.

Valero attended the resumed meeting on the morning of 13 April and he joined with the other ambassadors in formulating a text of a resolution condemning the coup. As the debate on the text of the resolution continued into the afternoon and late evening, news filtered in that the coup had collapsed and that President Chavez was restored to power. Only after Chavez was back in control (around midnight) did the US gave support to the OAS draft resolution which condemned "altering the constitutional order" in Venezuela. A formal meeting of the OAS Permanent Council was then convened after midnight (in the early hours of 14 April) to ratify the resolution. Ironically, the resolution called for the restoration of the President who had already been restored to power!

A special General Assembly of the OAS was convened on 18 April to discuss the situation in Venezuela. At this meeting, Guyana's Ambassador Odeen Ishmael made a statement on behalf of the Caricom delegations in which he expressed Caricom's support for the constitutional process and democracy in Venezuela. He stated that:

"the Government of Venezuela should draw upon the lessons learned to strengthen the process of representative and participatory democracy in Venezuela. This will help to diminish the negative elements which led to the breakdown of constitutional order in that country. We also applaud President Chavez' call for unity, reconciliation and engagement of the various sectors in Venezuelan society. We therefore call on all parties to dialogue in good faith."

This OAS meeting decided to send Secretary General Cesar Gaviria to Venezuela to observe the political situation and to help build consensus between the government and the opposition.

The removal of the democratically elected President of Venezuela by a coup d'etat was regarded as an issue of grave concern by the Guyana Government. Chavez's restoration was greeted with much relief, and on the day after he returned to his post, the Office of the President of Guyana sent the following message to him:

The Office of the President welcomes the return to democratic government in Venezuela and hopes that peace and stability will be quickly restored to that country.

The loss of life, which accompanied the recent violence, is deeply regretted.

As a government which subscribes to the practice of democracy and as a signatory - like Venezuela - to the Inter-American Democratic Charter, we firmly believe that constitutional rule should at all times prevail.

The Office of the President expects that with the return to normalcy in Venezuela, the government of Guyana will be able to resume the programme of cooperation which the two countries had established at the High Level Commission meeting which was held in Georgetown from 25th to 26th February 2002.


Guyana had its share of political violence when opposition-led demonstrators on 4 July invaded the Office of the President in Georgetown and violently attacked workers in their offices. The rioters openly stated that their aim was to harm the President and to overthrow the government. The police was able to repel the invaders but two demonstrators were shot dead in the process. The rioters moved to the business area of Georgetown where they set fire to a number of shops and destroying some in the process. These incidents occurred when the Caricom Heads of Government were meeting in Georgetown.

The second meeting of Presidents of South America held on July 26-27 in Quito, Ecuador, examined the possibility of the proposed road link between Guyana and Venezuela and noted a commitment by the two countries to set up a technical committee to look at a direct connection via a highway. The Presidents were enthusiastic and supported the idea of Guyana being the link between South America and the rest of the world.

On August 3, several South American countries, including both Guyana and Venezuela, signed a Peace Zone Declaration. It banned the use of force, or the threat of the use of force, in South America.

In mid November it was reported that Brazil had carried out a military operation in the region of Guyana claimed by Suriname, to destroy several airstrips used by drug traffickers. The Brazilian government did not confirm the story but insisted that if it had been carried out it would have been done with Guyana's permission. Officials for Guyana denied knowledge of the operation. This raised worries in Guyana that such operations could set a dangerous precedent for Venezuela to involve itself in the Essequibo region.

On 27 September 2002, a frigate of the Venezuelan Navy crossed the international maritime median line into Guyana's maritime space to demand the release of a Venezuelan fishing trawler seized by Guyana's Coast Guard after it was found fishing illegally in Guyana's waters. The commanding officer of the frigate withdrew when the commanding officer of the Guyana Coast Guard's vessel "Essequibo" warned him that he had trespassed into Guyanese territory and denied his demand for the release of the trawler. The trawler was impounded and its captain was later placed before the courts for illegal fishing. After he was penalised with a fine, the trawler and its crew were released and it sailed back to Venezuela.

At the end of October 2002, Guyana's Foreign Minister Rudy Insanally visited Caracas to discuss Guyana-Venezuela relations with his Venezuelan counterpart, Roy Chaderton. Their discussions centred on the work of the High Level Bilateral Commission, the UN Good Offices process, and on hemispheric issues, including the recently concluded agreement between Belize and Guatemala to solve their border dispute. Concerned that Venezuelan oil exploration concessions might have overlapped in Guyana's maritime space, Insanally also requested from Chaderton information on the location of hydrocarbon concessions granted by Venezuela around "Plataforma Deltana" in the Orinoco delta region. This Chaderton offered to furnish as early as possible.

On his return to Guyana, Insanally said the recent proposal to settle the territorial dispute between Belize and Guatemala could provide Guyana and Venezuela with a "useful methodology" in the Essequibo case. (The Belize-Guatemala agreement, however, collapsed within a year of its signing).

Around the end of 2002, the Guyana Government stated that it wanted to reactivate the UN Good Office mechanism, which had become dormant, and proposed that the two facilitators - Ralph Ramkarran of Guyana and Luis Herrera Marcano of Venezuela - should meet together with Oliver Jackman in December. However, this meeting did not take place.


Meanwhile, the political and economic situation in Venezuela was affected by a series of strikes and political demonstrations against President Chavez. The physical presence of the OAS Secretary General in Venezuela for more than six months to help the Government and the opposition reach a political solution did not help to alleviate the situation. On December 2 Venezuela's fourth general strike in a year began. By mid-December oil exports were largely halted and the country brought to a standstill. Through the rest of the month, Venezuela was in extreme crisis and near economic collapse as strike leaders insisted the strike would not end until Chavez stepped down. The strike continued throughout January 2003 but collapsed in early February after differences occurred among opposition and trade union groups.

The strike and its accompanying political pressures on the Chavez administration raised concern in Guyana where the Government was being threatened with violent action by opposition forces. On 6 January 2003 both Guyana government and the ruling People's Progressive Party expressed their solidarity with Chavez and his government and condemned efforts to overthrow the democratically elected government.

On April 14 the opposition and government in Venezuela agreed on a 22-point plan to end the crisis. A recall referendum would take place in August, in exchange for the opposition abiding by peaceful and legal strategies. Despite the agreement several instances of violence continued to occur.


Guyana-Venezuela relations moved forward when Foreign Minister Chaderton arrived in Georgetown on 29 April for a two-day visit aimed at improving bilateral cooperation. He paid courtesy visits to President Jagdeo, Caricom's Secretary General Edwin Carrington and Speaker of the National Assembly Ralph Ramkarran, after which he held discussions with his Guyanese counterpart at Herdmanston House in Georgetown. Chaderton was accompanied by other senior officials of the Venezuelan government including his Ministry's Director-General of Economy and Cooperation International, Oscar Hernandez and Director General of Sovereignty, Limits and Border Issues, General Alfonso Nunez Vidal.

In their discussions Chaderton with Insanally agreed that efforts must be made to re-launch the UN Good Officer process, which had run out of steam in recent months, and proposed that the two facilitators should meet as early as possible. Although delineation of the maritime boundary was not on the agenda, both sides pledged to work to resolve the fishing dispute centred mainly on Guyanese complaints about Venezuelan fishing boats in their territorial waters.

At the end of their meetings, the Ministers issued a joint statement on the issues they discussed. According to the joint statement, they agreed to the following matters:

1. Review the decisions taken at the meetings of the Guyana/Venezuela High Level Bilateral Commission and reaffirmed their commitment to accelerate the implementation of the activities of the Commission. Noting that the advancement of functional and economic cooperation between the two countries would redound significantly to the social and economic development of the peoples of both countries, the Ministers agreed that the sub-committee on Health would be convened by this month-end and one on Culture in the second half of 2003.

2. Recognise the significant advances made towards the conclusion of a telecommunication cooperation agreement between the respective regulatory authorities of Guyana and Venezuela and undertook to encourage an expeditious signing of the agreement.

3. The importance of negotiating a new air Transport Agreement aimed at enhancing and facilitating the flow of passengers and cargo between the two countries, taking advantage of the interest shown by firms of both countries to operate with greater regularity.

4. With the aim of re-activating commercial exchanges, undertook to promote business visits at the earliest opportunity. In this regard, Minister Chaderton proposed an early visit of high-level officials from Venezuela who will be accompanied by a group of businessmen representing various sectors, a proposal which Minister Insanally welcomed.

5. In the interest of promoting cooperation in the area of infrastructure development, the Venezuelan delegation indicated the interest shown by construction firms from that country, to offer development projects in this sector, particularly those related to the construction of houses and infrastructure and communication development within the framework of a comprehensive programme which would include the development and finance of projects.

6. Reaffirm the commitment of their respective countries to the United Nations Good Officer process and to a regular process of consultation under the aegis of this process. The convening of the meeting between the two facilitators during Minister Chaderton's visit was welcomed, and the parties agreed that priority would be placed on arranging an early meeting with the Good Officer, Mr. Oliver Jackman, in preparation for a meeting between the Foreign Ministers of both countries with the UN Secretary General later this year.

The Ministers also:
1. Analysed the efforts being undertaken to deepen the process of regional integration within the Caribbean Community (Caricom), the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) and the Treaty of Amazonian Cooperation (TAC) and emphasised the need to join efforts in advancing the initiatives aimed at furthering the process.

2. Noted the benefits which a Trade and Investment Agreement between Caricom and Venezuela offers for increasing trade and economics, and emphasised, in particular, the tremendous benefits which the ACS initiatives in the areas of transport, trade and tourism could bring to the people of the Caribbean. The importance of the Treaty of the Amazonian Cooperation to the efforts at sustainable development of the countries of the Amazon region was also underscored.

3. Reiterated the support of their countries for the measures presently being undertaken, in fulfilment of the vision of the presidents of South America for the physical integration of the continent. In this regard, the Ministers committed their countries to the development of the northern hub (Brazil-Guyana-Suriname-Venezuela) of the continent, within the framework of the South American Regional Infrastrucutral Integration Initiative (IIRSA).


There was a lull in activities relating to Guyana-Venezuela relations for much of the remainder of 2002 and early 2003 as a result of internal political occurrences in Venezuela. The process got back on track when the two facilitators, Ralph Ramkarran of Guyana and Luis Herrera Marcano of Venezuela, met on 29 April 2003 in Barbados. They decided that they should meet separately from Oliver Jackman, after which they would then meet with Jackman to report on the results of their discussions in order to restrict his tendency to mediate.

The facilitators eventually met with Jackman on 23 May 2003 in Barbados. They noted the lack of activity of the Good Officer process due mainly to the political situation in Venezuela. At this meeting, Jackman revealed that he was told by the Office of the Secretary General of the UN that he was only a "Good Officer" and not a mediator. In an unusual request, he asked both facilitators to brief him in the process, and to jointly prepare a short paper for his edification on the role of the UN Good Officer. Both facilitators subsequently presented with the following document on the role of the UN Good Officer:


1. The Good Offices of the Secretary General of the United Nations is offered as a mechanism to assist in the resolving of issues between countries or within a country in a large variety of circumstances.

2. In relation to the Venezuela-Guyana border controversy, the Good Offices of the Secretary General was requested by the parties under the Geneva Agreement to which Venezuela and Guyana (then British Guiana) are parties. For this reason the Good Officer process is driven by the parties themselves while at the same time they recognise its mandate in assisting the parties to resolve problems, differences, disputes and controversies.

3. Both parties have expressed their continuing support for and confidence in the Good Officer process and continue to believe that it is playing an important role in providing a focus for and facilitating discussions.

4. The Good Officer facilitates meetings of the parties at such venues and with such regularity as they may determine and as are convenient to the Good Officer. The agenda for such meetings is set by the parties. However, the Good Officer may offer guidance, suggestions and recommendations in relation to these matters.

5. The Good Officer presides at meetings when he is present. He would be expected to ensure that the discussions have clarity and focus. He looks out for any issues which are raised that would require an input from him or the Secretary General and volunteers his assistance where possible or appropriate or investigates possibilities of assistance. He sums up the discussions and defines the conclusions and the tasks to be accomplished, if any, until the next meeting.

6. The Good Officer maintains periodic contact with both Governments to formally report the course of discussions and any other matter which he feels should be drawn to their attention or on which he wishes clarification.

7. The Good Officer being a representative of the UN Secretary General will determine his own relationship, level of engagement and nature of report, if any, to the Secretary General.

8. In addition to the important functions performed by the Good Officer as set out above, he is also seen as a symbol of the desire of both parties to resolve the controversy in a peaceful and amicable manner.

9. The Good Officer tries to keep in focus the possibility of annual meetings between the Ministers and the Secretary General at which he may consider it necessary for him to be present. At these meetings progress is reviewed and commitment to the process is renewed.

10. For the above purpose the Good Officer may wish to consider visiting the capitals once a year prior to the commencement of the General Assembly especially if a meeting is planned between the Ministers and the Secretary General.


Jackman also reported that the issue of the maritime delimitation was raised with him by the UN and wondered if this could be dealt with. Herrera Mercano took the position that maritime delimitation would not succeed in view of the existing controversy. This was a position which differed from that expressed by the previous Venezuelan facilitator.

On 23 July 2003, Jackman met with President Bharrat Jagdeo and Insanally. After his meetings, he lamented the slow process in the activities of the UN Good Offices and said this was due to the political problems in Venezuela and Guyana.

Jackman then travelled to Caracas where he held discussions with the Venezuelan Foreign Minister on 28 July. He also met with Jose Vicente Rangel, the Vice-President, and with leading members of Congress and the Supreme Court.

El Nacional reported on 29 July 2003 that Chaderton told Jackman that Guyana and Venezuela "are presently in a very good state of relations. Spaces have broadened. We are engaged in tasks of cooperation and reinforcement of bilateral ties that help to create a good atmosphere for talks." Regarding the territorial claim, Chaderton said: "I cannot make a pronouncement but, evidently, in this type of situation it is necessary to create an atmosphere of trust, and that trust between Guyana and Venezuela is increasing."


The political situation in Venezuela remained tense throughout this period. The opposition grouping, Democratic Coordinator, was continuing its campaign for a referendum to recall the President. Finally, on 29 May 2003, the Venezuelan government and the Democratic Coordinator, signed an accord which recommended a date for a recall referendum on August 19, 2003. However, in order for a referendum to take place, a petition signed by 20 percent of registered voters would have to be filed with the National Electoral Council. Despite this agreement, political protests and sporadic violence and as distrust on both sides was high.

But as August approached, it was clear that there was not enough time to hold a recall referendum on the agreed date, and even before the end of the year. This was due to stalled attempts in the National Assembly to appoint a new electoral council, a constitutional prerequisite for a referendum, as well as legal hurdles put up by Chavez supporters. In the absence of the National Assembly meeting to appoint the electoral council, the Supreme Court, in keeping with the Venezuela constitution, stepped in to appoint the new council in September 2003 and preparations were then made by the opposition to begin the collection of signatures for the recall referendum petition.

Meanwhile, at the United Nations, the Guyanese and Venezuelan Foreign Ministers met with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on 26 September 2003. Also present at the meeting was Oliver Jackman. The Ministers told Annan that relations between the two countries were constructive and at a point that would ensure future cooperation, and said they wished to reinvigorate the discussions taking place under the auspices of the UN Good Offices process.

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On 4 November 2003, Odeen Ishmael arrived in Caracas from Washington to take up his new post as Guyana's Ambassador to Venezuela. Within the next week he met with Foreign Minister Roy Chaderton to discuss current bilateral and international issues. He raised the question of outstanding invitations to President Chavez to visit Guyana, but Chaderton said that he was not in a position to say when the President would make such a visit.

On 16 December, Ishmael presented his credentials to President Chavez at Miraflores Palace, and in the course of their conversation he reminded the President that his visit to Guyana was long overdue and the Government of Guyana was expecting him to do so as early as possible. President Chavez immediately consulted the Deputy Foreign Minister Arevelo Mendez who was also attending the ceremony to find out an appropriate date in January 2004 for the visit. Mendez suggested January 30-31 and Chavez told the Ambassador that he must inform President Jagdeo that he would be going to Guyana for that period.

The Guyana Government immediately began to plan for the state visit, but in mid-January President Chavez asked for a change in the date and suggested 19-20 February. This change was welcomed by the Guyana government since it provided even more time to plan the agenda for the state visit.


While plans were underway for the visit, the Guyana Defence Force Coast Guard on 18 January 2004 apprehended a Venezuelan trawler for illegally fishing in Guyana's waters off the Essequibo coast near the mouth of the Waini River. The trawler which had on board approximately 12,000 pounds of mixed fish was towed to Georgetown, and the captain and five crew members were shortly after charged with illegal fishing. After they received legal representation through the intervention of the Venezuelan Embassy in Guyana, the men were placed on bail and were allowed to remain on the detained trawler until their trial.

The captain of the Venezuelan trawler insisted that his vessel was in Venezuelan waters at the time it was apprehended. The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry later sent a protest note to Guyana in which it gave the latitude and longitude coordinates where the trawler was arrested, and insisted that the given coordinates showed that it was in Venezuelan maritime space. As a result, the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry requested that the trawler and its crew should be released.

In response, the Guyana Foreign Ministry explained that the matter was engaging the attention of the courts and because of the separation of powers, the judicial system in Guyana would have to rule on the outcome.

With the impending visit of President Chavez to Guyana, the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry was concerned that this issue would hang as a dark cloud if it was not resolved quickly. However, efforts by the Guyana Ministry of Foreign Affairs to have this case given priority proved futile since the presiding magistrate was not prepared to do so.

Subsequently, towards the end of February, [after Chavez's visit] the case was called in the magistrate's court. There the fishermen were found not guilty after the main witness, a Coast Guard officer who made the arrest, agreed that the trawler was picked up at the coordinates stipulated by the Venezuelan authorities. The magistrate ruled that compensation for the catch which was seized by the Guyana authorities should be paid to the captain of the trawler.

The attorney for the prosecution announced afterwards that he would appeal the case. However, this action was not taken.


President Chavez arrived in Guyana on the morning of February 19 amid tight security that included his own bullet-proof car. There to meet him at the Cheddi Jagan International Airport were President Bharrat Jagdeo and a large contingent including members of the Cabinet and members of the diplomatic corps He was also accorded a 21-gun salute from the military guard of honour. Shortly after, he was greeted by a group of students from the nearby Timehri Primary School.

As the long motorcade drove the 25-mile route to Georgetown, school children and residents gathered by the roadside to wave greetings to the Venezuelan President. On arrival in Georgetown, he was greeted by Mayor Hamilton Green at a civic ceremony held at the Promenade Gardens. In welcoming Chavez, Green asked for a fulfilment of the existing sister city relationship between Caracas and Georgetown. He requested Chavez to take the proposal to the municipal authorities of Caracas, with whom he said an agreement was formulated, but never realised.

Addressing the large crowd through an interpreter, Chavez expressed the hope that his visit would mark the beginning of a new era in relations. He recalled that at his inauguration in 1999, President Janet Jagan had extended an invitation to him to visit Guyana. He said he had not forgotten and cited this as an example of the interest in furthering diplomatic relations.

He spoke of strides that Venezuela made in its education and healthcare sectors as areas where Guyana could benefit. He also reiterated his commitment to solving problems existing between the two countries, but stated that the border issue would not be on the agenda for discussion. He however assured the civic reception that he was committed to resolving fishing disputes as well as to ensure that Guyana could access petroleum supplies under the Caracas Energy Accord. He also spoke about the importance of developing the relationship between the two countries, in the context of the integration of South America.

At the conclusion of this activity, the Venezuelan delegation proceeded to the Office of the President for official bilateral meetings with the Guyanese delegation.

For these meetings, the Guyana Government delegation was headed by President Bharrat Jagdeo and comprised, Prime Minister Sam Hinds, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rudy Insanally, Minister of Foreign Trade and International Cooperation, Clement Rohee, Minister of Transport & Hydraulics Anthony Xavier, Minister of Public Service and Health, Dr Jennifer Westford, Minister of Education, Dr Henry Jeffrey, Head of the Presidential Secretariat Dr. Roger Luncheon, Director General of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Elisabeth Harper, Guyana's Ambassador to Venezuela, Odeen Ishmael, and Head of the Frontier Division of Foreign Affairs, Keith George.

The Venezuelan delegation was headed by President Chavez, Minister of External Relations of Venezuelan Jesus Arnaldo Perez, Charge d' Affairs of the Venezuelan Embassy in Guyana Fernando Rincon, Minister of Information and Communication Jesse Chacon Escamillo, Minister of Special Zone of Sustainable Development, Dr. Francisco Natera Martinez, President of Bancoux and representative of the entrepreneur sector Victor Alvarez, Director General of International Policies at the Ministry of External Affairs Ambassador Blanca Verlezza, President of the National Institute of Fishing and Agriculture Dr. Alexandra Jecrois Madred, President of the Federation of Small and Medium-sized Industries Miguel Perez Abad, President of Venezuelan Entrepreneur Alejando Uzcategui, Director General of the Ministry of Infrastructure Major Manuel Barroso Alberto, and Private Secretary of the President Lieutenant Colonel Emiro Antonio Brito Velerio.

Also included on the Venezuelan delegation was its ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago, Hector Azocar, who was recently named as the new facilitator in the UN Good Offices process. Before his posting to Port of Spain, Azocar served as Venezuela's ambassador to Guyana.

On the evening before the visit, representatives of the two governments had discussed and reached consensus on a draft final communiqué on the decisions to which the two presidents would agree. At the Office of the President, the two Presidents met separately from their delegations and together discussed the draft communiqué. After nearly two hours, they emerged and at the meetings with the two delegations stated that would work together for the implementation of the agreements mentioned in the final communiqué. They also exchanged information and views on the political situation in Guyana and Venezuela, but concentrated their discussions mainly on cooperation in various areas, including energy. Arising out of these discussions, Chavez announced that his government would cancel the debt of the US$12.5 million owed by Guyana to Venezuela since the 1970s. He also agreed to favourably consider adjusting to terms and conditions of the Caracas Energy Cooperation Accord to make it compatible with Guyana's obligations under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative.

The delegations then proceeded to State House, the official residence of the Guyanese President, where a state luncheon in honour of President Chavez was held. This was followed later in the afternoon by a public forum at the Pegasus Hotel, where Chavez addressed a large gathering that included parliamentarians, civic leaders and students. There he seized the opportunity to promote his Bolivarian Alternative to the Free Trade Area of the Americas.

Speaking about Guyana-Venezuela relations, Chavez laid much of the blame for the historic tensions between the two countries on the United States which he said fomented strife between Guyana and Venezuela so as to divide them and push them into an armed conflict. He recalled that the possibility in the 60s of Guyana becoming another Cuba was used to whip up antagonism in the Venezuelan military who were given maps that showed Venezuela surrounded by Cuba, Grenada and Guyana poised to attack it. He revealed that as a young military officer, he examined plans to determine the best routes for an invasion of Guyana. Now as President, he said he was still studying maps but it was to determine what would be the best route for the proposed road link between Guyana and Venezuela.

He declared that the sentiment against Guyana had changed dramatically since then and his visit was an indication of the country's desire to strengthen and foster closer relations.

At the end of this two and a half-hour meeting, the two Presidents hosted a joint media conference at State House. A significant aspect of this media conference was Chavez's new approach to the border issues. After Jagdeo stated that the two sides agreed to leave the border issue in the hands of the UN Good Officer process, Chavez declared: "We have come here to strengthen ties with Guyana. We have come with the willpower to foster . . . .further integration. The Venezuelan Government will not hinder any project to be conducted in (the Essequibo) whose purpose is to benefit the inhabitants of the area. By that I mean projects like water supply, communication roads, energy programmes, agricultural programmes. Any other sensitive projects that might be organised in the area, we are planning to immediately get in touch and review the projects together within the framework of the high level bilateral commission. We have to find the right way to tackle the problem."

The Guyana Stabroek News on 20 February carried this report by its senior reporter, Peter Denny, on the media conference:

Chavez Declares Start of "Love Process" - Close Co-Operation Seen as Way to Cool Border Controversy

Years of suspicion and sabre-rattling seemed to evaporate yesterday when the charismatic Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez rolled into town forgiving debt, inviting students to come see him and officially declaring the start of a "love process" with Guyana.

More pragmatically, Guyana and Venezuela yesterday agreed to continue to pursue resolution of the border controversy within the context of the United Nations Good Officer process and Chavez said that was the only way to deal with the issue. The controversy stems from Venezuela's rejection of the 1899 arbitral award which settled the boundaries between the two countries.

At the same time he said that his government would be accelerating closer economic, social and other ties with Guyana. He explained that his government had taken a similar approach in putting aside its border controversy with Colombia.

President Chavez, facing the prospect of a recall referendum in Caracas, also gave a commitment to the people and government of Guyana that his government would not put any obstacles in the way of projects that benefit the people of the Essequibo. However, the Guyana government has agreed that sensitive projects other than water, roads, energy, communications and agriculture would be discussed within the context of the high level bilateral commission so as to find a way to structure them. Guyana has previously complained that Caracas has aggressively dissuaded important investors from the Essequibo including oil explorers.

Presidents Bharrat Jagdeo and Chavez announced these agreements at a joint press conference they hosted at State House which started some three and three quarters hours after its scheduled 5 pm start. The late start was as a result of the other engagements in the Venezuelan leader's programme running behind time right from the moment he stepped off the plane yesterday morning.

Another key agreement was for the financing terms for oil purchases under the Caracas Energy Accord to be adjusted so as to be compatible with its HIPC (Highly Indebted Poor Country) obligations. As it stands, the grant element of the Accord is below the required 35 per cent that the HIPC obligations impose. The adjustments would include varying the interest rate and extending the period over which Guyana would have to repay the loan granted to purchase its supplies. Guyana will also benefit from Venezuela's offer to cancel US$12 million in debt.

There are also agreements that the mandate of the high level bilateral commission would be extended to included co-operation in health and education and that the two countries would jointly seek international resources to conduct the feasibility studies needed to implement a Guyana-Venezuela road link.

The latter agreements are relevant to the promotion of the Bolivarian Alternative to the Free Trade Area of the Americas which President Chavez promoted in his speech earlier in the evening to a gathering that included parliamentarians, civic leaders and secondary school children at Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel.

President Chavez, who has faced mounting domestic opposition epitomised by a crippling oil industry strike and a short-lived coup, declared that the Free Trade Areas of Americas, an initiative of the United States of America, was dead and would soon be buried. At the press conference President Chavez, who has attracted the wrath of the US government because of his close ties with Cuba, said that these were two key issues of the Bolivarian Alternative which emphasises improving the quality of life of the poorest people.

At a State House luncheon hosted in Chavez's honour, President Jagdeo said that the proposed trading area could pose great challenges to the economies of the region and could bring social ruin to small and vulnerable states, many of which are in the Caribbean. He asserted that it could only succeed if it brings equitable benefits to all countries in the hemisphere.

Chavez at the press conference said the co-operation in health and education and the road project in addition to the systems of micro-credits that would be made available to Guyana were contrary to the principles of "savage capitalism".

He said the agreement related to health and education involves Venezuela co-operating with Guyana to reduce illiteracy and the rate of infant mortality which Guyana's Minister of Health had informed him was now 21 per 1000 live births, down from the 28 per 1000 of four years ago. Chavez said that similar figures for Venezuela are 18 per 1000, down from 21 per 1000 of four years ago. However, he said the standard to emulate was Cuba where infant mortality is 6 per 1000.

Asked about the danger to an integration movement where there are border controversies among its members, Chavez said the objective of the co-operation programmes being pursued is to generate understanding and co-operation between the peoples of Guyana and Venezuela. That understanding and love they share would make it impossible down the road for any problem to arise that would hinder the integration movement.

As a start to this "love process", the Venezuelan president has invited the schoolchildren whom he met yesterday at State House and who had waited some two hours for his engagement to visit him in Caracas. That visit, he said, would begin on July 25 and would be an explosion of love to foster the understanding and co-operation that should exist between the peoples of the Latin American and Caribbean region. He said he had already received students from Colombia, Cuba. Bolivia and Central America who have already enjoyed this "very moving experience".

The students are to travel to Venezuela either by his presidential aircraft or military plane where he would welcome them and spend the day talking with them. The following day, he said they would travel to Margarita Island where they would enjoy the lovely beaches and where a group of Venezuela students would then show them the sights.

From Margarita, he said that the students could then be taken to the Venezuelan Andes where they would see Mount Bolivar and spend two to three days. From there they could be taken to Canaima which is about one hour flying time away, where they would see a waterfall which has a drop of 1000 feet, which dwarfed Kaieteur's 747 feet. At this point Jagdeo clarified that Kaieteur's drop was sheer unlike that of the Venezuelan waterfall. Chavez, who hosts his own television programme in Caracas, went on to say the pupils could navigate the Orinoco River and then visit his birthplace Barima State, of which his father is an elected governor.

Giving his view on the Bolivarian Alternative, President Jagdeo said that the region has serious problems which the current models of economic development are incapable of resolving. "We can all pursue different ideas in Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela. But what is important is that we tackle the poverty and place the region on the world stage, where it could take its rightful place in the world."

Earlier in the day at the State House luncheon he observed, "Ultimately, the future welfare of our people lies in the greater integration of our hemisphere. This was the ideal for which the great Simon Bolivar fought and died. It must now be the ideal of all leaders of Latin American and the Caribbean if we are to guarantee the political, economic and social advancement of our countries. Such is the poverty that afflicts our societies that we have an imperative duty to reduce, if not eliminate, this pestilence in our midst."

Jagdeo said the major issues discussed in the closed door sessions were the Free Trade Area between Caricom and Venezuela based on reciprocity and the acceleration of the fight against drug trafficking; the Guyana-Venezuela road link and the framework for dealing with the Essequibo within the UN Good Officer process.

Chavez said that one of the important issues discussed was the role of the private media which in Venezuela had promoted the coup d'etat in April 2002 and had put all the mechanisms at the disposal of the coup leaders so that they could inform the world of the developments in Venezuela.

He recalled that the reaction of the Venezuelan people to the announcement that he had resigned included thousands surrounding the presidential palace and the military barracks. But the television channels showed movies and cartoons and not the carnage in Caracas which was the work of the coup leaders but the truth of which was now being revealed.

Moreover, he said that CNN shows only what its owners think that its audience should see of Venezuela and not what is the reality on the ground He declared that the private media are tools for destabilisation, used to mislead world opinion.


At the end of the media conference, the following final communiqué on the visit was issued:


At the invitation of His Excellency Bharrat Jagdeo, President of the Republic of Guyana, His Excellency Hugo Chávez Frías, President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela paid a State Visit to Guyana from February 19-20 2004.

2. During his State Visit, President Chávez held official talks with President Bharrat Jagdeo and members of the Cabinet of Guyana. He received courtesy calls from The Honourable Hari Narayen Ramkarran, Speaker of the National Assembly, The Honourable Robert Corbin, M.P., Leader of the Opposition and His Excellency Dr. Edwin Carrington, Secretary General of the Caribbean Community.

3. His Excellency President Hugo Chávez Frías addressed a gathering of Parliamentarians and Civic Leaders.

4. In their review of the relations between Guyana and Venezuela, Their Excellencies Presidents Bharrat Jagdeo and Hugo Chávez Frías took note of the steady progress which was being made in strengthening the bonds of friendship, cooperation and understanding between their two countries. They noted, in particular, that a spirit of cordiality had permeated the approach to the dialogue between the two sides under the auspices of the United Nations Good Offices Process in the search for a peaceful and practical settlement of the controversy in accordance with the Geneva Agreement of 1966.

5. The Heads of State reiterated their countries' commitment to the Good Offices process and expressed their appreciation for the work of Mr. Oliver Jackman, the Personal Representative of the United Nations Secretary General.

6. The Presidents exchanged ideas on their national programmes for poverty alleviation, social justice and the deepening of their national democratic processes. They reaffirmed their commitment to the fight against poverty which constitutes the main threat to international peace and development.

7. They therefore expressed their Governments' continuing support to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals aimed at reducing poverty by fifty percent by the year 2015. They however noted that if international donor assistance to developing countries does not increase appreciably, the goal of reducing poverty will not be realised.

8. The Presidents decided that the bilateral cooperation programmes should be linked with the poverty alleviation strategies and plans of both states.

9. The Presidents noted that both the New Global Human Order and the International Humanitarian Fund, initiatives that have been promoted by Guyana and Venezuela, respectively, have similar objectives and could make significant contributions towards the realisation of the strategies to eradicate poverty globally. They therefore agreed to coordinate their efforts and activities aimed at achieving international acceptance and support for the objectives of the two proposals. In this respect they recognised the efforts being made through the Latin American Economic System (SELA) and the Andean Cooperation Fund (CAF) to support the feasibility studies for the establishment of the International Humanitarian Fund.

10. The Heads of State reviewed the efforts aimed at the implementation of programmes for the intensification of cooperation between their two countries. They directed that strategies be developed for the acceleration of the rate of implementation of the cooperation activities of the various Subcommittees and Working Groups established under the Guyana/Venezuela High Level Bilateral Commission. They requested their respective Foreign Ministers to conduct a thorough review of the cooperation programmes and to monitor their further execution.

11. President Bharrat Jagdeo briefed President Hugo Chávez Frías on Guyana's recent qualification for assistance under the Highly Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative and the positive impact which this assistance could have on the poverty alleviation and social sector programmes in Guyana.

12. It was noted that because of its HIPC conditions, Guyana will not be able to access the benefits of the Caracas Energy Cooperation Accord. At the request of H.E. the President of Guyana, President Chávez agreed that Venezuela would favourably consider adjusting the terms and conditions of the Accord so that it can be made compatible with Guyana's HIPC obligations. It was agreed that the relevant technical officials would meet before the end of March 2004 to resolve this issue.

13. The President of Venezuela agreed to a cancellation of the debt owed by Guyana to Venezuela. A Technical Working Group would be established to give effect to this decision.

14. The Presidents emphasised the importance of constitutional reform, the rule of law, citizens' participation, and the consolidation of democratic governance to social and economic stability. In this context, they exchanged views on the initiatives taken by their governments to build consensus and consultation across the political spectrum in their countries.

15. President Jagdeo briefed President Chávez on the developments in the integration process within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and highlighted in particular the progress being made towards the establishment of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy. President Jagdeo observed that the integration arrangements would establish a solid basis for the development of the Region and allow for closer foreign policy coordination to address regional and international developments.

16. Both Presidents emphasised the importance of trade to regional development and requested the early resumption of negotiations aimed at strengthening the trade agreement between Venezuela and CARICOM.

17. The Presidents reviewed the achievements of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) since the Third Summit in Margarita, Venezuela, in 2001. They took note of the fact that significant progress was made towards greater integration in the areas of air transport and tourism. They emphasised the importance of the ACS Summit of Heads of State and Government as the appropriate forum for strengthening the Association and for guiding it towards the new challenges and objectives.

18. They placed on record their appreciation for the services of the outgoing Secretary General, Dr. Norman Girvan, and expressed their support for the newly elected Secretary General, Mr. Ruben Arturo Silié Valdez.

19. The Presidents of Guyana and Venezuela discussed the Integration of Regional Infrastructure of South America (IIRSA) initiative and reiterated their commitment to the realisation of its objectives. In this regard they endorsed the proposal for a Guyana-Venezuela road link and agreed to jointly seek international resources to conduct the feasibility studies needed to implement this proposed project.

20. In this context the Presidents noted the importance of creating an environment to allow for the realisation of the economic potential of the areas that would be opened up as a result of the proposed road link. Both Presidents therefore agreed to adopt policies and measures that would encourage economic activities to ensure the viability of the proposed road link.

21. The Presidents reaffirmed their commitment to continue to play active roles in the Amazonian Cooperation Treaty Organisation to develop, consolidate and coordinate national strategies for the preservation of their environmental heritage and the sustainable development of their countries.

22. The Presidents took note of the decisions adopted at the Special Summit of the Americas held in Monterrey, Mexico. They agreed that the interests of the smaller economies of the hemisphere must be safeguarded in any project of economic integration.

23. The two Heads of State praised the role of the Organisation of American States as a key regional organisation concerned with the preservation of peace and the promotion of development in the Americas. In this regard they recognised the need to strengthen the OAS mechanisms for combating poverty and agreed to jointly work with the Organisation to hasten the consideration of the proposed Inter-American Social Charter.

24. The Presidents agreed to closer collaboration in the context of the Rio Group and the Latin American-Caribbean and European Union processes. It was noted that these groupings offered welcome opportunities for extended political dialogue and wider economic and social partnerships.

25. Presidents Bharrat Jagdeo and Hugo Chávez Frías discussed the current international trading system, and the efforts being made through the Word Trade Organisation to ensure the development of a balanced, fair and equitable trading system that is based on internationally acceptable rules for all nations. They underscored the fact that international trade, investment and economic cooperation are critical to the welfare of all states, especially those with small and vulnerable economies.

26. They called on the international community to guarantee, in an increasingly challenging international environment, characterised by trade liberalisation and the erosion of trade preferences, special and differential treatment that takes into account the structural differences and special needs of developing countries.

27. The Presidents reaffirmed their commitment to multilateralism as a guiding principle in international relations and expressed their support for the initiatives aimed at the reform and restructuring of the United Nations given the continuing relevance of this organisation to the maintenance of international peace and security; the strengthening of international cooperation, the promotion of social and economic development and respect for international law. In this framework, they agreed to promote initiatives, with special emphasis on the social programmes carried out by the United Nations.

28. Their Excellencies Presidents Bharrat Jagdeo and Hugo Chávez Frías recognised the threats to the security of states posed by international terrorism and other trans-boundary crimes, such as drugs and arms trafficking and money laundering. They noted the heavy toll which the HIV/AIDS pandemic continues to take on the region's health. They stressed the importance of a coordinated and integrated approach within regional fora to respond effectively to these challenges.

29. In concluding their discussions both Presidents expressed their satisfaction with the results of their dialogue and welcomed its promise for the further enhancement of relations between Guyana and Venezuela. They were convinced that their meeting would give added impetus to cooperation in regional and international matters.

30. His Excellency President Hugo Chávez Frías expressed his gratitude to the Government and People of Guyana for the hospitality afforded him and his delegation during his State Visit and extended an invitation to His Excellency President Bharrat Jagdeo to pay a state visit to Venezuela at a mutually convenient time.

31. Done and signed on this 19th day of February, 2004, in the English and Spanish languages, both texts being equally authentic.


President Chavez and his delegation departed from Guyana on 20 February around midday. Shortly after their departure, Guyana's Minister of Foreign Affairs Rudy Insanally told the Guyanese media that Guyana had not committed itself to any agreement with Venezuela that would impede its control of the Essequibo. He recalled that when Guyana raised the impediments suffered as a result of Venezuela's objections to investment in the Essequibo, Chavez gave a commitment that Caracas would not object to projects in areas such as water, agriculture and communications. However, he said the Venezuelan president suggested that projects which give concern to the Venezuelan government could be raised within the framework of the high-level bilateral commission; but this did not imply any restraint on Guyana's control of the area.

Insanally said that to avoid problems and build confidence, the High-Level Bilateral Commission could be used as a forum to exchange information, as Guyana was not involved in any project that would encroach on Venezuelan territory.

In a review of the visit of the Venezuelan President, the independent Stabroek News, in an editorial on Sunday 22 February gave this view:


The charismatic President of Venezuela, full of charm and good humour, touched down last Thursday on the soil of the nation whose economy he has stymied, and three-fifths of whose land-space he has claimed in the name of his people. Riveting speeches were made, children were kissed and invited to Caracas, Guyana's presidents - past and present - were praised, oil purchases were discussed, debt was forgiven, health and education projects were agreed, a Caracas-Georgetown road link was announced, integration was proposed and a "love process" was declared.

In the midst of all this "amour", ordinary Guyanese had only one question to ask: Did President Chavez give any indication that Venezuela might be prepared to move in the direction of abandoning her claim to our territory?

The answer is, of course not. And is she now disposed to stop placing obstacles in the way of Essequibo's economic development? The answer to that one too seems to be a qualified no. If it is roads, water, energy, communications and agriculture, there might not, apparently, be a problem.

But the Venezuelan head of state informed the media that he considered any other project should be discussed within the context of the high-level bi-lateral commission.

Fortunately, the Government of Guyana did not share this view, and so no agreement was arrived at regarding it, although in our edition yesterday we did report Foreign Minister Insanally as saying that the commission could be used to exchange information - whatever that means. Be that as it may, the bottom line is that Venezuela's position in relation to the 1899 arbitral award has not changed, all the displays of affection notwithstanding.

Let it not be forgotten that President Chavez has not always been so accommodating in his dealings with us; prior to his present domestic difficulties, he adopted the most aggressive stance of any Venezuelan President on the matter of the frontier since Herrera Campins in the early 1980s. Since this issue has not yet been resolved, we should always be conscious of the possibility that if the political situation to the west of us stabilizes, it could again be revived in a more active form.

In other words, assurances about a "love process" mean nothing in the long term; it is at the whim of any given Venezuelan administration as to how it treats with us. Our neighbour is not only far bigger and more powerful than we are, but she is also the one making the claim against us, and not vice versa. How and when she prosecutes that claim, therefore, is entirely within her discretion and not ours.

And there are some very compelling reasons why President Chavez should be seeking a warm relationship with us now. He is facing a possible recall referendum at home; he governs a bitterly divided nation; and he is at serious odds with Washington which he accuses of trying to bring down his government, and which in turn has accused him of linking with Cuba's President Castro to destabilize democratic governments in the region. A sympathetic Guyana to the east, therefore, is far more in his interest at the moment than one which is openly aligned with the US, as is the case with Colombia where border tensions are high.

All of which does not mean to say that he is allowing the matter of the territorial claim to lie completely dormant for the time being; he has other avenues open to him. His talk in our capital was all of integration - including the political integration of the continent of which Simon Bolivar dreamed. The instrument of 'integration' where we are concerned is the Caracas-Georgetown road link, to which the Government of Guyana, it seems, has unhesitatingly committed itself without a second cautionary thought.

It is an area where we should tread carefully. Venezuela is undoubtedly unhappy with the Brazil-Guyana road, which, in conjunction with a deep-water harbour, will allow our neighbour to the south a degree of influence over large areas of this country - including parts of Essequibo - which has not been possible hitherto. Venezuela's primary territorial focus has always been the north-west, and a road to Georgetown would allow her to create her own sphere of influence there.

With two major arteries linking us with big neighbours, and a deep-water harbour servicing Brazil's Amazon region, we will have relatively little room for political manoeuvre. Apart from anything else, Brazil and Venezuela would become political allies in relation to Guyana; there would be no neutralizing the one with the help of the other. This would all be in addition, of course, to the likelihood of us becoming a nodal point in the region for the export of narcotics.

The road to Brazil appears to be a fait accompli. The road to Caracas, however, and the deep-water harbour are not yet in that category. It is not that these things will not come eventually; it is just that we need to make haste slowly in this area. Until we have experience of the kind of problems the Georgetown-Lethem highway will produce, and what measures we can take to counteract these, we should not be rushing blindly into "integration" with anyone.

In addition, when you are integrating with politically and economically powerful neighbours, it is not their national identity which is going to be subsumed under yours. Finally, and most important, racing into integration with a border controversy extant, is a move fraught with danger, a point that so far has appeared obvious to everyone except the Government of Guyana.

To repeat the point made above, while it is very nice to be on better terms with Caracas, at the most fundamental level nothing in the relationship with our neighbour has changed. Given that, the administration can do no better where Venezuela is concerned than to adopt the old Boy Scout motto: Be prepared.

But despite the Stabroek News' gloomy assessment, more optimism was expressed at the regional level. The Barbados Nation commented on the visit with this editorial on 24 February 2004:


It may be ironical, but as Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago are embroiled in a tense maritime delimitation dispute, a new era in productive relations is set to bloom between Guyana and Venezuela, which have a border row that dates back to the 19th century.

The President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, set the mood for the flowering of this new relationship when he paid a one-day State visit to Guyana last Thursday.

In rejecting the award of an international tribunal in 1899 that had ruled the existing boundaries between the two South American countries to be a "full, perfect and final settlement," successive - civilian and military - regimes in Caracas have kept alive claims to some two thirds of Guyana's 83,000 square mile territory.

This claim covers the rich mineral and forest regions of the sprawling Essequibo, the largest of Guyana's three counties, and for years has been frustrating Guyana's efforts, under different governments in Georgetown, from pursuing exploration for oil and other major economic development projects.

Now President Chavez, confronting challenging political problems at home but still the popular leader, from all credible reports, turned up in Guyana last week with the message of "a love process", and talking passionately of burying the past and forging "a new era" in Venezuelan-Guyanese relations.

"The Essequibo issue" (read 'border dispute'), he pledged, even before entering into a historic joint communiqué with his Guyanese counterpart, President Bharrat Jagdeo, "will be removed from the framework of the social, political and economic relations between our two countries, and we will tackle each issue from a different perspective based on mutual respect. . . ."

He was later reported in the public sector-owned Chronicle that "taking into account the history of the relations between Guyana and Venezuela, this is certainly a watershed. . . . You have to think of what happened before my visit, and what is going to happen after. . . ."

So he left on a high note of optimism for the new relationship that parties in and out of government and the private sector hope will soon translate into practical results as both countries continue to rely on the United Nations Good Offices process to help resolve the protracted territorial dispute.

Among immediate benefits to Guyana resulting from President Chavez's visit is debt forgiveness by Venezuela of some US$12 million and an adjustment in the "Caracas Energy Cooperation Accord" to facilitate Guyana with oil imports on concessionary terms.

The Guyanese Foreign Minister, Rudy Insanally, in speaking of the warmth of friendship that was evident for President Chavez's visit and its "evident success", made clear that the government made no commitments that would in any way affect Guyana's continuing control of Essequibo.

Significantly, he also noted that Guyana was already on record as having registered its concerns with the United Nations Secretary General, as well as Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago, over the 1990 maritime delimitation treaty between Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela - an issue of current controversy between Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago.


In Venezuela, critics of President Chavez in numerous newspaper articles expressed the view that the Venezuelan claim to western Essequibo ended when Chavez announced that the Venezuelan government would no longer object to investment by Guyana in western Essequibo. Writing in El Nacional on 22 February 2004, the historian Jorge Olivarria accused Chavez of "selling a piece of the country" in exchange for the support of the 15 Caricom votes in the OAS. Olivarria claimed that Chavez needed the backing of Caricom in the OAS for support against opposition accusations of "mega-fraud" in the forthcoming presidential recall referendum.

The Venezuelan daily El Nacional, in the same 22 February issue, also carried articles by professors of the Central University of Venezuela, Maria Teresa Romero, Head of the Department of Foreign Policy in the School of International Studies, and Raul Arrieta, professor of law and human rights. Romero argued that Chavez contradicted the text of the Geneva Agreement which "stipulates that the Venezuelan government must publicly set out its claim to any transnational enterprise which has plans to invest in the zone." Arrieta affirmed that the Venezuelan President "restricted Venezuela's hold over the Essequibo and gave up its historic claim."

A similar view was echoed by Juan Carlos Rey, a professor of the Institute of Defence Studies of the same university. In a separate interview published in the same paper, he defined Chavez's visit to Guyana as a "disaster" and stated that "the Venezuelan claim has ended."

A former Border Affairs Minister, Popeyo Marquez, also accused Chavez of carrying out policies behind the backs of the people. Marquez, who served under President Rafael Caldera, argued that Chavez should have consulted with other sectors of the nation, including the National Assembly.

Almost similar views were expressed Jesus Petit Da Costa, the Attorney General in the Caldera administration, who, according to a Caribbeannet News report from Caracas on 23 February 2007, accused Chavez of being a "traitor" for supposedly "surrendering the south-eastern Essequibo region of neighbouring Guyana, traditionally claimed by Venezuela."

"Chavez is doing the same as President Guzman, when he sold the Guajira and Casanare (western) Venezuela to the Colombians in exchange for joining his family to European nobility ... this time Chavez did it in exchange for a vote in the Organisation of American States (OAS)," Petit Da Costa said. He added that Chavez's statement allowing Guyana to go ahead with developing the area claimed by Venezuela was "unilateral and unconstitutional".

This line was repeated later by Ramon Escovar Salom, a former attorney general during President Carlos Andres Perez's second term. He accused Chavez of "giving away Essequibo" to obtain support from Caricom which he claimed would become necessary should the OAS decide to intervene in Venezuela if the result of the proposed presidential recall referendum should be rejected by National Electoral Council. According to a report in the Caracas English-language Daily Journal of 24 February 2004, Salom urged Venezuelans to protest to the Attorney General's Office and the Supreme Justice Tribunal in order to invalidate Chavez's "anti-nationalist attitude" which he said was "affecting Venezuela's national sovereignty."

To answer the critics, Foreign Minister Jesus Perez, as early as on 22 February 2004, issued an official statement in which he accused the "so-called experts" in the opposition of distorting statements made by Chavez in Guyana. The statement, entitled "The Recall Fraud Crosses the Borders", accused the opposition critics of launching their criticisms of the talks with Guyana as part of their broader attempt to discredit and remove Chavez from office through the proposed recall referendum. The Foreign Minister emphasised that Venezuela's territorial claim remained unchanged and was not affected by Venezuela's willingness to sign bilateral agreements with Guyana.

The statement accused the government's critics of culpable ignorance of the issues, and added that their "strategy of lies and manipulation might convince the unwitting." It added that the territorial dispute with Guyana was just another electoral issue for the government's "desperate opponents who sought to invoke vulgar nationalism and pure xenophobia towards anything that does not come from the North, in an attempt to destroy the mutual understanding and good rapport between two countries."

The Daily Journal of 24 February 2004 reported that Venezuela's Ambassador to the OAS Jorge Valero said in Washington that the claim by the opposition critics was irrational. He stated that this was the first time that Venezuela and Guyana had approached the territorial issue in a cordial manner, with the aim of finding a peaceful and negotiated solution.

The same paper two days later reported that an "opposition-sided" lawyer, Hermann Escarra, filed a petition to the Supreme Justice Tribunal in which he challenged Chavez's decision "not to oppose drilling for oil and gas by foreign companies" in western Essequibo. He argued that the President's action was "unconstitutional" and endangered Venezuela's claim to the territory.


a) Jagdeo's meeting with Manning

On 1 March 2004, President Jagdeo travelled to Trinidad where he held discussions with Prime Minister Patrick Manning on a number of issues, especially regional treaties relating to the exclusive maritime economic zone. These included the Exclusive Economic Zone Cooperation Treaty between Guyana and Barbados signed in December 2003 and the Delimitation Treaty of 1990 between Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela.

Speaking to the media after the meeting, Jagdeo explained that the Guyana-Barbados treaty established provisions for a joint fisheries licensing agreement, a joint commission for the exploration of non-living resources and joint security arrangements in the overlapping exclusive economic zone between the two countries. He emphasised that the treaty in no way meant to harm the national interest of Trinidad and Tobago.

With regard to the Delimitation Treaty of 1990 between Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela, Jagdeo said Guyana always held a consistent position of objection to it, and maintained that Guyana would steadfastly defend its territorial integrity and sovereignty. He explained that from the time the treaty was signed, Guyana, at several levels, protested it. Noting that Guyana had a claim to "acreage" covered under the Trinidad-Venezuela delimitation treaty, he assured that this would be pursued but not in an adversarial way.

b) Guyana-Venezuela fisheries meeting in Georgetown

A meeting of the Guyana/Venezuela Technical Working Group on Marine Resources was held in Georgetown in mid-March 2004. The two sides agreed to work towards the conclusion of a memorandum of understanding on the detention of fishing vessels, given the need to establish a framework addressing the thorny issue of fishing vessels caught fishing illegally in the Exclusive Economic Zone of the respective countries. Guyana subsequently submitted to Venezuela a draft document containing its views on the elements to be included in this memorandum of understanding.

c) Meeting of the facilitators

The UN Good Officer, Oliver Jackman, met with the facilitators, Ralph Ramkarran and Hector Azocar, in Bridgetown, Barbados, on 21 May 2004. Also at the meeting was Luis Jimenez-McInnis, desk officer at the UN Good Offices. Other than reviewing the existing bilateral relations between Guyana and Venezuela and the results of Chavez's visit to Guyana, no new issue came up for discussion. However, the general view was expressed that the Good Officer process was not moving forward fast enough. Jackman expressed the view that one option of advancing the process was for a request to be made to the World Court for an advisory opinion on Article V of the Geneva Agreement.

d) The road project

The third meeting of the Guyana-Venezuela Technical Committee met in Georgetown on 15-16 June 2004 to discuss aspects of the proposed road from Venezuela into Guyana. Guyana presented a proposal for the road link to originate from Eteringbang to Bartica. This would include four river crossings at San Martin/Eteringbang on the Cuyuni River, the Mazaruni River in the vicinity of Tortruba, the Essequibo River crossing south of Bartica (at Sharima), and then to Rockstone and on to Linden crossing the Demerara River.

The Venezuelan delegation provided to Guyana a document on the terms of reference for the feasibility studies which included the alignment of the route proposed by Guyana.

The two sides noted that the execution of the studies was dependent on the financing arrangements and should be in accordance with the procedures and requirements of the Andean Development Corporation (CAF) and the national legislation of Guyana and Venezuela.

The Venezuelans noted that funds amounting to US$850,000 and provided by the CAF had already been transferred to a special account held by the Venezuelan Government.

e) Proposed visit by Guyanese students to Venezuela

The proposed visit by senior secondary-school students to Venezuela, based on the invitation by President Chavez, did not materialise. Initially, the Venezuelan side proposed the tour to be held in April 2004, but this was not feasible since it would cause a disruption in the students' preparation stage for their Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) examinations to be held in June. A counter-proposal for the tour to be fixed for July when students would be on vacation was not accepted by the Venezuelan President's office since Venezuela would be at that time in the midst of the political campaign for the presidential recall referendum.

No new proposal was made since then by the Venezuelan side.

f) Venezuela referendum August 2004

The recall referendum was held on 15 August 2004 in the presence of international observers including the Carter Center and the OAS. The results gave an overwhelming victory to Chavez after 59 percent of the electorate voted against his recall. On 27 August an audit of the results by the Venezuelan electoral authorities in the presence of representatives from the Carter Center confirmed President Hugo Chavez's victory. The opposition claimed that there was fraud in the voting process, but all the international observers concluded that the process was free and fair.


In September 2004, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Guyana issued the following review of the bilateral relations between Guyana and Venezuela:


(a) State visit of H.E. President Hugo Chavez Frias to Guyana, February 19-20, 2004

The State Visit by His Excellency President Hugo Chavez Frias to Guyana from February 19-20, 2004 was a highlight in recent relations between the countries. This visit, the basis of which was established with a series of high level Ministerial visits between the two countries, provided further impetus to efforts to promote understanding and cooperation between the two states.

2. A major development arising from this visit was the announcement by President Chavez that Venezuela would not oppose development projects in Essequibo. While this statement appeared to point towards an adjustment in the Venezuelan longstanding policy of opposing investment in the Essequibo, its impact was minimised by clarifications which were made subsequently in Caracas by the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry, that while the Chavez administration would not oppose development projects in Essequibo including projects in the areas of education, potable water and agricultural production, a fundamental aspect of Venezuela's policy was not to recognise any Essequibo concession granted by Guyana to a transnational company, including an oil company. Despite the goodwill generated by President Chavez' visit, it is uncertain therefore to what extent Guyana may expect relief from the Venezuelan policy of objecting to investments in Essequibo, given the ambiguous nature of the messages being received by Guyana on this issue.

3. President Chavez's announcement in Guyana created controversy In Venezuela with several sections of the society including the media and academics condemning him for contravening the foreign policy upheld by all Venezuelan Governments and compromising Venezuela's claim not only to the Essequibo but to the offshore maritime area as well. It was asserted that his announcement was a contravention of the Geneva Agreement and the Good Offices Process. There was speculation that the motive for the announcement was a desire to obtain the 15 votes of the Caribbean Community countries at the Organisation of the American States in the event of the issue of democracy in Venezuela being discussed at that Organisation. A Venezuelan lawyer has presented to the Supreme Court of Justice a petition of unconstitutionality of the statement by Chavez which he claims disregards the Geneva Agreement and the Good Offices Process.

4. Although Foreign Minister Perez has stated that Venezuela's claim to Essequibo remains, opposition commentators have argued that Chavez's announcement implies that Venezuela has given up its leverage against Guyana.

5. The reaction in Venezuela to this issue is an indication not only of the deeply rooted feelings with respect to issues related to the border but also of the domestic conflict surrounding the Chavez administration.

(b) Bilateral Cooperation

6. A renewed commitment to advancing bilateral cooperation was one of the major achievements of the State Visit, with the Guyana/Venezuela High Level Bilateral Commission (HLBC), the Caracas Energy Cooperation Accord, the proposed Guyana/Venezuela road link and the debt owed by Guyana to Venezuela featuring prominently in the discussions. In the interest of the acceleration of implementation of activities under the HLBC, it was agreed by the two Presidents that the respective Foreign Ministers would conduct a review of the cooperation programmes and monitor their execution.

7. The President of Venezuela agreed to a cancellation of the debt owed by Guyana to Venezuela. A Technical Working Group is to be established to give effect to this decision.

8. Venezuela agreed to favourably consider adjusting the terms and conditions of the Caracas Energy Accord so that it would be made compatible with Guyana's HIPC obligations. The current provisions of the Accord do not meet the 35 percent grant element concessionality benchmark that is required to satisfy Guyana's HIPC obligations. Guyana has since submitted to Venezuela its proposed adjustments to the Caracas Energy Accord. It is anticipated that Guyana should shortly be able to benefit from the supply of oil and petroleum products under this Accord following discussions between officials of the Venezuelan Ministry of Energy and Mines and their Guyanese counterparts.

9. While the rate of implementation of activities under the Guyana/Venezuela High Level Bilateral Commission has not been as active as anticipated, meetings of the Guyana/Venezuela Technical Committee on the proposed road link and the Guyana/Venezuela Technical Working Group on Living Marine Resources have been held this year, perhaps indicative of the Venezuelan priorities.

10. A road link between Guyana and Venezuela has been proposed by Venezuela under the aegis of the Infrastructure Integration of South America (IIRSA) Process. Three meetings of the Guyana/Venezuela Technical Committee to discuss the road link have been held with the most recent being held in June 2004. At that meeting discussions were held on the proposal for route of the road link, the management of the feasibility studies and the disbursement of the funds. The Andean Development Cooperation has provided US$850,000 for funding for the feasibility studies. Guyana submitted for Venezuela's consideration a proposal for the management of the feasibility studies which would entail the establishment of a Technical Committee by Guyana and Venezuela responsible for the monitoring and oversight of the feasibility studies. The Fourth Meeting of the Technical Committee will be held in October in Caracas. That meeting is expected focus on the procedures and mechanisms for the execution of the feasibility studies in the light of the decision by Cabinet which approved the execution of the feasibility studies. While Guyana has decided to advance in the process, it is important that the Venezuelans are made aware that collaboration between the two countries on this project in no way implies a diminution of Guyana's sovereignty or signifies any change with respect to Guyana's position on the controversy.

11. While the Presidents during the State Visit endorsed the proposal for the road link and agreed to jointly seek international resources to conduct the feasibility studies needed for the project, it is essential that the process be monitored carefully to ensure that Guyana's sovereignty and territorial integrity are in no way jeopardised by the establishment of a road link. Guyana's concerns about this process include Venezuela's access to information on Guyana's territory, bolstering of Venezuela's position with respect to joint development in the area, and possible uncontrolled migration from the Venezuelan neighbouring states into the Essequibo. A renunciation of economic coercion by Venezuela would certainly minimise the threats posed by this process.

12. Arising from the Second Meeting of the Guyana/Venezuela Technical Working Group on Marine Resources was a decision to work towards the conclusion of a Memorandum of Understanding on the detention of fishing vessels, given the need to establish a framework which addresses the thorny issue of fishing vessels caught fishing illegally in the Exclusive Economic Zone of the respective countries. Guyana has submitted to Venezuela its views on the elements to be included in this Memorandum of Understanding.

13. Guyana is awaiting a response from Venezuela to its proposal for the IV Meeting of the Guyana/Venezuela Mixed Commission on Drugs to be convened in October this year. Guyana is to submit to Venezuela its views on a proposed cultural cooperation programme prior to the convening of the Sub-Committee on Culture.

(c) United Nations Good Offices Process

14. In recent years Guyana and Venezuela have reaffirmed at the level of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Heads of State their commitment to the continuation and revitalisation of the United Nations Good Offices Process. In September 2003 the Foreign Ministers of Guyana and Venezuela met with the United Nations Secretary General and the United Nations Personal Representative. Guyana raised at this meeting the adverse impact the controversy had on Guyana's development effort.

15. In May this year, the Facilitators of Guyana and Venezuela met with the Good Officer in Barbados and both Parties agreed on a document on the Role of the Good Officer. While the commitment of both Parties to the process is firm, there is concern that in the absence of significant progress in the future, the Process may eventually be terminated by the United Nations Secretary General. One option for advancing the process which has been proposed by the Good Officer is that an Advisory Opinion be requested from the World Court on Article V of the Geneva Agreement.

(d) Conclusion

16. Recent developments in relations between Guyana and Venezuela have been promising, facilitated by the opening of high level dialogue which commenced in November 2003 and was strengthened in 2004 with the State Visit of President Chavez to Guyana. That visit has been instrumental in providing momentum to the progress which had been attained in creating an atmosphere of friendship and cordiality between the two countries, in marked contrast to the tension and rhetoric which characterised relations in 2000.

17. The recommitment at the level of the Heads of State to the United Nations Good Offices Process and to the acceleration of the rate of implementation of cooperation activities under the Guyana/Venezuela High Level Bilateral Commission as well as to enhanced cooperation regionally and internationally auger well for the future development of relations.

18. While Guyana is committed to building on the progress achieved as a result of the ongoing high level bilateral dialogue, the existence of the controversy continues to have implications for the development of its territory both on land and in the maritime area, especially taking into account that Venezuela has indicated that its fundamental policy towards Guyana with respect to foreign investment in Essequibo is unchanged and given the potential for encroachment by Venezuela into Guyana's maritime zone. The ongoing support of its allies regionally and internationally is therefore essential to ensure that Guyana's sovereignty and territorial integrity including its right to development of its resources is not threatened.

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Expanding Bilateral Understanding

President Chavez's visit to Guyana placed Guyana in a positive spotlight in the Venezuelan media, both state-owned and private. From time to time, there appeared newspaper articles which reported or discussed bilateral cooperation between the two countries while at the same time giving little or no emphasis to the Venezuelan territorial claim. It was apparent, too, that the Venezuelan government wanted to expand the existing friendly relations.

During November 2004, the Venezuelan Ministry of Communication and Infrastructure published a booklet entitled El Nuevo Mapa Estratégico [The New Strategic Map]. This publication, containing extracts of President Chavez's statements on his weekly Aló Presidente television programmes in the latter part of that year, discussed Venezuela's relations with other South American countries. With regard to Guyana, Chavez said:

"Guyana is there also. For geopolitical reasons and because of the territorial claim, we have always been alienated from that country, but Guyana is a sister nation, it is an underdeveloped people, and there is a government that could be an ally.

"We are not going to desist from our claim, but we can't wait for that claim be resolved. There is nothing on the horizon that indicates that there will be a solution in the short or the medium term, that is, at the level of the United Nations, but we are not going to go to war with Guyana. No!

"Governments of extreme right, subordinated to Washington, wanted to push us into a war with Guyana, when Forbes Burnham ruled Guyana, to try to break the Guyanese socialist movement. The man that governs Guyana today is a young man, President Bharrat Jagdeo, who comes from those ranks. Even though he is a moderate, he is not a neoliberal.

"We have to attract Guyana towards the integration of South America. With Guyana, even though they descend from the English, there are common roots: the music, the colour, that mix of black with Indian, the Amerindians and Europeans."


Towards the end of 2004, the US State Department declassified a secret memorandum of July 1964 (referred to in Chapter 23) which was published in its Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, Volume XXXI, South and Central America; Mexico. The memorandum sent on 10 July 1964 by William Tyler, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs, to Secretary of State Dean Rusk, pointed to the intrigues, involving Venezuela, to launch a coup against the Cheddi Jagan government on 1964. It stated:

[Document 523] Action Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Canadian Affairs (Tyler) to Secretary of State Rusk Washington,
July 10, 1964.

SUBJECT: Venezuela's Interest in British Guiana

A reliable controlled American source reports that Venezuela's Foreign Minister Ignacio Irribaren Borges wishes to talk with you privately during the Latin American Foreign Ministers Conference about British Guiana. He is expected to tell you that Venezuela is prepared to support the overthrow of Cheddi Jagan, and to seek our support for this venture.

Our Ambassador in Caracas has learned from the Minister of the Interior that Venezuela is ready to provide financial support for Forbes Burnham when the time is ripe for Jagan's overthrow.

A report from Georgetown advises that a person with good contacts in Venezuela is urging Burnham and D'Aguiar to form a "Revolutionary Government"; attempt a coup with the assistance of 100 trained men who will have had 30 days special training in Venezuela, and at the same time Cheddi and Janet Jagan will be kidnapped and taken to Venezuela.

You may wish to urge restraint on the Venezuelans, pointing out that plans are underway to seek a political resolution in BG through the democratic process of a Proportional Representation election. We hope that nothing will happen to impede this plan and we cannot support the Venezuelans even though we share their hope that someone other than Jagan will reach the top in British Guiana.

According to a footnote to the document, Rusk met Iribarren Borges at the State Department on 16 and 20 July 1964. They confined their discussions on an upcoming OAS resolution on Cuba, but "no evidence has been found to indicate whether Iribarren raised the Venezuelan proposal to intervene in British Guiana."


The declassified document attracted much attention in Guyana since the PPP had always maintained that the American government played a leading role in removing the government led by Cheddi Jagan from power in 1964. Addressing a commemoration ceremony on the anniversary of the death of President Cheddi Jagan on 6 March 2005 at Port Mourant, Guyana's President Bharrat Jagdeo referred to the intrigues "behind the scenes" to remove Jagan and the PPP from government in the early 1960s, through international and local collaborators. According to the Guyana Chronicle of 7 March 2005, he referred to the 40-year-old document released by US State Department which revealed that a former Venezuelan Foreign Minister "had told a former US Assistant Secretary of State of intentions to invade Guyana" and kidnap both Jagan and his wife Janet "because of concerns of the political path the PPP was taking Guyana along."

Jagdeo's public declaration of the plot involving Venezuela attracted keen attention in Venezuela. On 13 March 2005, The Caracas daily, Ultimas Noticias, carried the following article by Diaz Rangel:


The time has come to clarify so many questions.

The CIA recently revealed a declassified document: the report Memorandum of Action, William Tyler, Undersecretary of European Affairs to Dean Rusk, Secretary of State. According to this report the Government of Raül Leoni had sought the backing of the US to overthrow Cheddi Jagan, Prime Minister of the newly born Republic of Guyana [sic], and for that purpose it contacted the leader of the opposition, Forbes Burnham, who later became Prime Minister, and the military to carry through a coup d'etat, "because Guyana might become a communist government, such as Cuba's.".

According to the present President, Bharrat Jagdeo, the declassified document also reveals "how the racial problems were planned for a purpose that had nothing to do with the interests of Guyanese people and why Venezuela's reclamations may have had the same motive."

As the popular saying goes, the statement of the Guyana Government against Venezuela is "shooting no bull." Many of the past Venezuelan governments may have been involved in both the attempt of that coup as well as the racial tensions created between the Negroes and Indians who form the majority of the population.

To this might be added that also, under a government of the AD party military troops and the police force, apparently commanded by General Yépez Daga, were ready to back the Amerindian separatist movement in the Essequibo which failed. Assault troops and paratroops were left waiting.

The time has come to clarify so many questions. Nothing whatever was known of that attempt to overthrow Jagan, Leader of the People's Progressive Party. It is important for the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington to have access to that document, and that the politicians then in power should say something in respect to this matter, inasmuch as it breaks with the Venezuelan tradition of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other countries, and even less of sponsoring a coup.

The Venezuelan Government should be the first one interested in this matter; also its Chancellery (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and the Ministry of Defence should make known publicly the secret archives after 40 years. This will all contribute to improve relations with Guyana.

The article erroneously referred to colonial Guyana in 1964 as "the newly born Republic of Guyana", but it drew an immediate reaction from President Chavez. On the same day Rangel's article was published, President Chavez, speaking on his Aló Presidente television programme, referred to it:

. . . Now, let's see how Venezuela was used for the coup in Guyana. I am going to read Diaz Rangel's article:

The CIA recently published a declassified document, the Memorandum of Action report, from William Tyler, Undersecretary for European Affairs, to the Secretary of State, Dean Rusk. According to him, Raul Leoni's Government sought the backing of the United States to overthrow Cheddi Jagan, Prime Minister of the recently born Republic of Guyana and, for that purpose contacted Forbes Burnham, who later became Prime Minister, and the military to carry through the coup for fear that Guyana might become a communist government, such as Cuba's. According to the present President, Bharrat Jagdeo, the declassified document also reveals how the racial problems were created for a purpose that had nothing to do with the interests of the Guyanese and why the Venezuelan complaints may have had the same motive.

In short, it continues, it would be interesting to get the complete document made publicly known by the CIA forty years later. How Venezuela offered itself and how the Venezuelan military . . . I remember that back in the 70's, when we were cadets, we used to be brainwashed that Guyana was our enemy and it was a threat. And that some day we might have to go to war with Guyana to recover the territory. Certainly, we continue to claim our Essequibo territory, but we will never go to war with Guyana. That is a problem which, well, is being dealt with through diplomatic channels; it is before the United Nations and we have continued discussing it. We will never give up that claim.

But that fact is that they wanted to use us as an instrument to overthrow those governments over there, especially Cheddi Jagan's Government. Today we are good friends of his widow, Janet Jagan, who was President of Guyana. When we assumed the Presidency she came here for the inauguration, and she was the first Head of State I received here in this Palace-yes, it was Janet Jagan, President of Guyana, on February 3rd, 1999.


On 16 March 2005, President Chavez met with South American ambassadors at a working lunch at the Miraflores Palace. He impressed on the ambassadors the importance of South American integration; however, he intimated that external threats on his government and on his own life were aimed at undermining this objective.

Various Ambassadors spoke during the meeting. Ambassador Ishmael expressed solidarity to the President Chavez and the government and people of Venezuela and explained that in discussing integration, fraternal solidarity was also important to help the South American countries achieve that goal. He said that governments must express their positions clearly in order to show that they intended to maintain their own national dignity and not threatening anyone else. Explaining that all the South American countries must learn from history, he noted that the government of Guyana of the early 1960s was removed by the machinations of outside forces with the support of the opposition because they perceived the Jagan government as "communist". The recently declassified documents released by the US and the UK, he said, revealed what was done to remove a freely elected government from power. What happened in Guyana was a trial-run for Chile in 1973 and must not happen again, he added. All governments must respect democracy and free choice of the people, he said, and pointed to the fact tat the Venezuelan President and government came to power by a democratic process which must be respected by all other governments.

In response, President Chavez thanked Guyana for the expressions of solidarity. He said that on his TV programme, Aló Presidente on Sunday 13 March 2005 he dealt at length with the experience of the Jagan government of the 1960s which came under pressure from the Americans and the CIA.

Chavez repeated that the Venezuelan army in those days was trained by the Americans who were instigating an invasion of Guyana. He said that instigation continued in the 1970s when he started out in the military whose officers were brainwashed by American military personnel into believing that Guyana was an enemy and should be invaded. The Guyanese were described by the Americans as "darkies". He urged all the Ambassadors to read the declassified documents released by the US to get a picture of how the US interfered in Guyana and Venezuela in those days.

He also agreed that the removal of the Jagan government was a "dry-run" for what occurred in Chile in 1973. He intimated that if Jagan and Allende were allowed to govern without interference, their social programmes would have brought immense benefits for their countries and poverty would have been dramatically reduced on the continent. He added that the killings in Chile by the Pinochet dictatorship robbed Chile and the continent of some of its brightest talents.


On 29 June 2005, thirteen Caribbean leaders met with President Chavez in the Venezuelan city of Puerto la Cruz, and after intense discussions most of them signed a pact which became know as the PetroCaribe Agreement. Guyana's delegation to this meeting was headed by Prime Minister Sam Hinds and included Finance Minister Ashni Singh and Ambassador Odeen Ishmael.

Of the countries attending, only Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados did not sign the document which mapped out the framework for a new Venezuelan-sponsored oil trading facility aimed at proving very favourable financing terms to Caribbean nations purchasing petroleum from Venezuela. Haiti was not invited because Venezuela broke diplomatic relations with that country after President Aristide was undemocratically removed from office and forced into exile in February 2004.

While the Barbados minister who headed his delegation said he had no authority to sign, Prime Minister Patrick Manning of Trinidad and Tobago insisted that he needed more time to study the document, and thought that Caricom heads should jointly examine it before any signing should occur. He also rationalised that PetroCaribe would be an export competitor to Trinidad and Tobago which also has its own growing oil and gas industry.

At the summit, Prime Minister Sam Hinds queried whether by signing the agreement it would bind countries to purchase fuel and fuel products only from Venezuela, noting at the same time that Guyana's current suppliers were Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname. In response, President Chavez said that each country was sovereign and being a member of PetroCaribe should not force it to curtail purchases from other countries.

The PetroCaribe initiative proposed a fixed percentage of credit that could be accessed based on oil prices. If fuel prices reached a particular dollar level then the member countries could benefit from a soft loan. For example, if the price was US$30 per barrel, a 25 percent credit line would be obtained; at US$40 per barrel, it would be 30 percent; and at US$50 it would move to 40 percent. If the price should reach US$100 per barrel, 50 percent would go back as a loan for the country over a specified period.

In terms of pay-back, Venezuela agreed that countries could do so in the form of their agricultural and mineral products and services for which preferential prices would be offered. This aspect was expected to feature prominently in the bilateral negotiation process.

The PetroCaribe pact superseded the Caracas Energy Accord which Guyana-originally kept out-joined in December 2001.

According to Venezuelan Energy Minster Rafael Ramierez who gave a post-summit media briefing, on the implementation of the arrangement, the state-run Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) would send 10,000 barrels a day to Guyana.

The PetroCaribe agreement also established a development fund with an initial annual contribution of US$50 million by Venezuela for the financing of social and economic programmes in the participating states.

The Caricom summit which followed within days of the Puerto la Cruz meeting discussed the implications of the PetroCaribe agreement after the topic was raised by Prime Minister Manning. Surprisingly, even though media reports stated that he was mandated by his colleagues on their behalf to "negotiate" the agreement with Chavez, the final communiqué of the Caricom summit mentioned nothing on the discussions surrounding the issue.


The Venezuelan territorial claim drew the spotlight again when, in February 2006, President Chavez commented that Great Britain should give back the Malvinas (Falkland Islands) to Argentina. In a sharp comment on Chavez's statement, Julio César Pineda, a former Venezuelan ambassador to Libya and a political critic of the Venezuelan president, wrote the following opinion in the Venezuelan newspaper, El Universal, on 19 February 2006:

Venezuela still has several territorial delimitation problems pending

President Chavez's recent statement requesting that Great Britain give back the Malvinas (Falkland Islands) to Argentina reminds us of the popular proverb that goes "he who has a house with glass roof should not pelt stones on his neighbour's", which means to mind your own business and don't meddle with others with the same problems.

It is not the first time that Venezuela has expressed its opinion on the territorial problems of other states, as was the case when the President said that he dreams of taking a swim some day on a Bolivian beach, which annoyed the Chilean Government.

Chavez should remember that Venezuela still has several problems pending, both territorial as well as marine and submarine waters delimitation, on which the interference of third parties should he avoided in the interest of the nation.

One of such is the Essequibo territorial claim, which is particularly sensitive not only because it is a strategic space with important natural resources, but also because it is an issue of national pride before the arbitral award of Paris (1899) which we have considered null due to its defects.

But the Venezuelan President should have taken into consideration that Great Britain and Venezuela signed the Geneva Agreement in 1966, which in our country is considered as the recognition of the validity of our territorial claim (reclamation).

Although at present the claim is a bilateral affair between Venezuela and Guyana, it does not leave out Great Britain of being an important participant because of its historical ties with that territory, consolidated through the Commonwealth (British Commonwealth of Nations) and which at the same time links Guyana's relations with countries in all the continents.

In recent years, Great Britain has stated that the settlement of the border problem is a bilateral issue of the countries involved and has avoided participating in the affair. But President Chavez's attitude could bring about a change in that country's attitude, very detrimental to Venezuela.

It should be remembered that while Venezuela has applied incentives through economic cooperation and has maintained the issue limited to bilateral negotiations with Guyana, Guyana's tactics have been to resort to diplomacy, that is, to seek the support of the international community, or the support of key countries like the United States, Great Britain, Brazil and the Caribbean states, which have significant power within the framework of the Organisation of American States with 14 of the 34 votes.

It is necessary to bear in mind that this organisation requires 18 votes to have a simple majority and consequently this bloc of countries is necessary to sway the balance in any voting.

Therefore, to attack Great Britain on that matter so sensitive is counter-productive for the country, but one wonders what would happen if Tony Blair should say that the Essequibo territory is Guyanese, or that Colombia has rights over the Gulf of Venezuela. We must remember that a principle of diplomatic relations is reciprocity and the British Premier could hit back by stating his opinion on our border issues in the same manner.

On the other hand, Venezuela has a direct border claim with Great Britain in the Caribbean.

In effect, despite reaching a delimitation of marine waters with the United States, Dominican Republic, France and the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Venezuela has not yet obtained a delimitation with both Great Britain and the Anglophone Caribbean who refuse to accept that Bird Island (Isla de Ayes) produces territorial seas for Venezuela because it is not an island, according to the criteria of the Conference of Law of the Sea of 1982, which, incidentally, Venezuela has not signed and therefore those criteria cannot be applied to our country.

For that reason, we believe it is best to act with caution on this type of matters, because Venezuela has other matters pending which affect our national interests in a direct and far-reaching manner.

We believe that President Chavez has the right to respond to any statement which involves his person within the framework of the international system. But, at the same time, due to our experience in the diplomatic world, we would advise that this type of statement should not be personalised or considered an insult to him, inasmuch as it is an issue of states which is beyond individuals.

For that reason, a proper response would have been to tell the British Prime Minister that his concerns over Venezuela's respect for international law were unfounded, inasmuch as our country has had no problems in that matter. Inclusively, Blair's participation in the Iraqi war could have been recriminated, which has been criticised by many of the international community, above all by his partners of the European Union.

But calling Blair a lackey of the empire (US), with which the discussion becomes banal and personalized, and interfering in the issue of the Malvinas (Falkland Islands), above all when such an issue so delicate as the Essequibo is still pending, not only lowers his (Chavez's) condition as a statesman, but also endangers national interests. For that reason we reiterate our recommendation that international relations should derive from ideologies so as to acquire a pragmatic attitude in favour of the interests of Venezuela.


The long overdue fourth meeting of the Guyana/Venezuela High Level Bilateral Commission (HLBC) was convened in Georgetown from 31 March to 1 April 2006. The Guyana delegation was led by the Foreign Minister, Samuel Rudolph Insanally, and included Ambassador Elisabeth Harper, Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ambassador Rudolph Collins, Head of the Rio Group Pro Tempore Secretariat. The Venezuelan delegation was headed by the Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Latin America and the Caribbean, César Pavel Rondón Daza and among its members were Fernando Rincón, Chargé d'Affaires of the Venezuelan Embassy in Guyana, and Elias Daniels of the Guyana Unit of the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Both sides reaffirmed the importance of the HLBC in fostering bilateral cooperation and thereby deepening the ties of friendship and good will between the two sides. They expressed commitment to the intensification of the work of the various sub-Committees and emphasised the importance of adequate review mechanisms to ensure the effective implementation of agreed to activities.

The Political Consultations, Transport and Culture sub-committees were convened during the meeting and a schedule was established for the remaining sub-committees to be convened in order to facilitate sustained progress with respect to the work of the Commission.

Both delegations expressed satisfaction at the progress achieved within the Joint Guyana/Venezuela Technical Committee on the proposed link between the two countries under the Integration of Regional Infra-structure of South America (IIRSA) and agreed to an early meeting of the technical committee to discuss the terms of reference for the execution of the feasibility studies for the road link.

They meeting noted the increasing threats posed to the security of states by the trafficking of illicit drugs and arms and agreed to cooperate and coordinate activities as far as possible in order to effectively combat this scourge. They therefore directed that the Mixed Commission on Drugs should be convened by June 2006 in order to establish a programme for coordinating responses to illicit trafficking in drugs and arms.

In the interest of promoting trade and investment between the two countries it was agreed that a team of Venezuelan businessmen would visit Guyana with a view to exploring with their Guyanese counterparts opportunities for trade and investment.

Both sides also reaffirmed the commitment of their countries to the Good Offices Process of the United Nations governing the search for a peaceful solution to the territorial controversy. They also agreed to instruct the facilitators to coordinate with the Good Officer, Ambassador Oliver Jackman, the convening of a meeting at a convenient date before 15 May 2006. It was agreed that the two Foreign Ministers would meet in September 2006 with the United Nations Secretary General to review the process.

They exchanged views on regional and international issues of mutual interest including Guyana's chairmanship of the Rio Group, the process of South American integration, the new Latin American Integration based on cooperation, solidarity and complementarity, recognising that integration was not restricted only to the economic, but also embraced the social, political, environmental and cultural spheres. They agreed to deepen their collaboration in regional and multilateral forums with a view to advancing objectives of mutual interest. They also discussed the New Global Human Order proposal of Guyana and the Social Charter of the Americas as proposed by Venezuela.

They also agreed that the next meeting of the Commission would be held in Caracas during the first quarter of 2007.

Speaking to the media after the meeting, Insanally, noting that the facilitators had not met for over a year, declared:

"We want to keep it alive because both sides see value in the mechanism to ensure that the controversy on our hands is resolved peacefully, and that best guarantee is if it remains in the hands of the UN Secretary General."

He explained that the facilitators had not met for various reasons, including changes of government in Venezuela and difficulty in finding common timing.

For his part, Vice Minister Pavel Rondon underlined the atmosphere of political cordiality that had prevailed during the meeting and noted:

"The Commission agreed that our relationship at the political level should be based on self-determination, cooperation and recognition of sovereignty between our two countries. That was begun when our two Presidents met in Guyana in 2004. This would enable the work in our groups to be easy, quick and broad in scope."


The Guyana/Venezuela Technical Committee on the proposed road link between Guyana and Venezuela met in Georgetown on 11-12 May 2006 and agreed on the terms of reference for the execution of the feasibility studies and environment impact assessment. The feasibility studies would address the economic, environmental and social impact of the proposed road link.

Venezuela also stepped up its assistance to Guyana by offering to dredge the mouth of the Abary, Mahaicony, Mahaica and Pomeroon Rivers which would help in more effective drainage during the rainy season. Subsequently, a team of Venezuelan engineers visited Guyana to do an on-the-spot assessment. Their engineering plan for the project was later submitted to the Guyana Government.

Despite the agreements reached on other meetings, those of the Mixed Commission on Drugs and of the facilitators with Jackman were not held.


But the gestures of cooperation shown at the May meeting of the Technical Committee were marred when on 6 October 2006, a 29-year-old Guyanese citizen, Parsram Persaud, who was a resident of San Martin, a Venezuelan border village, was killed when a group of Venezuelan National Guards shot him on Guyanese territory near Eteringbang on the bank of the Cuyuni River. Parsram and three other men were transporting fuel from the Venezuelan side of the river to Guyana when the shooting incident occurred. Parsram was in the company of Guyanese and Venezuelan friends at Guyanese-owed bar when they were involved in an argument with the Venezuelan guardsmen. Survivors of the shooting claimed that the Venezuelans opened fire after ordering them to lie facedown.

In an immediate comment on the matter, Venezuela's Defence Minister Raul Isaias Baduel was reported in the Venezuelan media as saying that the military fired on aggressive miners stationed on Venezuela's side of the border with Guyana. However, this was disputed by the survivors who insisted that the shooting occurred on Guyanese territory. The Guyana Embassy in Caracas immediately sought an explanation of the incident from the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry but, despite reminders, none was given.


Four days after the shooting incident, a Venezuelan delegation led by Vice Foreign Minister for Latin America and the Caribbean, Rodolfo Sanz, visited Guyana and met with President Jagdeo and discussed various issues, including bilateral relations, PetroCaribe matters, Venezuela's candidature for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council and the shooting death of the Guyanese citizen on the Cuyuni River. Accompanying Jagdeo at the meeting were Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, Foreign Minister Insanally and Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Elisabeth Harper.

At the end of the meeting, a communiqué issued by the Jagdeo's office stated, inter alia:

The Vice Minister reiterated the appreciation of the Venezuelan Government for Guyana's support for that country's candidature for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. He added that the Government was saddened over the incident which had occurred on the Cuyuni River.

In that regard he said that President Chavez had asked that he must convey that Venezuela would not use its position (if it was elected to the Security Council) against Guyana. . .

With regard to the killing of the Guyanese, Sanz reported that the case was under investigation. Two persons were involved-a Sub-Lieutenant and a Technical Sergeant. Venezuela condemned this kind of incident and the case has been passed to the military court. . .

He stated that such incident could be used to make trouble in the relations between Guyana and Venezuela. He was however totally convinced that . . . the murder of the Guyanese national on the Cuyuni River could be considered as isolated and he did not want that to damage the relations between the two countries. . . [H]e said that the concern was not the location of the incident but that there was a loss of a life of a Guyanese.

The Vice Minister said that Venezuela would keep Guyana informed of the investigations of the case. . .

With regard to [social programme of] PetroCaribe, . . . the Vice Minister confirmed that US$1.8 million could be used for social impact projects and that Venezuela was awaiting Guyana's submission of its projects.

Concerning the cancellation of the debt, there was some misunderstanding regarding the actual final figures and the Venezuelan authorities were seeking to clarify the figures with a view to concluding the matter. The Vice Minister explained that of the total US$12.5 million they had only been able to verify US$4 million and would like to obtain copies of the documents relating to the remainder of US$8.5 million for their records so that the issue could be resolved.

The Vice Minister also mentioned the desire of the Government of Venezuela to discuss measures to deal with the problems relating to fishermen. He informed that Venezuela was currently having discussions with Suriname regarding the conclusion of a fisheries agreement between the two countries and said that Venezuela would like to advance in a similar direction with Guyana. . . .

With regard to problems relating to drug trafficking, Venezuela would be happy if dates for the meeting of the Mixed Commission could be fixed.

The Vice Minister expressed the view that relations between Guyana and Venezuela were at their best in the history of relations between the two countries and that Guyana and Venezuela could not allow this important moment to pass. He said that the opposition in Venezuela would want to use the opportunity to cause trouble but that the human factor was important. . .

He went on to say that President Chavez wanted to deepen those relations not just at the level of the political elite but also for the benefit of the people through enhanced cooperation.

In response, . . .President Jagdeo explained that in both Caricom and in the Commonwealth, there was strong solidarity for Guyana on the border issue with Venezuela and that it was usual for this support to be conveyed through statements issued following meetings of these two bodies. President Jagdeo informed the Vice Minister that Guyana has never sought at any of these fora to present a negative image of Venezuela even if the opportunity presented itself. This is because Guyana trusted President Chavez and felt that it enjoyed good relations with Venezuela.

President Jagdeo went on to say that much to the concern of many, Guyana had gone much further to express its support for Venezuela on many issues-the coup which was aborted and now more recently the non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council (UNSC). He said that Guyana had external and internal critics who were of the view that the country should not have taken that stand.

He explained that in the recently concluded elections, [the American political adviser], Dick Morris, was heading the campaign for one of the parties contesting the elections and the views expressed by that party were that Guyana should not support Venezuela because (1) we have a border problem and that (2) we have not really benefited from any of the promises that were made by Venezuela and that (3) we should have adopted a similar position as Belize had in opposing Guatemala's candidature.

With regard to the latter view, the President pointed out that if Guyana had adopted a position like Belize, Caricom would have taken a similar position given its traditional support for Guyana.

There was also criticism from the opposition quarters of Venezuela's opposition in the IDB for one of the loan proposals concerning Guyana. President Jagdeo stated that although some of the promises were slow in being dealt with and that there were some grouses with the PetroCaribe agreement, he believed that President Chavez was genuine in his commitment to assist.

He added that the recent incident on the Cuyuni River had complicated matters somewhat and that this could be used to reopen the issue of support for the UNSC seat. He nonetheless assured the Vice Minister that the Government of Guyana would not change its position in spite of pressure from the US and in spite of those who locally would seek to use these and other incidents to weaken the Government's resolve. He appreciated the fact that there would be an investigation and expressed the hope that at some point a statement would be issued to help to diffuse the situation.

With regard to PetroCaribe, President Jagdeo explained that Guyana's fuel import bill was 30 percent of GDP. He hoped that Guyana could benefit urgently from PetroCaribe. He mentioned that many obstacles seemed to be placed in the way of Guyana being able to benefit from this arrangement. He told the Vice Minister that if the crude purchase proposal currently on the table from Guyana was too difficult to agree to, then Guyana would like to purchase the fuel direct from Venezuela (the fuel would come from the facility in Curacao) which would amount to 5,300 barrels per day. (He pointed out that the demand is 10,000 barrels per day). PDVSA would have to make an amendment to the agreement.

He explained that there would be some problems with the freight costs since as a HIPC country Guyana could only access loans which had a grant element of 35 percent. Therefore if an arrangement could be reached on the freight costs then Guyana could move to purchasing the actual fuel (5,300 barrels per day). President Jagdeo indicated that this proposal had been put on the table before but that it had not been entertained.

In response to the Vice Minister's question regarding storage facilities, he was informed that Guyana the capacity to store a two week supply of fuel and that this arrangement was in place in previous years when Guyana used to purchase its total national supply from the Curacao facility.

The Vice Minister undertook to provide a response by October 25. He pointed out that a draft of the amended agreement would be provided and requested an early response from Guyana.

With regard to the social impact projects, President Jagdeo mentioned that his preference was to submit a proposal for a shelter for homeless persons. . .

It was agreed that Guyana would submit the project proposal which would include the design and the estimated costs. Once the project was examined the funds would be sent. Given the desire expressed by President Jagdeo for the process to be transparent to Venezuela, it was further agreed that the Government would also go out to tender while it was awaiting the funds. The Venezuelan Embassy would be involved in the examination of the bids. President Jagdeo undertook to send the proposal and the estimated costs within two weeks.

The Vice Minister informed President Jagdeo that Venezuela would also like to assist Guyana to construct 100 houses through the Simon Bolivar International Brigade. If the project was being executed through the Brigade the Government would not have to go to public tender. President Jagdeo indicated that this would be of great assistance to the Government's plans to provide low income housing. It was agreed that President Jagdeo would send a communication confirming Guyana's request for this assistance. Technical experts would be sent to survey the land. The infrastructure could also be put in from the ALBA fund. . .

President Jagdeo expressed Guyana's desire to work with Venezuela for a mechanism to deal with the problems of the fishermen. He also agreed that there was a need to collaborate on the fight against drugs and that the Joint Commission on Drugs should meet in the first quarter of 2007. . .

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Public Diplomacy and New Discussions on the Venezuelan Claim


In an article titled "The Other Neighbour", published in the Venezuelan weekly La Razón on 3 September 2006, Jeronimo Carerra, the president of the Communist Party of Venezuela-part of the government coalition-examined the border controversy and made a strong call for Venezuela to withdraw its claim. He wrote:

Among the peculiarities of our country, Venezuela, there is a very curious one, practically unnoticed by us. I am referring to the historical fact that we have obtained national independence without having clearly delimited our borders; in other words without knowing the exact extension of our territory. This has meant that for almost two hundred years, we have been in constant problems with all our neighbours.

Of course Simon Bolivar anticipated this problem and for that reason he wisely moved forward the application of the juridical principle of uti possidetis, leaving in each case as border the (then) existent in the Spanish colonies. Undoubtedly an "apparently simple and convenient procedure but the inexactness of which has caused conflicts between bordering States," as pointed out by a reputable French professor, Charles Rousseau, and the various border settlements we have negotiated have only served to calm passions, and extend the disputes.

I am expressing these views upon examination of Venezuela-Guyana relations on the occasion of the recent election process of our neighbouring country. The first thing that calls our attention is the almost lack of interest of the information media-if they can still be called such-shown here in Venezuela for those elections in Guyana.

Certainly, Venezuelan public opinion has been subjected to a disinformation campaign for almost half a century with regard to the development of the young Guyanese nation. The said campaign was initiated by the Yankee Department of State in the 1950s and 1960s, by inventing an objection to the arbitration agreement which, at the turn of the 19th century supposedly decided in favour of England the delimitation of the border. Thus the Anglo-Saxon imperialists tried to kill two birds with one stone. Next, at that time they used Venezuela's territorial claim to block Guyana's independence, while our revered comrade Cheddi Jagan was the Head of the Government. In other words, the anti-communism of the Cold War coined the famous phrase: "the installation of another Cuba in our hemisphere cannot be permitted", announced in Washington and repeated by their lackeys in Caracas.

But also looking into the future, the Yankee imperialists, with that renewed border dispute, have poisoned the relationship between Venezuela and Guyana to this day. Such has been Washington's policy of planting the seeds of dissension with our neighbours. Therefore, it is my opinion that a decisive step of the present Bolivarian foreign policy sponsored by the President Hugo Chavez would be to eliminate definitively that absurd claim. Such an action would free us of a ghost and open the door to a real and beneficial approach to the entire English-speaking Caribbean region. . .


Commenting on Carerra's statement that the government of President Hugo Chavez should eliminate, once and for all, Venezuela's "absurd claim" to five-eighths of Guyana's territory, Ambassador Ishmael in a commentary widely published on 28 January 2007, hoped that Carerra's words would be heeded by the Chavez government which was also touting its anti-imperialist and socialist credentials. He added that "Guyana must not be held hostage because of past imperialist actions."

The Stabroek News on the same day reported on an interview it had with Ishmael on his comments. He said that Carerra's dangling of the bait in front of a Chavez's anti-imperialist government whose relations with the United States government are strained, could work towards resolving the border controversy which began as a result of imperialist action. The paper also reported him as saying, "We are seeing in the [Venezuelan] academic circle views advocating that the claim should be done away with," although he conceded that this approach did not extend to all segments of the population.

Noticeably absent in recent years, Ishmael said, were the anti-Guyanese sentiments expressed when Venezuelans touted their claim to five-eighths of Guyana's territory. He added that given Carerra's thinking and that of the academic community he hoped Venezuelans would have a better understanding of the border controversy.


Meanwhile on 23 January 2007, Guyana signed a contract in Caracas for the supply of Venezuelan under the PetroCaribe agreement. Signing for Guyana was the Chief Executive Officer of the Guyana Energy Agency, Joseph O'Lall, and for the state-owned PDVSA (Petroleos de Venezuela) was its marketing and supply manager Asdrubal Chavez. Based on this agreement, Guyana would be obtaining half of its petroleum needs or 5,200 barrels per day from Venezuela at a concessionary rate under the PetroCaribe agreement from 1 May 2007.

PDVSA would supply the petroleum products through the subsidiary PDVCaribe, which was created to facilitate the agreement with Guyana. The concessionary rate at which Guyana would receive the supplies was credit financing amounting to 40 percent of the bill. Guyana would pay the 60 percent in cash and the Ministry of Finance would issue promissory notes to make payments in the future according to the terms of the agreement.


On Sunday 4 February 2007, the Venezuelan daily El Nacional carried this bold front page headline: "Guyana asks Chavez to cancel Essequibo territorial claim". The headline introduced an interview its international staffer Valentina Oropeza had with Ambassador Odeen Ishmael on the border controversy.

The newspaper prefaced the interview with this introduction:

Ambassador of Georgetown in Caracas Odeen Ishmael, stated that in view of the Venezuelan President's speech on "socialism of the twenty-first century and anti-imperialism" he could take a step forward to a rapid solution to the controversy over the Essequibo territory.

"The brotherhood between two socialist countries implies the cancellation of the contentious border question given that brothers are supposed to live in peace", he insisted. . .

Although he maintains that Guyana is not ready to give up the 159,500 square kilometres of territory west of the Essequibo River, he affirms that his country has confidence in the negotiations of the new Good Officer who will be proposed by the Secretariat of the United Nations after the death of Oliver Jackman on 24 January. These coming negotiations will permit both countries to find a solution to the territorial controversy.

After recalling that the UN has mediated between the two countries in the process from since 25 years ago and a definitive agreement has not been reached yet, Ishmael suggests a more expeditious way to end the controversy: "The Government of Hugo Chavez proclaims to be anti-imperialist and only anti-imperialism can find the solution to the problem by cancelling the claim over the Essequibo territory".

The newspaper carried the full text of interview:

Valentina Oropeza (VO): On 28 January you told the Guyanese Stabroek News that Venezuela should withdraw the claim over the Essequibo because of the government's socialist tendency, considering that the quarrel was sprung up from the pressure put on Venezuela by the United States so as to weaken Cheddi Jagan's regime. What are your bases of this reasoning?

Ambassador Ishmael (AMB): In the first place we should remember that Guyana does not recognize the Venezuelan territorial claim because the dispute was settled through the Arbitral Agreement of Paris in 1899. In 1962 Venezuela decided to ignore the agreement under pressure of Washington, which was supporting the Guyanese Opposition, so as to precipitate the overthrow of Jagan which occurred in 1964. We think that President Hugo Chavez could rectify the situation, now that Venezuela is a talking about socialism and anti-imperialism.

VO: Does the brotherhood between Venezuela and Guyana, considered as two socialist countries, imply the cancellation of the controversy over the limits?

AMB: That is my reasoning. President Chavez has given great assistance to Guyana. In 2005 and 2006, we received assistance in different areas due to the floods that hit the country. Presently, we are signatories of the PetroCaribe agreement, and just last week we signed an agreement by which we will receive 5,200 barrels of oil daily from Venezuela. All of these forms of assistance indicate the existence of brotherhood and fraternity between two fraternal countries and imply the cancellation of the contentious border problem. Brothers are supposed to live in peace. For that reason we believe that President Chavez could take a step forward in the way of finding a rapid solution and the cancellation of the claim over the Essequibo territory.

VO: Is the Guyanese government considering the possibility of surrendering the Essequibo territory or at least a part of it?

AMB: No. That has not been discussed. We believe that both governments can continue talking in order to reach some type of concession or agreement for controlling the maritime boundary area off the Essequibo coast, given that those limits have not been defined. Although we have held bilateral discussions, we have left the issue in the hands of the Secretariat General of UN. This organization has mediated in the controversy since the past 25 years and we still have not found a solution, or at least a methodology, which might lead to conditions acceptable to both parties.

VO: Have Venezuela and Guyana talked outside of the negotiations of the Good Officer?

AMB: Yes, we have held talks through the High Level Bilateral Commission. We meet once a year, but generally to discuss matters of common interest. The question of the Essequibo has been mentioned but not in detail because we do not want to interfere with the Good Officer's negotiations.

VO: Have you shared this opinion with the Guyana President Bharrat Jagdeo, or with the Guyanese Foreign Minister?

AMB: Yes, and they concur. It is a view fully shared in Guyana: we consider that the claim must be cancelled. That would permit us to establish more and more close relations with Venezuela. Through the integration process of the South American Community of Nations, Guyana agreed to the construction of a highway to connect Venezuela territory and Georgetown across the Essequibo and this indicates that there is closer relationship between the fraternal and pro-socialist governments of the region.

VO: If there are so many areas of bilateral cooperation and Venezuela has given assistance to the Georgetown government, why does Guyana not consider the possibility of admitting the claim?

AMB: Because the borderline was established in the Arbitral Agreement of 1899.

VO: Then, where does the Geneva Agreement stand?

AMB: The 1966 Agreement states that both countries would create a joint commission to examine the controversy. We do not see it as a dispute over the territory but as the claim of Venezuela that the Arbitral Agreement of Paris is not valid. We insist that the 1899 sentence is definitive. Both countries signed the document and it was only in 1962 that Venezuela objected to the verdict because Guyana was just about to get its independence and the United States considered that the country was heading towards establishing a socialist model of government.

VO: On Thursday [1 February], the President assured that Venezuela had presented the contentious claim under pressure from the United States. Has the Venezuelan government suggested, formally or informally, the possibility of cancelling the claim since the proposal of implementing the "twenty-first century socialism" sprang up?

AMB: The Venezuela government has never expressed its intentions of cancelling the territorial claim. I know that Presidents Chavez and Jagdeo talk occasionally. The last time they talked was in September last year. The Foreign Ministers of both countries also have dialogued, but I do not know if they have discussed the border issue.

VO: During these discussions, has the Guyanese government suggested to the Venezuelan authorities to withdraw the contentious claim?

AMB: Yes, that has always been Guyana's position. The fact is that the Venezuelan Government has not given a response to this proposal.

VO: After Chavez's statement on Thursday, does Guyana suppose that Venezuela might reconsider its position?

AMB: We are hopeful that the Venezuelan President's words will be a reality. Moreover, he has pointed out that the claim arose through pressure from the United States. We believe that President Chavez shares the same viewpoint [regarding the role of imperialism] as we do, and therefore he can take a step forward by cancelling the claim.

VO: How many meetings have both countries had with the Good Officer? On what have they advanced since 1999, when Oliver Jackman was appointed as Good Officer?

AMB: Jackson visited both Venezuela and Guyana. The facilitators of both countries had two meetings with him. In my opinion the Good Officer should have called more meetings. A meeting was planned for last year, but it was not held.

VO: What does Guyana expect of the new Good Officer?

AMB: We expect him to perform an active role so that both countries may reach an agreement although Guyana maintains its position. We are optimistic with the government of President Chavez. Guyana and Venezuela have many areas of common interest that it worthwhile to advance one step further to end this claim once and for all.

VO: How do you think this proposal will be perceived in Venezuela?

AMB: I hope positively. If we go back to the 1960s and 1970s, this matter always caused uneasiness in Venezuela. The Essequibo was used as an issue in political campaigns. Fortunately, the Essequibo issue was dropped out of political campaigns since 2002, and when President Chavez visited Guyana in 2004, he indicated he would not object to the granting of concessions [by Guyana] to foreign investors for the exploitation of the Essequibo.

VO: This decision was criticized very much in Venezuela in that moment.

AMB: Yes, but it was an indication that allowed one to consider that Venezuela was ready to cancel the Essequibo claim. Our position today is that the socialism of the twenty-first century cannot allow for contentious frontiers.

VO: Has the possibility of signing joint agreements on the exploitation of the Essequibo as a way out of the dispute ever been proposed?

AMB: I cannot assure that. The only agreement we have subscribed with Venezuela is PetroCaribe. In the course of time we will see how an initiative of that type might develop.

VO: How does the Venezuelan assistance to Guyana through PetroCaribe influence the claim issue?

AMB: One thing has nothing to do with the other. Venezuela has also indicated that the supply of 5,200 barrels daily of oil through PetroCaribe should not be connected with the border question. Friendship between the two countries can be maintained at various levels.

VO: Is the Essequibo a priority for the bilateral relations at this moment?

AMB: Of course, it is. It is for Venezuela because it is the claimant, and for Guyana because the Essequibo represents 60 percent of the country's total territory. That area holds the principal natural resources of the nation: gold, wood, diamonds and petroleum (oil). Further, it is a priority because the government of Guyana has made important investments for developing the infrastructure of the zone, and at least 20 percent of our population lives there.

VO: If Guyana considers that the socialism of the twenty-first century presupposes the cancellation of the claim and that Chavez is the leader who can make the decision, why does it maintain discussions through the Good Officer instead of government to government? Why have they not reached an agreement up to now?

AMB: There are many people in Guyana and Venezuela who consider that the presidents should treat the issue directly between themselves, but they (the presidents) are respecting the Geneva Agreement and negotiations managed by the UN.

VO: When will the next Chavez-Jagdeo meeting take place?

AMB: They will meet early in March when Chavez travels to Guyana [for the Rio Group summit]. I cannot say for sure what they will discuss about the Essequibo because they have numerous issues on cooperation to deal with. We hope they will.

VO: In case the proposal is not accepted by Venezuela, what does Guyana offer as of now? What would you be ready to cede and in exchange of what to give up the Essequibo?

AMB: We are asking Venezuela to withdraw the claim and we have not agreed to concede anything. We can consider the need of reaching an agreement on the maritime border. I suppose that if both presidents will meet in March and that the Essequibo is a priority for both of them, they probably might reach some kind of compromise [on a way forward].


Meanwhile, Saul Ortega, Chairman of the Commission on Foreign Policy in the Venezuelan National Assembly was reported in El Nacional of 5 February as saying that, "The possibility of Venezuela surrendering the Essequibo to Guyana is not being put forward, because it [Venezuela] will not cede its legitimate rights and exercises them through diplomatic means."

Ortega said that the Venezuela and Guyana governments had discussed the issue, but the Commission on Foreign Policy was unaware of the substance of the bilateral discussions. He emphasised that Guyana-Venezuela relations had improved in recent years, and observed:

"In the past some tried to stir up conflicts and create unrest between two brother nations. For this reason we are interested in, and are obligated to march together for the general interest of our nations. . .

"This situation is a heritage of the pillaging by the [colonial] powers in Latin America, which, in the course of time has been shaded by the interests of the colonialists in order to create dissension, division and so continue dominating our nations."

El Nacional also reported that the Head of the Postgraduate Department of History at Andres Bello Catholic University, Manuel Donis Rios, expressed the view that Guyana was attempting to "muddy the waters" by mixing the historic claim to the Essequibo territory with the very diffuse proposal of twenty-first century socialism. Donis said that the ideological position of the governments was an external factor to the territorial integrity of the country and could only be settled when a consensus position had been arrived at between the parties, or where Venezuela had officially withdrawn from the Geneva Agreement.

He also contended that the PetroCaribe agreements could be interpreted as "an initiative for political cooperation," and provided they were handled carefully could allow Venezuela "to obtain part of the area [i.e., Essequibo] in dispute."

The Guyanese ambassador was reported by the paper as observing that the definition of marine and submarine rights on the Essequibo coast presented a new opportunity to reach agreement on concessions between the countries; however, the Venezuelan historian thought that Guyana was maintaining a consistent position for which it aimed to establish limits favourable to its interests and could deny Venezuela access to the Atlantic.

Donis felt too that Venezuela should not allow the issue to drag out and should reiterate its commitment to the Geneva Agreement and encourage the General Secretariat of the UN to designate a new Good Officer as soon as possible.

Two days after his interview was published, El Nacional reported that Ishmael was summoned to the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry to explain his views on the border issue. Then on 8 February 2007, the daily El Universal stated that the ambassador was holding "clandestine" negotiations with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Maduro on the Guyana-Venezuela border controversy. This latter allegation was also repeated by opposition-backed Venezuelan television stations.

But in a statement carried by the Guyana Stabroek News on 11 February, Ishmael dismissed as "totally untrue" the allegations in the Venezuelan media he had been summoned by the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry and that he had clandestine meetings with the Venezuelan government.

Ishmael said that he was astounded to read the report about "clandestine" meetings, more especially since El Universal had not checked with him on the matter.

Meanwhile, El Universal on February 8 reported that members of the Venezuelan non-governmental organization, the Democratic Parliamentarian Forum rejected the "biased use" of the National Armed Forces under the Hugo Chavez government, and said that "while Generals worship the personality of the ruling caudillo, they remain silent in the face of the Guyana government's public petition that Venezuela waives its historic and legitimate reclamation over the Essequibo territory."

The newspaper report added:

"Under democratic governments, this subject matter was in the spotlight of analysis by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Now, however, they remain inexplicably silent vis-a-vis a clandestine meeting with Guyana's Ambassador. Therefore, we have well-founded suspicions that there are plans to waive our rights over such territory."

Ishmael said that the newspaper might have based its report on the opinion of Chavez's ally, Jeronimo Carerra, Chairman of the Communist Party of Venezuela, who in the weekly La Raizon on 3 September 2006, had written that Venezuela formed part of strong imperialist pressures against Guyana in the early 1960s and with the current government being strongly anti-imperialist, President Hugo Chavez should "eliminate decisively that absurd [Essequibo] claim."

A further comment came from the former Ambassador of Venezuela to the UN, Adolfo Taylhardat, who was a member of the Venezuelan delegation to the meetings on the border controversy, in London in 1963 and 1965 and in Geneva in 1966. In an article published on the Internet on 12 February, he disputed the contention that the Venezuelan renewed claim was a product of the Cold War in the effort by the United States to undermine the Guyanese government of that period. He stated that the claim arose from a purely autonomous process within the Venezuelan government.

Further information on the border issue was provided by Minister Insanally during the budget debate in the Guyana National Assembly on 6 February 2007. He informed the Assembly that over the past year "we have had a quiet truce in relations with Venezuela, our neighbour to the west." He said too that there was public admission by the leadership in that country that its claim to Guyana's territory had no legal foundation but was based rather on obsolete political perceptions.

But he disclosed that Guyana continued to be denied the right to fully develop the Essequibo as a result of Venezuela's discouragement of investment in the region. He added that under the Good Offices of the UN Secretary General, Guyana remained committed to exploring the possibilities of an amicable resolution to the controversy. "At the same time through patient diplomacy we have sought to build on the support for our cause which we have received from Caricom, the Commonwealth and friendly countries," he explained.


The meetings of the HLBC and the Mixed Commission on Drugs, proposed for the first quarter of 2007, never took place since neither side expressed readiness, and possibly because Guyana was occupied in planning for the Rio Summit which it was hosting during the same period.

The border issue received some further media attention during the period of this summit held on 4-5 March 2007 in Georgetown. Two days before the summit convened, the Stabroek News reported that Guyana was committed to following the UN process and was discussing with Venezuela the choosing of a new UN Good Officer. The paper quoted Ambassador Ishmael, who was present in Guyana for the summit, as saying:

"The Venezuelan side has so far not commented on a replacement for a Goodwill Officer in the UN process. The new United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon ought to name somebody."

Ishmael said that Guyana would prefer a person from the Caribbean, and emphasised that the person named would have to be someone in whom both Guyana and Venezuela had confidence.

The shooting death of Parasram Persaud by the Venezuelan military also continued to be a matter of concern, and during the Rio Summit held in Georgetown on 4-5 March 2007, the Guyanese media questioned the Venezuelan delegation about it. The Stabroek News of 4 March reported that when Minister Maduro was asked about the killing of the Guyanese by the Venezuelan military at Eteringbang in Guyanese territory, he said:

"We promise that the case is going to be solved. . . Please feel comfortable that soon we will be releasing the results of the investigations [into the killing at Eteringbang]. We will like to tell the people of Guyana, the public here in Guyana, not to get confused about any message that is delivered by the US Embassy in relation to topics like this."

Apparently he was concerned that the US could use the issue to wage a negative campaign against Venezuela.

On being asked about the territorial controversy, he said:

"It's a delicate matter to be treated within the framework of a summit like this, which calls for the discussions of the issues for which the summit has been devoted to."

He went on to suggest a bilateral summit, and added subsequently that "the Guyanese people can count [on] the most absolute solidarity from the Venezuelan people, since both nations had a colonial past."


Maduro's suggestion for bilateral discussions on the border controversy received no immediate official Guyanese response. But it drew this strong comment in a Stabroek News editorial on 11 March:

Bilateral negotiations

Not quite everything associated with the Rio summit was good news, although one of the items of not-so-good news had nothing to do with the government. It came in the form of a statement made at the press conference held by Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro who, it must be said, did the local press the courtesy of bringing an interpreter so there could be some interchange between him and the English-speaking media. The impression gleaned from that interchange was that the Venezuelan government might be tending to the view that a bilateral approach was the preferred modus operandi for addressing the border controversy.

The controversy has been in the hands of the UN Secretary General for many years as provided for under the Geneva Agreement, and the current means of settlement under Article 33 of the UN Charter selected by him and agreed to by both Venezuela and Guyana is the Good Officer process. At the moment that process is stalled because the Good Officer, who was the Barbadian Oliver Jackman, died in January. According to Guyana's Ambassador to Venezuela, Dr. Odeen Ishmael, the "Venezuelan side has so far not commented on a replacement." Whether the delay is a reflection of unease in Caracas about searching for a solution under multilateral auspices is simply not clear at the moment.

Assuming that moving away from the UN Good Offices context is what Minister Maduro is advocating, it should be observed that we have been down this road before over the last twelve years. The first occasion was when then Venezuelan Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Burelli Rivas was here on a two-day visit in March 1995. That time the bilateral package came wrapped in a "globality" proposal, with an apparent link between a resolution of the border controversy and increased cooperation, particularly in the economic field.

The Venezuelan ambassador in Georgetown was later at pains to insist that this proposal was not intended to supersede the Good Officer process, although no one on this side of the western frontier was really persuaded. At a press conference on May 5, 1995, then Foreign Minister Rohee rejected bilateral negotiations, and said the government believed the search for a solution to the controversy should continue under the auspices of the Good Officer.

But that was not the end of it. Three years later Mr. Hugo Chavez, who was President-elect at the time, was reported to be pushing for direct negotiations with Guyana on the border. On that occasion again, Minister Rohee indicated that this country was not amenable to this.

"We don't want to go on a bilateral basis because it would mean saying no to the involvement of the UN and in a sense signalling the failure of the UN to solve this thing. We haven't reached that stage as yet," he was reported as saying. He added that he didn't know if we would ever reach that stage.

If it is that Miraflores is reverting to attempting to foist bilateral negotiations on this country, then the government should reject the overture once again. As was recognized in 1995 and again in 1998, it is simply not in Guyana's interest to move out from under the umbrella of the United Nations and leave ourselves with no cover as to the rules of engagement. In an article by Mr. Cedric Joseph which was published in this newspaper in June 1995, it was observed, among many other things, that the Geneva Agreement was still the only "legal and international document on the table detailing the means to a peaceful solution of the controversy." To remove the issue from the current framework would entail first, he said, an acknowledgement that the Good Officer process had not led to a solution of the controversy, following which the "UN Secretary-General, after the appropriate consultations [would have to] choose another of the means of settlement as stipulated in Article 33 of the Charter of the United Nations."

President Chavez is an impatient man, of course, and likes quick results. But there are no quick results other than a withdrawal of the claim on the part of Venezuela, which one imagines is not about to happen in the immediate future. In the meantime, one hopes that Guyana's Ministry of Foreign Affairs will reiterate this country's traditional position for the benefit of their Venezuelan counterparts.


In March 2007, US President George W. Bush visited a number of South American countries, including Brazil. Commenting on the significance of this visit, the Brazilian journalist, Eliane Cantanhêde, writing in the daily Folha de Sao Paulo on, 16 March 2007 noted that the continent was divided into two blocs, "a pro-US (whoever the president) and other pro-Chavez (more than pro-Venezuela." She projected the view that President Chavez, in order to mobilise patriotism, could show off its military might by moving militarily against his neighbours, Colombia and Guyana.

With regards to Guyana, she posited that Venezuela's pretext would be its claims to about 60 percent of the territory of neighbouring countries. But the real reason, she claimed, was the "aid Guyana receives from the US (besides Canada and the United Kingdom) and its offer of "generous space and conditions for US military training and operations on the borders with Brazil and Venezuela."

Responding to this opinion piece, the Venezuelan ambassador in Brasilia, Julio Garcia Montoya, described it as an irresponsible piece of journalism. He stated:

"Cantanhêde hid the fact that relations between Venezuela and Guyana are currently at an excellent level, to the point that the ambassador in Guyana Venezuela, Odeen Ishmael, said, at the Rio Group Summit of the Rio Group that Venezuela and his country have increasingly close ties which have been strengthened. . .

"Cantanhêde ignored the position of Guyana came out in support to the cause of President Hugo Chavez during the coup of April 2002 and was one of the few countries in Caricom to comment on it. That is an example of respect we have for each other. "


The Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guyana, at a press conference at on 3 May 2007, finally commented on Maduro's proposal to resolve the Guyana/Venezuela border controversy, through bilateral negotiations. Insanally indicated that Guyana had to decide what was in its best interest but remained committed to the Geneva Agreement to have the matter dealt with through the UN process. However, he said, Guyana was willing to listen to proposals by Venezuela.

Insanally and Maduro met briefly during the OAS General Assembly in Panama in early June 2007, but they did not discuss the latter's proposal. But Insanally extended an invitation to the Venezuelan minister to visit Guyana for a discussion on the general state of relations between the neighbouring countries since this would give both countries a chance to focus on the level of co-operation needed.

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On 2 August 2007, Venezuela's Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Rodolfo Sanz visited Guyana to deliver an invitation from President Chavez to President Jagdeo to attend the third PetroCaribe summit on 10-11 August. Accompanied by the Venezuelan Charge d'Affaires in Guyana, Fernando Rincon, he met at State House with Jagdeo, Prime Minister Sam Hinds, Foreign Minister Rudy Insanally, and Director General of the Foreign Ministry Ambassador Elizabeth Harper, at State House. There they held talks on several bilateral issues, including the possibilities of streamlining the supply of petroleum to Guyana under the PetroCaribe agreement.

They also discussed accessing resources from the ALBA Fund for projects in the social and energy production sectors in Guyana, the feasibility studies on the dredging of the mouths of several rivers in Guyana, the UN Good Offices process, the Guyana-Venezuela High Level Bilateral Commission, and the cancellation of Guyana's debt to Venezuela.

At the end of the meeting, Sanz invited Insanally to visit Caracas for a meeting with Nicolas Maduro during the PetroCaribe summit to discuss bilateral relations.


In Caracas, Ambassador Ishmael, was invited on Sunday 5 August 2007 by President Chavez to participate on his weekly Aló Presidente television programme at Miraflores Palace. Also invited were the ambassadors of Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia and Ecuador, and in the audience were international participants at the recently concluded Latin American and Caribbean social forum which was held in Caracas.

In the course of the seven and a half hours discourse, Chavez gave a historical synopsis of Cuba's assistance to the African liberation movement, and explained that in the mid-1970s Cuban troops were flown to Angola and elsewhere through Guyana, then ruled by Forbes Burnham. Chavez revealed that he participated with American advisers to the Venezuelan army at that period to plan an invasion of Guyana to overthrow Burnham since both the Venezuelans and the American felt that Guyana, like Cuba, posed a major danger to Venezuela.

Towards the end of the programme, Ishmael spoke of the improved relations between Guyana and Venezuela especially over the past five years and of the assistance through PetroCaribe that Guyana was receiving from Venezuela. He also thanked Chavez for his government's offer by his government for a grant of more that US$2 million for building a shelter for the homeless in Georgetown.

Responding to Ishmael's statement, Chavez said that he wanted the situation to improve further and Venezuela was now proposing the building of a gas pipeline to link Venezuela, Guyana and Suriname. He added that some Venezuelans in the past were expressing views that Venezuela should invade Guyana and seize the Essequibo territory. But that view, he said, was something in the past and he would never agree with any such view.


The third PetroCaribe summit was held in Caracas on 10-11 August 2007. Prime Minister Sam Hinds headed the Guyana delegation which included Insanally who came specifically for a meeting with Maduro in order to discuss bilateral relations.

However, the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry could not determine a time for the bilateral meeting since Maduro, was not in Venezuela on 9 August when Hinds and Insanally arrived in Caracas. On the following day, Vice-Minister Sanz, in a conversation with Hinds and Ambassador Ishmael at the Hotel Gran Melia, informed that the Foreign Ministers' would meet on the morning of 11 August just before the commencement of the summit.

Meanwhile, the Energy Ministers, who had commenced their meeting on the afternoon of 10 August at PDVSA headquarters, continued their session on the morning of 11 August. Insanally waited on Maduro to turn up, but he failed to arrive. Maduro finally came in around 1.30 p.m. with President Chavez for the start of the summit, but did not invite Insanally to meet with him. Up to the time the summit ended at 11.00 p.m. Insanally received no word about the expected meeting.

Even when the official dinner hosted by Chavez started at 11.30 p.m., Insanally had not yet receied any information as to when the proposed meeting would occur. It was not until after midnight, when the dinner was completed, that Maduro finally had a short informal conversation with Insanally, but no serious discussions took place.

Insanally and Hinds departed for Georgetown about two hours later in the early morning hours of 12 August.


The Venezuelan daily El Nacional on 12 August 2007 published an interview its international reporter, Valentina Oropeza, had with Insanally two days earlier at the Hotel Gran Melia in Caracas.

In the introduction to the interview, headlined "Georgetown hopes that the High- level Bi-national Commission is Revitalised", the paper reported:

"The head of the Guyanese diplomacy ratified the signals made by Guyana's Ambassador to Venezuela, Odeen Ishmael, in an interview made to El National in February: The Government of Jagdeo is confident that President Hugo Chavez's socialist vocation will guide him to give up the claim."

The following is the English translation of the Spanish text of the interview:

Valentina Oropeza (VO): How are the relations between Guyana and Venezuela, presently?

Samuel Rudy Insanally (SRI): I would say cordial and very constructive. We have several agreements; in some we have notable progress and others are still pending. However, we have perceived not only a good atmosphere in the relations, but we also think that there is the political disposition of the Venezuela Government to settle the differences.

VO: Do you mean the Essequibo territory?

SRI: In the case of the Essequibo controversy we are looking for a solution. We consider that the problem was settled in 1899. It was only in the context of the Cold War and the fight against colonialism that Venezuela decided to pursue the quarrel. We do not believe that the claim has legal bases, but we have the political disposition to discuss it with Venezuela because we are neighbours, have always had good relations, and are inspired by the same causes. We try to be members of the same South American unity. We are part of Caricom and PetroCaribe; we have a very close association. For this reason, we should find a definitive solution to the controversy and we believe that the way to attain it is to maximise our points of agreement and minimise the differences. On the bases of the discussions we have had, at the highest levels, we consider that the Venezuelan Government has the same disposition as ours.

VO: When you say "the highest levels" do you mean that both Presidents are discussing the matter?

SRI: Yes, I believe that there is a common political disposition of finding a peaceful and definitive solution of the problem.

VO: Has Guyana obtained the commitment of the Venezuelan Government that it (Venezuela) will give up the claim?

SRI: No, I can't go as far to say that, but there is an agreement to maintain a dialogue and find a definitive settlement of the controversy. President Jagdeo presented a document to explain our position. Chavez knows what we think.

VO: But, has Venezuela studied the possibility of giving up the territory?

SRI: I don't know. All we want to say is that we are under the impression that there is now for the first time in many years in Venezuela a political disposition to settle the controversy.

VO: What has been Venezuela's response to that proposal?

SRI: I have the impression that Chavez has the disposition of making an effort to settle the issue, because Guyana is a brother country. Our attitude is part of the rapprochement because we share the same spirit and the same ideals. Chavez is a leader for whom we have great respect and affection. We have supported Venezuela in all of the forums.

Recently, in our discussions with the United States, Jagdeo was the only one who said clearly that we consider Venezuela a great friend and not because of the ideological question. We are economic partners and are cooperating. Though we are a small country, we have a very clear concept of solidarity. We are not ashamed of our association with Cuba or Venezuela and we believe that the Venezuelan leaders are aware of this.

VO: What would be the basis of an eventual agreement to end the dispute? What would Guyana offer and what would each of the parties yield?

SRI: Let's see. We have to renew the dialogue. We hope that the mechanism of the HLBC will be reactivated with a meeting either in October or September.

VO: Are the bilateral discussions paralysed at this moment?

SRI: They are not paralysed, but we have to find a new moment which would permit the revitalization of the HLBC, the dialogue between the two Chancellors and Heads of Government. Also, we have to take advantage of the opportunities for cooperation. I think that, in this way, we can find a way out of the problem.

VO: But, if Venezuela refuses to give up the claim, and Guyana insists that the issue was settled in 1899, how can the two positions be conciliated?

SRI: I have perceived a disposition on the part of high Venezuela leaders to examine the problem in a close manner. I consider that both parties want to create a new partnership of countries in this hemisphere. We must remember that the Good Officer mechanism is in effect.

Unfortunately, Oliver Jackman died. Therefore one of the matters we have to discuss is what we are going to do to carry on the discussions.

VO: Have there been meetings since the Good Officer died in January this year?

SRI: I had a short talk with Maduro at the General Assembly of the Organisation of American States in Panama. He promised to visit Guyana to push these discussions.

VO: Has the Secretariat General of the UN proposed any candidate to Venezuela and Guyana to replace Jackman?

SRI: Normally, the UN leaves it up to the parties to select a candidate. Up to now we don't have one. That is still to be discussed. No names have been mentioned and Guyana does not have anyone in mind. We would like to hear our Venezuela colleagues' opinion before answering your question.

VO: What are the matters of priority to discuss with the Chancellor?

SRI: Our relationship, in general; also what is its current status. According to the decisions of the Presidents, what else can we do to direct the dialogue in a better course on the Essequibo issue and make a sustained effort to settle definitely this source of differences. In these times, this division serves no purpose; it does not make sense to claim two thirds of a country without any legal support. If one examines the case and its history, it is evident that the claim was artificial, because it does not have historical or legal bases.

VO: What would Guyana cede in the case of an eventual agreement over the Essequibo territorial claim?

SRI: We are willing to consider any proposal which does not affect our integrity or our sovereignty. We think that there are many ways to cooperate in benefit to both parties. Let us hope that with intelligence and good will we can resolve the matter once and for all.

VO: Would you be willing to give up part of the territory?

SRI: I would prefer not to make comments on hypotheses. We are open to listen. This is normal between friends and neighbours. We are brothers and there is cooperation between the two countries.


On 3 September 2007, a team of senior functionaries of the Venezuelan Foreign Affairs Ministry met in Georgetown with Insanally to consider various issues including the construction of the building to house homeless people; the submission of the technical report for the dredging of the Mahaica, Mahaicony, Abary and Pomeroon Rivers; and the report surrounding the shooting to death of Parasram Persaud by Venezuelan soldiers on the border.

The Venezuelan team recommitted to all the previous pledges made by their government including the submission of the results of the investigation of the shooting to death of Persaud.

Then on 5 September, the new Venezuelan ambassador to Guyana, Dario Morandy presented his letters of credence to President Jagdeo at the Office of the President. Venezuela did not have an ambassador in Guyana for the past six years during which time the embassy was run by Charge d'Affaires, Fernando Rincon.

Ambassador Morandy stated after the ceremony that his tasks would include working towards President Chavez's vision of an integrated region involving South America and the Caribbean; entering into bilateral agreements that would benefit both countries in the social, economic, technical and geo-political fields; resolving any pending issues; and acting in one accord on matters of mutual interest in the international arena.

He added that the US$2 million in aid for Guyana from Venezuela for the construction of a shelter for the homeless was already approved and the money was set to be released from the ALBA-Caribe Fund for the project to commence as soon as possible.

Commenting on the border issue, he said that he matter was already being dealt with through diplomatic channels under the UN Secretary General Good Officer process. He emphasised that the Essequibo region was very important to South America and the Caribbean, pointing out that it was very important that the resources in the Essequibo be developed locally for the benefit of the region than be left to be exploited by foreigners

On 20 September 2007, Morandy announced that Venezuelan engineers had completed the technical report for the dredging of the Mahaica, Mahaicony, Abary and Pomeroon Rivers-a project estimated to cost US$5 million.


On 20 September 2007, the Guyana-Suriname Arbitral Tribunal established under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea announced its decision on the maritime boundary between the two countries. Both countries had agreed in February 2004 for the boundary to be decided by the tribunal after Suriname had used military force to prevent a Canadian oil exploration company, licensed by Guyana, from drilling wells on the continental shelf area.

According to Venezuelan media reports, a Venezuelan delegation went the following week to Paramaribo to discuss the decision with the Suriname government. There was some speculation that Venezuela urged Suriname to officially protest the decision, since Venezuela was concerned that Devonshire Caste Flat, a location on the Essequibo Coast, was used as a base point to draw the boundary line based on the principle of "equidistance". By using the Essequibo Coast as a base point, the arbitrators (and hence the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea) gave recognition to the Essequibo as part of Guyana's sovereign territory despite the existing claim by Venezuela.

However, Suriname did not heed Venezuela's advice and accepted the tribunal's decision as a final settlement.

Actually, during the arbitration hearings, the Suriname government had initially opposed the use of this base point, on the grounds of its location in the area claimed by Venezuela. However, the arbitration court dismissed Suriname's protest, declaring that the Caribbean Community (Caricom), with Suriname being an integral member, recognised Guyana's sovereignty over the location of the base point.


Around this same period, El Universal, in an article on the Venezuelan territorial claim, referred to a statement by former Ambassador of Venezuela to the UN, Adolfo Taylhardat, who disputed the contention that the Venezuelan renewed claim was a product of the Cold War in the effort by the United States to undermine the Guyanese government of that period. Talyhardat insisted that the claim arose from a purely autonomous process within the Venezuelan government. [He had written his account of this issue in an article published on the Internet on 6 February 2007.]

The developing fraternal relations between Guyana and Venezuela raised some concerns in Venezuela among anti-Chavez loyalists. El Universal, on 23 September 2007, published an interview it conducted with Dr. Sadio Garavini, a former Venezuelan ambassador to Guyana, who claimed that the Government of Venezuela was yielding "concessions" in negotiations on the border controversy. In the published interview, headlined "Venezuela Loses Strength on Essequibo Claim", Garavani maintained that Guyana was taking advantage of "megalomanía" of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

The following is the English translation of the original Spanish text of the interview:

Q: How do you see the state of the claim on the Essequibo?

A: The Geneva Agreement is the fundamental basis of the Venezuelan claim. The official position of Guyana is that Venezuela is to define the validity or invalidity of the award rendered by the arbitration of 1899 (questioned by Venezuela) which established the present boundaries. Venezuela puts the emphasis on the Geneva Agreement that says that we have to look for satisfactory solutions, acceptable and practical for both parties. After the failure of the bilateral negotiations in the 1980s it was decided to select a Good Officer; that it is the first level to solve the controversy between the countries. The Secretary General of the UN named the Good Officer, with the consent of the two parties. The last one was Oliver Jackman who died a few months ago and the Secretary General must now choose a new one.

Q: How has been the evolution of the subject in this government?

A: Guyana, intelligently taking advantage of certain "megalomania" of President Chavez in relation to foreign policy, because he thinks that Venezuela is a great power, is perhaps trying to take advantage of its "generosity" with the money from the Venezuelans, and has stated that it can reinforcing that "generosity" by perhaps getting the President to decide to end the claim.

But it would be an end in inverted commas, because there is no real end if there is not a minimum of compensation to the offended party, i.e., Venezuela, if there is not a great national consensus, which is necessary so that the decision through the generations can last.

Q: But in any case, if the Government gives in by closing the claim, is not the State the one that is committed?

A: Yes, from the legal point of view we would lose enormously, but the problems between the nations that are condemned to coexist in eternity, because they are geographic neighbours. In my opinion it is possible for the issue to be always reopened if it is not closed well.

Q: How Guyana has tried to take advantage?

A: It has begun to send very clear messages from February of this year, being fomented by something that he himself Chavez has mentioned, which is a great error, and that is, the Venezuelan claim was reactivated in 1962 on the part of the government of Rómulo Betancourt, because in the government of British Guiana was Cheddi Jagan and the PPP party which was a member of the Communist International. Then, he says that the United States fomented in Betancourt the idea to initiate the claim to destabilise the government of Jagan. Guyana now tries to show that they are socialist brothers, that they must be dealt with in a generous way, saying to the President that the claim is not even Venezuelan, because supposedly the gringos were imposing it.

Q: Also the Venezuelan position has been criticised on the concessions in the Essequibo.

A: To that respect, it is necessary to remember that in 2000, when a North American company tried to obtain a territorial concession in Guyana in Essequibo for a place to send satellites and rockets, President Chavez applied what it had been the policy of all the governments, from the Geneva Agreement, to oppose concessions to transnational companies in this zone, based on Article 5 in the referred agreement. That was one of the negotiation strengths that we had. It was to present difficulty for investment by transnational companies in Essequibo, and through this we created some problem to Guyana which could feel some pressure in the negotiation. Chavez in 2000 applied it, but in 2004 he left it unilaterally and there is a new situation of investments of transnationals in the Essequibo and the government says that it does not have any objection to such investments.

Q: Can you provide some data regarding the delivery of concessions before and after the Venezuelan shift of position?

A: There have been investments in the matter of gold and bauxite. After the declarations [of President Chavez] took place, investments have increased; these existed before, but now they are increasing more and more. Now, Chavez, having given the approval, already the transnational companies do not fear actions on the part of Venezuela. Even, the companies that work in Venezuela in the oil area would feel calmer in working in Essequibo, because before they said, "I am not going to Essequibo, because if I do, my interests in Venezuela will be affected".

Q: What is the legal weight of those declarations?

A: The one of 2004, yes, it has weight, because Venezuela has accepted that it does not have problems with regard to the unilateral decisions of Guyana in the Essequibo in the matter of foreign investment; but the phrases on the supposed pressure of the empire for the claim are something that de-legitimise the claim and although it does not touch the legal aspect, makes a damage greater, because the problem is political, since the Geneva Agreement leads to a negotiated agreement.

Q: What is necessary to obtain a satisfactory agreement?

A: We must have a great consensus that the Venezuelan claim is going to end with a compensation much smaller than the two-thirds of Guyana that we claim; no government is disposed to pay the cost of the case which the Geneva Agreement can solve with only a marginal rectification of the territory. If the government were serious, that is, what it would have to look for is to call a national consensus to close the historical wound that Venezuela has, but to close it well. If it becomes, by the imposition, that wound is closed badly, there will be opportunities in the future to reopen it.


Meanwhile, on 4 October 2007, Guyana and Venezuela continued discussions on the cancellation of the US$12.5 debt owned by Guyana. To this end, a meeting was convened at the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs where the Guyana delegation headed by Ambassador Odeen Ishmael and including Donna Yearwood, a specialist on debt management in the Guyana Ministry of Finance, exchanged documents and views on the issue. Agreement was reached on the cancellation, and the Venezuelan officials who included specialists from the Finance Ministry, explained that the relevant documents would be prepared and sent to President Chavez for his signature.

The Guyana delegation took the opportunity to also remind the Venezuelan side the need for the release of the promised funds for the building of the shelter for homeless people and for the dredging of mouths of four of Guyana's smaller rivers.


Garavini's views received some comment in an editorial in the Stabroek News of 5 October 2007. The editorial complained of the lack of specialist staff in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the loss of institutional memory there including the loss of archival material relating to the border controversy. It then continued:

The deficit of experience at the Ministry, coupled with what might be regarded as an excess of optimism currently in the public arena, might therefore explain some of the more hopeful utterances and ideas cropping up with regard to new initiatives to settle the border controversy with Venezuela.

In this respect, let us rewind to February this year, when President Hugo Chavez was reported to have stated that the Venezuelan claim to Essequibo, revived in 1962 by the government of Romulo Betancourt, was the result of pressure from the USA aimed at destabilizing the leftist pre-independence administration of Dr. Cheddi Jagan. For this, he was roundly criticized by the Venezuelan opposition for buying the line supposedly being peddled by Georgetown and our man in Caracas, Dr. Odeen Ishmael.

Ambassador Ishmael in turn, seemingly heartened by these words and alluding to the fraternal links between the two "socialist and anti-imperialist" governments, made so bold as to suggest in an interview with El Nacional that President Chavez should take a step forward and withdraw the Venezuelan claim.

Even taking into consideration Mr Chavez's tendency to play to the populist gallery and his undistinguished record of broken promises, this excursion into the realm of public diplomacy may have been ill-advised, as it provoked a high level of consternation in certain nationalistic Venezuelan circles.

The opposition, in particular, ever eager to pounce on any perceived slip by Mr Chavez, rolled out former Ambassador Adolfo Taylhardat, who was a member of the Venezuelan delegation to the meetings on the border controversy, in London in 1963 and 1965 and in Geneva in 1966, to dispute the argument that the claim was solely a product of the Cold War. He asserted, on the contrary, that it arose from a purely autonomous process within the Venezuelan government, brought on by the imminent independence of Guyana, for which Mr Betancourt sought and got the support of the Kennedy administration. This is, of course, pure self-serving tosh.

Now, a former Venezuelan Ambassador to Guyana, Sadio Garavini, who is an outspoken opponent of the Chavez regime, is using the perception of a shift in Guyana's foreign policy to argue that our strategy is to emphasise the ties that bind, to take advantage of Mr Chavez's "unlimited megalomania" and "generosity" [with] the resources of Venezuelans.

In this context, Mr Garavini warns that "a solution imposed by the will of one man, which is not the fruit of a transparent negotiation and which does not foresee compensation for Venezuela, the historically wronged party, will never be a permanent solution." [Stabroek News translation]. While Mr Chavez and not Guyana is the target, this type of debate does us no favours and simply adds fuel to an already inflammatory situation.

Obviously, the border controversy is so politically charged an issue in that country that it will not be resolved by ideological engagement with the current "Bolivarian" government. There has to be some sort of political-and by extension popular-consensus in Venezuela on what would be acceptable to satisfy national pride, before a mutually agreeable resolution can be advanced between Guyana and Venezuela.

For the time being then, quiet diplomacy should prevail. And . . . we said on Sunday, we would do well to remain under the umbrella of the Geneva Agreement. This would mean reactivating as soon as possible the good offices mechanism under the auspices of the UN Secretary General, following the unfortunate death of the Good Officer, Oliver Jackman of Barbados, in January. . .

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Destruction of Guyanese Dredges by Venezuelan Military Forces


On the morning of 15 November 2007, a contingent of 36 Venezuelan armed military personnel, led by a General, entered into Guyana's territory on the Cuyuni River and proceeded to use military type explosive devices to destroy two unmanned gold-mining river dredges owned by Guyanese gold miners.

They then turned their attention to another dredge in the area but met resistance when the owner refused to leave. Workers of the dredge rushed to nearby Eteringbang, where Guyanese soldiers and police were informed of the Venezuelan incursion and destruction.

A team comprising police and army personnel rushed to the scene and warned the Venezuelan troops to leave. This they did but went further upriver, where another dredge was bombed. The Guyana Police later learnt that the Venezuelan military tried to force three other dredge owners to abandon their equipment.

A Guyana Foreign Ministry stated later that day that at the time the dredges were not in operation and that there was therefore no one on board either of the bombed vessels. The Ministry noted that the incident was followed by unauthorised over-flights by two Venezuelan helicopters.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rudy Insanally, also called in the Venezuelan Ambassador, Dario Morandy, and expressed Guyana's serious concerns over the incidents. A diplomatic note registering Guyana's grave concern over the destruction of the pontoons and the incursions into Guyana's territory and air space was also submitted to the Venezuelan Embassy in Georgetown.

In addition, the Ministry requested Guyana's Embassy in Caracas to monitor the situation and to continue to seek clarification from the Venezuelan authorities on the incidents.

After the meeting at the Foreign Ministry, Morandy, speaking to the media, said that the Venezuelan military had not violated Guyana's borders, and that the area from which the dredges had been evicted belonged to his country. "Venezuela was protecting its natural resources and we need to remove all illegal miners from the area," the Ambassador was reported by Kaieteur News on 16 November. He also claimed that the military had not used explosives.

According to the Stabroek News of 17 November, the ambassador explained that the military in Venezuela had launched an operation called "Tepuy" on 15 November in the San Juan de Wenamu to San José de Anacoco area. He said a number of illegal miners from Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia and Guyana had moved into that area, and in order to protect the basin of the Cuyuni River the Venezuelan military had decided to remove them. "We don't know about any attack; there was no incident; three is no problem with Venezuela and Guyana," Morandy declared, denying not only the report of explosives being used to destroy the pontoons but also the fly-overs by Venezuelan helicopters. He emphasised that Guyana and Venezuela were good border countries and friendly states.

The Kaieteur News of the same day reported that Morandy denied that any Venezuelan military personnel was in Guyana's territory and that army ranks were involved in an exercise to remove illegal miners in the vicinity of an area called San Antonio and El Dorado, some 80 kilometres west of the Guyana/Venezuela borders.

But the Stabroek News in its report stated that "senior army sources" discounted Morandy's statements, noting that the dredges owned by Guyanese miners, Anthony Ramlall and Dereck Cabose, had been anchored in Guyana's territory on the Cuyuni River at Iguana Island.

For the next week, the editorial of Guyana newspapers commented on this latest incursion and the destruction of the dredges and joined the government in calling for an explanation into these incidents.

Additional details, including information of an additional bombing, were revealed by the Kaieteur News of 18 November. The paper reported that GDF soldiers were involved in tense, verbal confrontations with Venezuelan military personnel but were unable to thwart the bombing of two Guyanese dredges which were moored in the Cuyuni River. The paper claimed that a police report revealed that at around 2.00 p.m. on 15 November, three boats with "about 40 Venezuelan soldiers" went to a dredge owned by Guyanese miner Dereck Cabose, which was moored in the Cuyuni River. They then ordered the crew off the dredge and subsequently bombed the vessel and left following a confrontation with a group of Guyanese soldiers. Shortly after, according the police report cited by the newspaper, two Venezuelan helicopters arrived and landed in the area. Some of the Venezuelan soldiers then boarded another dredge, owned by Guyanese gold miner Arnold Doodnauth but left after another confrontation with the Guyanese soldiers. However, about six Venezuelan soldiers returned and bombed Doodnauth's dredge, estimated to cost about G$7 million.


The state-owned Guyana Chronicle in an editorial on 19 November accused Venezuela of using excessive force. It commented:

The recent blowing up of two pontoons by the Venezuelan military is a blatant demonstration of the use of excessive force and this action must be condemned by the international community in the strongest possible terms.

According to Guyana's Ministry of Foreign Affairs the pontoons were destroyed in Guyana's waters and this definitely smells of a provocative act. However, even if it were true that the pontoons were in Venezuelan waters, there was absolutely no need for such strong use of force, because the pontoons posed no military or other form of threat to Venezuela.

The Ministry said that a contingent of 36 military personnel led by a General entered Guyana's waters and used military type explosives to destroy the pontoons. It further noted that this was followed by unauthorised over-flights by two Venezuelan helicopters.

This is indeed puzzling and worrisome. Why so a course of action by Venezuela?

What if persons were on board the pontoons? Certainly, they could have perished or wounded seriously because of the senseless action of the Venezuelan military.

It is not a case involving two hostile neighbours. On the contrary, it is an incident relating to friendly nations.

As such, the matter could have been handled through diplomatic channels and resolved in a peaceful and amicable manner in accordance with friendly and neighbourly practice.

Guyana has always sought to develop and maintain strong ties and cooperation with Venezuela but this ugly incident surely is of no help to that process.

The democratic norms of conducting international relations and business dictate this and the Venezuelans should have followed these norms, rather than resorting to such reckless and arrogant action.

On many occasions Venezuelan trawlers were caught in Guyana waters but the response has always been one with civility and due legal process. Guyana's military never blew up any trawler for encroaching Guyana's waters.

Guyana must not let up on this incident and vigorously pursue a proper explanation from the government and if it becomes necessary seek redress at the appropriate internal fora, because we cannot allow a recurrence of such incidents.

Perhaps, it is time that the Government of Guyana takes a hard look at the border issue with Venezuela and, like in the case of Suriname, bring a conclusion to this matter.

Essequibo, which is the least developed of the three counties, needs investment to advance its developmental process and the Venezuelan claim could be a damper to investors.

However, whatever is the cause of the incident, which we will only know after a thorough investigation, it must not cause any rift or sour relations as both countries seek to forge mutually beneficial agreements and programmes.

It is the international norm in today's modern world to use military action only as a last resort, and all countries should respect this principle so that the world would not continue to be enveloped by wars and violence.

We have had enough of bullyism and wars. It is time that we all work steadfastly to avoid military confrontations and build a lasting peace on this planet.

We owe this to the future generations.


Meanwhile, the team comprising police and army personnel which travelled to the area to conduct investigations subsequently submitted a report have been submitted to the Ministry of Home Affairs.

In Venezuela, the Venezuelan daily El Nacional on 20 November carried this report, headlined, "Guyana Government under pressure by political parties":

The Guyanese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rudolph Insanally, had a meeting with the Venezuelan Ambassador in Georgetown, Dario Morandy, to clarify the details on the explosion of two dredges which were extracting gold on Thursday, and which Georgetown has denounced as an invasion of its territorial space.

However, little progress was made because the Venezuelan Chancellery has not sent a final report of the incident.

In a telephone conversation Insanally stated that the explosion of the two dredges in the Cuyuni River, ordered by a Venezuelan general and carried out by 36 soldiers, has unleashed a "very tense situation for President Bharrat Jagdeo's government."

"The political parties and the mass media were very upset about what happened. For the good of the relations between the two countries, we expect an explanation as soon as possible, because we are being put under pressure to protest before the Venezuelan Government. This matter has placed us in a very compromising situation," Insanally stated.

The top officer of the Guyanese diplomacy avoided commenting on what would be his country's immediate actions in case that it does obtain a satisfactory reply to the verbal note sent to the (Venezuelan) Chancellery on Thursday last week.

Morandy, too, explained via telephone, that the Venezuelan and Guyanese authorities will hold a final meeting upon Chancellor Nicolas Maduro's return from his tour to France and Portugal. He emphasised that the Minister had requested a report on the incident from the Venezuelan Army and the Embassy in Georgetown.

The Venezuelan ambassador to Guyana said that they were expecting to receive, today or tomorrow, the report from the Theatre of Operations No.5, commanded by Brigadier General Yulmer Yepez Castro, in charge of the operation. He emphasised that he was uniformed if there had been incursion in the Guyana air space by 2 Venezuelan helicopters.

Insanally, however, stated that his country's Foreign Ministry expects to have a reply from the Venezuelan Government even before Maduro's return to Caracas. "For example, we would accept that the Venezuelan Ministry of Defence explain why its functionaries acted on Guyanese territory."

The Jagdeo administration affirms that the dredges were located on the Cuyuni River, near the island of Iguana, and exploded after being charged with C-4 type explosives. Meanwhile, Morandy has stated that the operation occurred on the river Wenamu, on Venezuelan territory, and is part of the fight against illegal mining on the border.

"Venezuela began the reorganising of mining a year ago, that is, a plan to deactivate the illegal mining centres of mineral exploitation to protect the environment. The incident which occurred Thursday was an action included in that policy, which is carried out only on Venezuelan territory," Morandy explained.

He took advantage of the opportunity to deny press reports which informed details on the destruction of the two dredges: "I never said that the name of the operation was Tepuy and that it was being carried out from San Juan de Wenamu to San Jose de Anacoco. These details can be given only by the competent military sources," he stated with regard to the article published by the former Brazilian president, José Sarney of Sunday, in which he states as a hypothetical conflict being prepared by the Venezuelan Government for a military attack against Guyana, Morandy said: "Venezuela is not interested in invading anyone. These are versions which are being spread by detractors of President Hugo Chavez, who they want to make look as an imperial force. That will never happen. . ."


By 20 November, Venezuela had not responded to the note from Guyana even though Morandy had promised that a report on the incidents would be issued very quickly.

Meanwhile, in Venezuela, the Guyana Embassy was trying to contact Guyanese living along the border area in Venezuela to find out what they knew of the incident. The Embassy sought an explanation from the Foreign Ministry but was told that this could not be made until Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro, was currently in Europe, returned to Venezuela "in about three day's time."

On the same day, the Stabroek News reported that based on its own investigations, Venezuelan military troops were accompanied by persons fully equipped with cameras and recorders, and after patrolling areas in Venezuela they made their way into Guyanese territory. The paper, citing a local military source, said that the troops, which included an engineering corps, sank one dredge then ordered the crew off another and blew it up. There were at least four other dredges in the vicinity with crew on them and it appeared that they had intended to destroy these as well but by that time members of the Guyana Defence Force arrived and prevented any further damage. At this juncture, the Venezuelan military left. Shortly afterwards, two Venezuelan civilian helicopters flew low over the scene where members of the GDF and dredging crew were still present. It was believed that they flew over the area to take photographs or footage of the area.

The paper stated that the objective of the exercise was to show that the Venezuelan government was serious in its efforts to stamp out illegal mining and fuel smuggling.

Throughout Guyana, there was outright condemnation of the Venezuelan action. Meanwhile, on 20 November, the small opposition parliamentary parties, including the Alliance For Change (AFC), said the latest act adds to "a growing string of transgressions and violations being perpetuated against Guyana by our South American brother." They stated:

"No doubt Guyana's decision to embrace the diplomatic and non-violent route to de-escalate this grave threat has been successful over the years since independence, but the ante is obviously being raised and thus simply adopting a strategy of ignoring the problem will not work."

While expressing their support to the Guyana government on any appropriate initiative to deal with this form of provocation and aggression, but also noted that the Venezuelan authorities had not delivered the promised report on the killing of the Guyanese miner, Parasram Persaud in October 2006.

Two days later, according to El Universal, Venezuelan Ambassador to Guyana Darío Morando said both countries agreed to wait until November 22 to create a taskforce "to assess the events" related to the alleged destruction of two dredges by the Venezuelan army. He stated that his country was willing to find a diplomatic solution to the incidents, but that his Ministry of Foreign Affairs was awaiting the return on 24 November of Foreign Affairs Minister Nicolas Maduro, who was accompanying President Hugo Chavez in a tour of the Middle East and Europe, to give the relevant instructions and designate the Venezuelan committee that would deal with this issue.

El Universal also reported that Guyana would file a protest to the United Nations over the destruction of the dredges and the territorial incursion if Venezuela did not provide a satisfactory answer.

However, Insanally refuted the report that Guyana and Venezuela had agreed to wait until November 22 to set up "a task force to assess the events" related to the destruction of the dredges. The Stabroek News of 23 November reported him as saying: "There is no such agreement."

Asked whether Guyana planned to file an action with the United Nations if Venezuela did not provide a satisfactory answer as reported in El Universal, Insanally said that was pure speculation as he had made no public statement on what Guyana intended to do.

But he added: "However, we have not ruled out our options. We are monitoring the situation very carefully." Explaining that he could not make a concrete statement without some information from Venezuela, he said, "As a good neighbour we are giving them the benefit of time."

While attention was focused on the border incidents, the Guyana government requested assistance from Venezuela for urgently needed fuel since many gas stations had run out of supplies. This emergency request was granted very quickly and on 20 November a shipment of 16,000 barrels of gasoline and diesel fuel arrived in the country. The Venezuelan Embassy, on the same day, stated:

"With this delivery of fuel, Venezuela ratifies its politics of cooperation and solidarity to guarantee direct benefits for the people of Guyana and the other Caribbean countries. Likewise, it shows its disposition to work for the economic and social integration of the people of Latin America and the Caribbean."

In an editorial on 21 November 2007, the Kaieteur News commented favourably on this assistance provided by the Venezuelan government. The editorial stated:

"And so Venezuela has come to our rescue despite the debacle involving the miners. One would rather suspect that the Venezuelan Government is not as all-controlling as some would expect; that other forces linked to the government are acting on some plan that might have been discussed in the past and took action without the involvement of the central government.

"Of course, we accept the helping hand from our neighbour to the west and we also hope that this hand would be extended to help us ease this troubling situation on our border.

"It was President Hugo Chavez who said that his country has no immediate designs on Guyana and that now is the time for the countries to live in peace, pursuing their individual development goals. This must not be a recurrence of the days when under another president, Venezuela used its vast oil reserves as a stick to dissuade the major oil companies from exploring off the Essequibo coast. It must also not repeat that clout to block funding for the massive hydroelectric project in the Mazaruni in the seventies, which would have made us virtually energy independent since then.

"The release of the oil is a magnanimous gesture. . . We are indeed grateful."


The Venezuelan weekly online publication specialising in economic reporting, Veneconomia, highly critical of the Chavez administration, on 20 November commented on the border incidents in an article headlined "From one crisis to the next. . .":

On Thursday last week, . . . another conflict emerged on the diplomatic front for the Venezuelan Government; this time it was the turn of neighbouring Guyana. According to reports, a contingent of Venezuelan soldiers blew up two gold dredges operating in the Essequibo region, which is in dispute.

The report by a police and military commission sent to the area by the Government of Guyana states that 36 members of the Venezuelan Army, with air support from a helicopter, entered Guyanese territory and blew up two dredges near Iguana Island in the Cuyuní River, as a result of which there were, fortunately, no injuries.

Guyana's Foreign Ministry has made efforts to keep a low profile so as not to turn this into a full-blown incident. After receiving the report, it immediately submitted a "formal complaint" to the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry and is awaiting a formal response from the Chavez administration.

The only response from Venezuela to date has come from its ambassador in Guyana, Darío Morandy, who denies that Venezuelan soldiers entered Guyanese territory. He maintains, moreover, that the operation took place "right on the Venezuelan border with Guyana, between San Juan de Wenamu and San José de Anacoco." According to Ambassador Morandy, the operation was part of the "mining restructuring" operation that the Chavez administration has been implementing to eradicate foci of illegal mining for minerals and protect the environment.

For the good of bilateral relations between Guyana and Venezuela, it is essential that this incident be clarified in the most transparent manner possible. Under no circumstances is it convenient for any questions to be left unanswered. And if it turns out to be an excess and abuse by the Venezuelan soldiers, which would seem to be the case, the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry should admit to the mistake, offer apologies and pay compensation for the damaged dredges.

If it does not, Guyana could file a complaint with the OAS or Caricom, which would further sully the negative image that people in the region are forming of Venezuela's government.

And if Guyana is not satisfied with the clarifications and doubts as to the Chavez administration's objectives persist, the possibility of obtaining the support of the English-speaking countries of the Caribbean [for Venezuela] in the dispute over the Essequibo could vanish, which would put an end to efforts to reach a positive settlement of this affair.

What is more, if this incident escalates, not only will Venezuela have another international crisis on its hands to add to the already "turbulent" relations with Brazil, Chile, Peru, Mexico, the United States and Spain, but it will also confirm the perception expressed by former Brazilian President José Sarney that Chavez' building up of arms poses a threat to the other countries in Latin America and that this incident in particular would be understood to mean that Venezuela is getting ready to invade Guyana.


Venezuela's Minister of Foreign Affairs Nicolas Maduro on 21 November finally spoke by telephone from Paris with Insanally on the border incidents and pledged to send the information on his return to Venezuela. Insanally told the media that Maduro was taking the matter seriously; and that Venezuela was intent on maintaining good relations with Guyana.

The main opposition PNCR in a statement issued at its weekly media briefing on 22 November said that the action by the Venezuelan military was "contrary to international law and the concept of the peaceful resolution of differences between states." It urged the government to go beyond the formal diplomatic practice of registering a complaint against the invasion of Guyana's territory and pursue a more robust defence of the nation's interest. The party suggested that the Guyana government should invoke the relevant mechanisms of the various international organisations, including asking the UN to dispatch a fact-finding mission to the area in which the invasion occurred, since Venezuela was claiming that the incident took place on its territory.

Meanwhile, the President of the Venezuelan Frontiers Studies Institute, General Oswaldo Suju Raffo, in an interview published in El Universal on 23 November, said that the territory of Venezuela extended to the Essequibo River and that the incident in which the two dredges had been destroyed, occurred in Venezuelan territory Suju hoped that the Venezuelan government would not apologise to Guyana for the incident as he did not think that the "Reclamation Zone" should be compromised.

However, in Guyana, Insanally has dismissed Suju's statement that the destruction of two Guyanese-owned dredges occurred in Venezuelan territory because it was in Venezuela's so-called "Reclamation Zone." Insanally said that the international boundary recognised the area as Guyana's territory and the fact that Venezuela had made a claim did not make the area Venezuelan.

On 24 November, the former Foreign Minister of Guyana, Rasheigh Jackson, in a letter carried in the Stabroek News, urged the government to demand compensation from Venezuela for the destroyed dredges.

In another editorial comment, the Stabroek News of 25 November wrote:

. . .The Government of Guyana did not tell the nation on Thursday what had happened that morning, although they must have had all the relevant details in their possession even at that stage. One presumes that the GDF officers stationed at Eteringbang have means of communicating with their headquarters (if they don't it would be nothing short of a national scandal), and that they alerted the relevant authorities shortly after the Guyanese soldiers returned from seeing off the Venezuelans from our waters. Since the incident happened in the Cuyuni River, they didn't need a Global Positioning System to tell them they were in our territory; the whole of the Cuyuni as far as the Wenamu River belongs to Guyana. It is an internationally recognized boundary which was fixed by an arbitral tribunal in 1899, and the fact that Venezuela for political reasons since 1962 has decided it would not recognise that award does not alter the reality of where the border runs.

The first official statement from the Government Information Agency, came stuttering through the fax machine of this newspaper on Friday afternoon, to be followed by one from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It might be noted that Stabroek News and perhaps other media houses too had been asking questions about the incident that morning, and so it is a moot point, perhaps, as to whether the government would have postponed telling citizens about the incident for even longer if it had been left to its own devices. Furthermore, the official communications which did come were short on detail, which might have been acceptable had the administration released a fuller account later.

As it was, the media were told that the authorities were waiting on a report from members of the joint services who had flown into the area to investigate. The team duly returned on Saturday, but no further information was made available from the authorities, although this newspaper did manage to glean a few more critical details from an anonymous knowledgeable source.

The government also said it was awaiting a report from the Venezuelans. Ambassador Morandy promised that one would be forthcoming, although it never materialised, and it now seems that Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro has told Minister Insanally that as soon as he returns to Caracas (he is currently abroad) he will send "information" about the matter to his Guyanese counterpart. Mr. Insanally should not hold his breath. He is still waiting for the Venezuelan report which was so faithfully promised on the killing of Guyanese Parasram Persaud at Eteringbang more than a year ago by soldiers belonging to our western neighbour.

Ambassador Morandy has denied that the dredges were in Guyana's waters. Whether he meant they were on land on the northern bank of the Cuyuni (which is Venezuelan territory) in which case he is being disingenuous, or whether he was indirectly reasserting the Venezuelan claim to the whole of Essequibo is not clear. In any case, from the point of view of the steps Guyana should take now it really doesn't matter what he meant, or even what is in the report from Caracas, supposing it ever lands on Mr. Insanally's desk at all.

The impression that the government seems anxious to play down the incident was reinforced by an editorial in the state-owned Chronicle on Monday, November 19, which said that the incident, whatever its cause "must not cause any rift or sour relations" between Guyana and Venezuela. In any other jurisdiction a nation whose soldiers shot dead your citizens in your territory, and then went on to blow up the dredges of your nationals in your waters, would surely have caused a rift and soured relations. So why is that not the case here?

The reason became apparent on Tuesday, when the Venezuelan Embassy, and not the Government of Guyana it must be noted, issued a statement informing "the people of Guyana" that Venezuela had come to this country's rescue with an emergency shipment of fuel, requested by Prime Minister Samuel Hinds. Did the administration intend delaying the release of that information too, or perhaps hoped to avoid telling citizens at all?

Whatever the case, this Venezuelan statement must have left a sour taste in the mouths of Guyanese. Whether it was intended to carry the subliminal message of don't complain about Cuyuni because we have saved you, is not clear. The message being conveyed by our government in contrast, is clear: we must go "softly, softly" with Venezuela because we are dependent on it. In practice this timidity will have the consequence of giving carte blanche to our neighbour to carry out further invasions whenever it sees fit. The reality is that we are being treated with utter contempt by an infinitely larger and wealthier neighbour whose head of state never tires of expatiating on the bullying tactics of the US, but is apparently blind to those of his own armed forces.

It doesn't matter how much oil we get on credit from Venezuela; our sovereignty cannot be compromised for tankers of fuel. This time we want to hear that the Government of Guyana is responding meaningfully at an international level, and among the other useful suggestions made by former Foreign Minister Rashleigh Jackson in a letter published in this newspaper yesterday, will seek compensation. As he pointed out, Venezuela should be made to acknowledge culpability. If it does not, it will say a great deal not just about the state of our relations with that country, but also about Miraflores' intentions where our territory is concerned.


The small political party, the WPA, on 24 November also condemned the attack as "reckless, irresponsible, unprovoked and destructive." It criticised the Guyana government for its handling of the entire episode and urged compensation from the Venezuelan authorities as well as admission of their culpability.

In an immediate response, Insanally defended the government's stance, saying it was continuing to use diplomatic channels to deal with the matter.

The Kaieteur News on 26 November 2007 agreed with Insanally saying the government's position "may have been justified when, in spite of Guyana's protest, the Chavez Government sent some 16,000 barrels of fuel here, averting a major crisis."


The issue was discussed at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting held in Kampala, Uganda on 23-25 November 2007. The final communiqué, while expressing satisfaction at the cordiality which had characterised relations between Guyana and Venezuela in recent years, declared:

"Heads however took note of the incursions by Venezuelan military personnel and aircraft into Guyana's territory and airspace on November 15, 2007 and reiterated the need for the controversy to be resolved by peaceful means.

"Heads of Government reaffirmed their unequivocal support for the maintenance of Guyana's territorial integrity and sovereignty, including its unrestricted right to development of the entirety of its territory for the benefit of its people. Heads of Government mandated the Secretary-General to continue to convene meetings of the Ministerial Group on Guyana whenever necessary."

[A Commonwealth Ministerial Group on Guyana was established in 1999 to monitor developments in respect of the existing controversy between Guyana and Venezuela].


On 29 November, Maduro, in a telephone conversation with Insanally, informed him that a Venezuelan delegation would visit Guyana within a week with a report on the border incidents and would be prepared to discuss these matters as well as other bilateral issues.

On the following day, Insanally informed the National Assembly of this development. He told the Assembly that the delegation was also expected to discuss another outstanding issue that of the October 2006 shooting to death of a Guyanese miner by Venezuelan military.

Reminding the Assembly that it was the policy of the government to ensure security and stability in all the regions of this country, Insanally noted too, the importance of relations with "our Amerindian brothers and sisters", whom he likened as to this country's first line of defence.

As a result, he explained that it was the government's intention to ensure that the lands contiguous to the Venezuelan border are effectively occupied and controlled by Guyana. Acknowledging that limited human and financial resources did not allow Guyana to defend itself against any future incursion, Insanally observed though, that within its limitations the government was seeking to develop its armed forces as best as possible.

He, however, reminded that there were other options available for recourse such as the international machinery provided in the United Nations Charter.

While there could be talk about reliance with friends, he said that from experience Guyana could not overly depend on such arrangements, adding that "our future would best be entrusted to the collective system of security that the UN provides, where our strength relies not in armed forces but in moral persuasion which is still effective in today's world. Not even the mightiest can afford to ignore the complaints of smaller players."

He also drew attention to some press reports which stated that Guyana had done little or nothing in the wake of the incursion by the Venezuelan military.

On this matter, he cited excerpts of reports emanating from the conclusion of the recent Heads of Government meeting in Kampala, Uganda, which stated that heads of the 53-member states "noted" the incident and reaffirmed their unequivocal support for the maintenance of Guyana's territorial integrity and sovereignty, including its unrestricted right of development to the entirety of its territory for the benefit of its people.

Noting that sensitisation by Guyana as to what was happening had shown possibilities of support, the minister opined that the country's best course of action lies in the direction of the UN and the OAS.

Insanally also recalled that Venezuela had also publicly admitted that its claim to Guyana was more political than legal. He added:

"I think that opened the way for some discussions so that we might eventually put the controversy to rest and I continue to believe that despite irritants like this, despite this problem, which is very serious, we have to face it in its own right. It is not linked to any other issue, as the press would suggest oil supplies; it has a standing of its own right and it has to be addressed, but we believe that our relationship with the present Government in Venezuela offers a magnificent opportunity for some final resolution of this matter."

Meanwhile, the PNCR at its press conference, held on 29 November, said the government must "not to allow the benefits from the concessionary supply of oil under Venezuela's PetroCaribe deal to undermine its efforts to robustly reject this latest of a continuing series of aggressive acts against Guyanese nationals in our national territory."

But in a sharp response later that day, President Jagdeo at his own press conference to report on the Commonwealth meeting said that PetroCaribe had nothing to do with Guyana's territory. He explained that Guyana had the option of raising the issue at the OAS and the UN depending on the explanation received from Venezuela.

Jagdeo stated that the government and the opposition must "work together for a resolution in this matter." He recalled the border dispute with Suriname after that country's military evicted an oil rig from Guyana's waters. He said he had invited the Leader of the Opposition for consultation on that issue before the government took it to the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, but the Leader of the Opposition had refused the invitation, and this "broke a tradition we had in Guyana where borders never became a political issue and he said it was a gimmick."

Expressing surprise that the opposition PNCR was now taking credit for playing a part in the solution of the Guyana-Suriname maritime dispute, he felt hat if anyone wanted to share in the joys of the country, they would not be denied, but quipped, "We should not forget who reopened the border issue with Venezuela."


Despite Maduro's promise on 29 November that a Venezuelan delegation would visit Guyana "within a week", that had not materialised by 7 December when Insanally spoke with the Guyanese media at the Guyana International Convention Centre just before the start of the Special Heads of Government Conference of Caricom. He stated that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would be in touch with his Venezuelan counterpart as Guyana did not desire to wait "much longer" for a response and would soon be reviewing the situation.

However, he did not see the lack of response as evidence of Venezuela's contempt for Guyana, adding that there might be circumstances of which he was not aware and which "might have precluded the fulfilment of the promise".

Asked by reporters whether relations with Venezuela would sour if Guyana went to the OAS or the UN, Insanally responded that Guyana had already notified the Commonwealth about the issue: "Our sovereignty comes first. We have no qualms about that." He noted that Caricom and the Commonwealth had traditionally supported Guyana on the border controversy with Venezuela.

As to whether the PetroCaribe credit arrangements which Guyana had with Venezuela for the supply of fuel would be affected by the incursions and the manner in which Guyana dealt with them, Insanally replied, "The two things are not linked and have never been."


A six-member Venezuelan delegation, led by Rodolfo Sanz, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, finally arrived in Guyana on 11 December. They met with President Jagdeo and Foreign Minister Insanally later that afternoon and hand-delivered a note from the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry expressing regrets over the destruction of the Guyanese-owed dredges and pontoons.

During the delegation's meeting with Insanally, other matters of a bilateral nature were also discussed. These included a proposed project on building a shelter for the homeless in Georgetown to be financed by the Venezuelan ALBA-Caribe fund; and the cancellation of the US$12.5 million debt owed by Guyana to Venezuela since the early 1980s. Sanz promised to deal with these matters on his return to Caracas.

Sanz said that when the Guyanese delegation met with Venezuelan officials in Caracas in October 2007 to discuss the cancellation of debt that, they had raised the issue of allocating funds for the building of a shelter for the homeless in Guyana. He stated that this issue would be addressed immediately after the official cancellation of the debt.

Sanz further provided information that Venezuela had allocated US$5.3 million to assist Guyana in the dredging of the mouths of some rivers and was at the time examining the possibility of providing financial assistance of US$20 million dollars for the electricity enhancement project in Guyana.

On the Cuyuni River incident, Insanally said that the destruction of the dredges in the Cuyuni River raised concerns among the Guyanese population and he stated that it was in both parties' interest that they should seek to eliminate such incidents. He proposed that a mechanism similar to that existing with Brazil and Suriname should be established to allow for easy contact between army personnel of Guyana and Venezuela to address similar situations. This he said would also eliminate the negative publicity created by the press. He suggested that Guyana and Venezuela should draft a memorandum of understanding to facilitate a joint collaboration, especially in relation to criminal activities.

During the meeting, Sanz expressed his country's regrets about the incursion into Guyana's territory on November 15, 2007 and assured that the destruction of the Guyanese dredges had no political motive on the part of the Venezuelan government but intimated that the acts were done as a result of a campaign that they were carrying out to preserve the environment in the border region. And to avoid similar occurrences in the future, the two sides agreed to create bilateral mechanisms to address the issue of mutual concern.

When he informed the National Assembly on 14 December of the results of the meeting with the Venezuelan delegation, Insanally explained that the joint working group, when set up, would examine measures for maintaining security and stability at the border so that further incursion of Guyana's territory by the Venezuelan military would not recur.

He also revealed that both countries favoured the restart at the earliest opportunity of the United Nations Secretary General "Good Officer" process which was suspended when Oliver Jackman died in January 2007.

Insanally said the two countries would consult on naming a replacement for Jackman in the process aimed at the search for a peaceful and practical settlement of the long-standing Guyana/Venezuela border controversy.

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In Venezuela, the daily El Universal on 1 February 2008 reported that Guyana would build three hydroelectric stations in Essequibo. The paper said:

The Guyana government apparently is acting based on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's words in 2004 when he said he had no problem if Guyana gave licenses for projects "in the zone under reclamation".

The projects-currently in the phase of feasibility studies-are the Turtruba hydroelectric powerhouse, on Mazaruni River, which would be built by Trinidad & Tobago's Enma; the Devil's Hole hydroelectric plant, on Cuyuni River, to be constructed by Guyana Goldfields, Inc.; and a large powerhouse on High Mazaruni, which was designed by two Japanese firms, with the feasibility study being conducted by the Russian Aluminium Company.

The construction of the hydroelectric dam on High Mazaruni has a special connotation in the history of the Venezuelan complaint. The dam has been in Guyana's plans since the 1970's. In 1981, the determination of the Venezuelan diplomacy stopped Georgetown from building the plant.

El Universal quoted Dr. Sadio Garavini as saying that Chavez's statement [in 2004] that he would not object to the investments in the Essequibo, caused Venezuela "to lose the most important tool at its disposal for Venezuela to reach agreement on the territory." According to Garavini, with Chavez's public declaration, "nobody seems to have drawbacks in investing in the Essequibo," and, further, "the claim has been weakened to such an extent that Guyana appears to have no reason to discuss the border issue bordering with Venezuela."

The Venezuelan daily also noted that the Ambassador of Brazil in Georgetown, Arthur Meyes, recently announced that the Brazilian company BioCapital planned to invest US$300 million in the purchase of about 50,000 hectares of land in Essequibo for the cultivation of sugar cane and ethanol production.


On 15 February 2008, Insanally, speaking to the media at the Foreign Service Institute of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, announced that the Guyana government had proposed a nominee to succeed the late Oliver Jackman to the United Nations Good Officer process and hoped that he could be confirmed by Secretary General Ban Ki Moon in September. He said the Guyanese Foreign Ministry sent a note to the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry proposing a candidate to act as a Good Officer on the border controversy, but Venezuela had not yet responded. He explained that the two sides would have to agree on the nominee, following which the UN Secretary General would announce the name.

The name proposed was that of Dr. Norman Girvan, a Jamaican professor, who previously served as Secretary General of the Association of Caribbean States from 2001 to 2006. However, this information was not revealed by Insanally.

He also announced that Guyana would be extending its maritime limits to 350 miles, explaining that this would not encroach on the territorial limits of neighbouring countries.

Commenting on the bombing of two dredges by the Venezuelan army in November 2007, he was of the opinion that the owners would have to overcome several hurdles in their bid to receive compensation. He admitted that compensation would prove a complex issue, with legal advice needed from the Attorney General, among other bodies, on the way forward. The difficulty, he explained, was based in the fact that the claim involved parties from another country while the aggrieved victims were based in Guyana. But he was unaware of any claims for compensation being made by the local miners.

He disclosed that, following meetings with the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, the DGF and Police, Guyana had established a strong case which proved that Venezuela was in breach.


Meanwhile, the arbitral tribunal's decision on the Guyana-Suriname maritime boundary continued to attract attention in the Venezuelan media. El Universal on 26 February 2008 published this comment on the award and its effects on the Venezuelan territorial claim to Guyana's western Essequibo region:

Lack of action affects dispute over Essequibo

Ending 2007, Suriname and Guyana set their land borders and maritime boundaries under an arbitration award-a fact that went unnoticed in Venezuela, and even worse in the Venezuelan government.

Based on a document entitled Geographic Configuration, Third Part, prepared by retired admiral Elías Daniels, the director of the special office for Guyana in the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry, under the arbitration award last September 17, "a new maritime boundary was created" for Venezuela, Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados, Guyana and Suriname.

According to Daniels, following the arbitral award, "now, the sea and undersea areas to be negotiated and apportioned (between Guyana and Venezuela) have been diminished significantly."

Under the award, the maritime space to be negotiated by Guyana and Venezuela comprises an area with an outer edge of some 127 nautical miles. Before the award, the area was not defined.

The Suriname-Guyana award sets a zone called Devonshire Castle Flat-located inside the area Venezuela is reclaiming-as the point to estimate the equidistance to establish the maritime boundary between Suriname and Guyana. This aspect went unnoticed to the Venezuelan government. However, the Suriname government did detect the issue and rejected the use of such point, given the ancient Venezuelan claim. However, the arbitration court dismissed Suriname's protest, and rather endorsed Guyana's thesis that Suriname belongs to the Caribbean Community (Caricom) and therefore supports Caricom's stance, which endorses Guyana's sovereignty over the disputed territory.

Furthermore, Guyana argued that its land border with Venezuela was established by a qualified international court in 1899. Reference was made to the Paris Arbitration Award, which Venezuela declared null and void-a step that has kept the dispute over the Essequibo alive.

According to Sadio Garavini, a former Venezuelan Ambassador to Guyana, Venezuela should have released a statement stressing that Suriname was making a protest taking into consideration Venezuela's claim over the Essequibo. "This opportunity should have been seized from the political standpoint, to set a legal precedent. The fact that Venezuela said nothing was a serious mistake, and even worse it shows that the country is dropping its claim."

For his part, Admiral Daniels, noted that although the findings, considerations and decisions of the award between Guyana and Suriname are binding, Venezuela must make it clear that the territorial dispute exists and that currently governs by the Geneva Agreement of February 17, 1966.

He added that the judgement brings some complications, product of the "inaction and lack of timely action", which reiterates that "sovereignty must be exercised, preserved and claimed by actions and proceedings necessary to express willingness and determination."

Venezuela, thus misses the opportunity to stress that its claim was still in force and that nothing to what Guyana and Suriname agree would affect its position. That was precisely what the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1900 did, after the judgement of the award in Paris between British Guiana and Venezuela in 1899. From the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry there was no answer to the request for information on the subject.


In an address to the Guyana National Assembly during the budget debate Insanally, on 5 March 2008, said that with increasing hemispheric integration, such as the Union of South American Nations, Venezuela's long standing claim to the Essequibo region has become "obsolete and anachronistic."

"One cannot speak of a unified Latin America and the Caribbean and at the same time maintain spurious territorial claims," Insanally declared.

He described Guyana-Venezuela relations as a paradox, and said the persistent threat to this country's sovereignty by Venezuela inhibited development on both sides of the Essequibo border.

He painted a picture of contrast:

On the one hand, Caracas lends crucial development assistance, such as the PetroCaribe deal for cheap fuel and the proposal of a gas pipe line, but on the other hand still maintains its claim to the Essequibo region.

But he told the Assembly that Guyana's policy continued to be dialogue and negotiations and would take this route in the search for "all possible means to rid Guyana of this unhelpful controversy once and for all."

He noted that the two sides were negotiating agreements to govern the actions of both parties when there is a threat to stability and security at the border. He referred to the incursion by Venezuelan military in November 2007 when a contingent of Venezuelan military personnel bombed the mining dredges, and later carried out unauthorised over-flights in Guyana's airspace.

This incident, he added, "inhibited the march of progress", but this situation led to the revitalisation of diplomatic efforts to reduce conflict and misunderstanding and to maximise the prospects for a peaceful settlement of the controversy.


And as a sign of growing cooperation and understanding, the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, by a diplomatic note on 6 March 2008 to the Embassy of Guyana in Caracas, formally announced the cancelled the outstanding US12.5 million debt owed by Guyana to Venezuela.

In April 2008, Insanally resigned as Minister of Foreign Affairs due to ill health and he was succeeded by Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, who previously served as Minister of Amerindian Affairs.

In June 2008, Guyana proposed to Britain to put its rainforest on a program for the rebalancing of the environment in exchange for financial assistance. The proposal, as reported in El Universal on 7 July, planned to put under British control "216,000 square kilometres of forest of which Venezuela claims ownership of 159,500 square kilometres that make up part of Essequibo."

The initiative was proposed by Guyana's President Bharrat Jagdeo, who fended off accusations from opposition parties that Guyana would be surrendering its sovereignty. Jagdeo firmly stated that "the sovereignty of Guyana on our rainforest is not negotiable."

These territorial areas mentioned by El Universal were grossly exaggerated since the quoted figure of 216,000 square kilometres would account for Guyana's entire land area, including areas without forest. At the same time, if 159,500 square kilometres represented the area of Venezuela's claim, that would amount to nearly three-quarters of Guyana and much more than the area of the entire Essequibo region!

The article expressed concern that the Venezuelan Foreign Affairs Ministry had not issued a statement on the matter.

It continued:

The former head of the Venezuelan Embassy in Guyana and scholar of the topic of Essequibo, Ambassador Sadio Garavini, said that Venezuela's government should comment on this.

He assured that the mere announcement by the Guyanese government would have resulted in a quick diplomatic response from the pre-Chavez governments.

"Venezuela should study the agreement and say something; if you analyse it and agree it is positive from the ecological point of view, Venezuela must make clear its position on its interests," he said.

Garavini feels that it is necessary to know the terms of the agreement which seeks to provide Guyana with a payment in exchange for protecting the forest, because there are funds in the world providing for that. He wants to know if this is an agreement to a company that is involved in sustainable development while maintaining the ecological foundations of the territory.

For Garavini, the unilateral transfer of territory by Guyana originated in the statements of President Hugo Chavez that he has no problem with investments in the Essequibo. He added that this new development is one of the forms of deterioration of the status quo to Guyana, which has possession of the territory.

"By losing that negotiating tool there is no greater interest of Guyana to negotiate anything; rather President Chavez has said that the entire claim is the result of US pressure as part of a Cold War. . ."


Meanwhile, Raphael Trotman, the leader of the small opposition party, the AFC, expressed anti-Venezuelan sentiments on 3 August by stating that unless Venezuela renounced its claim to the western Essequibo, no Venezuela-built road or gas pipeline should not be allowed to pass through Guyana. He was making belated comments on the report from the PetroCaribe summit of 2007 that Venezuela was planning to build a gas pipeline across Guyana to Suriname, and a road from eastern Venezuela into Guyana as part of the South America infrastructure project.

But Guyana's Minister of Foreign Affairs Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett on 7 December 2008 expressed Guyana's support for these projects and assured that Guyana's policy towards Venezuela, as with all of its neighbours, was premised on the principle of good neighbourly relations. Speaking in the National Assembly, she declared:

Our policy has not changed very much from what it has been in the past; [it] is based on mutual respect, the tenets of international law, and the fostering of deeper understanding. Guyana's policy with Venezuela is, therefore, aimed at ensuring closer relations and cooperation, based on mutual respect, the tenets of international law, and the fostering of deeper understanding at both the formal and informal levels.


On 12 May 2009, Guyana, through its Permanent Mission to the UN, provided information to the world body aimed at securing Guyana's entitlement to extend its continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles, in accordance with Article 76 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLCOS).

Up to that time, Guyana's preparation of its full submission to the UN was at an advanced stage, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that it would be submitted before the end of August 2009. The Ministry added that the provision of the information to the UN was made without prejudice to future maritime delimitation with neighbouring states. However, up to the end of 2009, Guyana had not yet made its final submission.

Under the provisions of UNCLCOS, coastal states, after meeting strictly specified technical and scientific criteria, could, exercise jurisdiction over a maximum of 150 nautical miles beyond the 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone.


On 11 July 2009, the Guyana's Foreign Minister, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett visited Caracas and held discussions with Maduro. She was accompanied by Keith George, Director of the Frontiers Division of the Guyana Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Heather Seelochan, First Secretary of the Guyana Embassy in Caracas.

The Venezuelan Minister was accompanied by Dario Morandy, Ambassador of Venezuela to Guyana, Temir Porras, Pui Leong and Jose Nicolas Rojas of the Office of the Vice-Minister responsible for Latin America and the Caribbean, and a representative of the PDVCaribe.

At the meeting, the following matters were discussed:

1. United Nations Good Offices Process: The Venezuelan Foreign Minister informed that Venezuela would support the nomination by Guyana of Professor Norman Girvan to the position of United Nations Good Officer. The only requirement lacking was Girvan's meeting with President Chavez. It was expected that within two weeks it would be possible to arrange a visit by Girvan to Venezuela.

Minister Rodrigues-Birkett expressed the hope that this matter could be resolved soon so that this issue could be discussed with the UN Secretary General during UN General Assembly in September.

2. Fifth Meeting of the Guyana-Venezuela High Level Bilateral Commission: It was agreed that the two sides would work towards the Fifth Meeting of the Guyana-Venezuela High Level Bilateral Commission to be convened in Caracas during the first two weeks in November of 2009. Venezuela's Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Arias Cardenas would be responsible on the Venezuelan side for arranging this meeting.

3. Mixed Commission on Drugs: It was agreed that there was an urgent need to convene this meeting. The Venezuelan Foreign Minister noted that Venezuela made important progress in this area and was willing to share technology and mechanisms with Guyana.

4. Dredging of Rivers: It was noted that a study was carried out by a Venezuelan team and that persons from both sides should be appointed to review the project. Maduro indicated that a representative from PetroCaribe would be appointed to review the study which would be available in a week and that if technical and cost factors remained the same that the two sides could move ahead on the project. Rodrigues-Birkett explained that the Ministry of Agriculture was responsible for this project and that the information would be provided by Guyana within a week.

Maduro opined that this could be a project of permanent cooperation and proposed the idea of the establishment of a joint company to work in this area. Rodrigues-Birkett welcomed this proposal.

5. Guyana- Venezuela Road Link: Maduro said that the plans for the Venezuela-Guyana road link should be reactivated. It was noted that there was agreement for a feasibility study and that the modalities for the study had to be finalised. He informed that resources would be available through IIRSA for the study. He proposed that a meeting of the technical team be held on 22 July 2009 in the office of the Minister of Infrastructure of Venezuela. This proposal was accepted by Guyana.

6. PetroCaribe Projects: The representative from PDVCaribe, who was part of the Venezuelan delegation, informed that Venezuela had proposed the establishment of a joint venture company which was communicated to Guyana's Prime Minister Samuel Hinds in 2008. Venezuela was still awaiting a response to this proposal.

(a) Shelter for Homeless People: This project would cost US$2 million with 50 percent of the total cost having already been provided. The land was already been provided by Guyana and Venezuela was of the view that this project should be accelerated. The Guyanese Minister informed that the Ministry of Public Works was in the process of working on the design for the building.

(b) Construction of Venezuela-Guyana-Suriname Gas Pipeline: Maduro informed that this pipeline, estimated at 1,000 kilometres in length, would cost US$1 billion. This project would be within the framework of a wider project dealing with liquefied natural gas in the Caribbean and teams were already conducting surveys in the region. In March, this project was approved by the Minister of Energy and Mines, and a High Level Commission was established. Maduro further stated that this was a strategic project for integration of the region. He was of the view that the establishment of a Subcommittee on Energy within the Guyana-Venezuela High Level Bilateral Commission was important. He also promised to provide Guyana with further information on this project.

(c) Power Generation Project: The representative from PDVCaribe informed that this project would be financed by Guyana's petroleum bill. Maduro indicated that a fund for joint financing, with the objective financing of these kinds of projects, was created at the last PetroCaribe summit in St. Kitts. He suggested that discussions could be held with PetroCaribe with respect to the continuation of these projects.

7. Memorandum of Understanding on Illegal Fishing: Rodrigues-Birkett expressed Guyana's interest in concluding the memorandum of understanding on illegal fishing, which would assist both countries in addressing issues related to the detention of fishing boats. She noted that there were two drafts of the memorandum and that the countries should work towards finalising the text and signing it.

Maduro indicated that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Venezuela and the Fishing Institute of Venezuela were responsible for this issue.

It was agreed that the two sides would meet on July 22 in Venezuela to discuss this issue.

8. Project of Improving the Cold Chain for Non-Traditional and Dairy Sectors under the ALBA Food Project Fund: Rodrigues-Birkett expressed Guyana's gratitude for the funding provided for this project.

9. Conclusion: In conclusion, Maduro noted that the meeting was productive with a number of important bilateral issues being discussed and with agreements being reached on the convening of several meetings. He extended an invitation for President Jagdeo to visit Venezuela before the end of the year. He stated that President Chavez had instructed that there be open communication and close relations with Guyana and reiterated Venezuela's willingness to establish a solid base for relations and to have more regular and permanent communication channels.


As a follow-up to this meeting, Keith George of the Guyana Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on 22 July, held discussions in Caracas with officials of the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs on draft Memorandum of Understanding on illegal fishing. On the same day, Tarachand Balgobin, Head of the Project Cycle Management Division of the Guyana Ministry of Finance, discussed with officials of the Venezuelan Ministry of Infrastructure the plans for the Venezuela-Guyana road project. However, the HLBC meeting proposed to be held before the end of 2009 did not take place.


There were hopes that the Guyanese and Venezuelan Foreign Ministers would meet with the UN Secretary General in mid-September and that that Dr. Norman Girvan would be officially named as the UN Good Officer to continue discussions with both countries on the existing controversy. However, this did not occur. But on 8 October, the two Ministers eventually met with the UN Secretary General, Ban-Ki-Moon in New York and made a joint recommendation for the appointment of Girvan.

At the same time, they expressed their determination to work towards a peaceful resolution of the controversy and renewed their commitment to strengthen the relations existing between their two countries. They also welcomed the Secretary-General's personal commitment to assist the two countries and his undertaking to appoint a new personal representative-the Good Officer-to advance the process.

Girvan was finally appointed to the post on 20 April 2010.


In July 2009, the Guyana Embassy in Caracas initiated contacts with the Venezuelan Ministry of Agriculture to purchase rice from Guyana. This interest to sell rice to Venezuela was emphasised by President Jagdeo when he met in mid-September with President Chavez in New York during the period of the UN General Assembly. Chavez, on his part, said that he would instruct his Agriculture Ministry to proceed with the purchasing negotiations.

On 27 September on the conclusion of the Africa-South America summit on Margarita Island, Venezuela, Guyana's Foreign Minister Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett and Ambassador Ishmael met with Venezuela's Agriculture Minister Elias Jaua who informed them that arrangements were being made for a delegation to travel in October to Guyana to finalise the arrangements for the rice purchase.

Eventually, on 21 October the Venezuelan officials travelled to Guyana, met with officials of the Guyana Ministry of Agriculture, and signed a US$18.8 million (G$3.7 billion) agreement for the purchase 50,000 tonnes of local cargo rice. The General Manager of the Guyana Rice Development Board, Jagnarine Singh, signed the agreement with Colonel Rodolfo Marco Torres, the leader of the Venezuelan trade team at the Ministry of Agriculture. The arrangement was for 10,000 tonnes of white rice and 40,000 tonnes of paddy to be exported to Venezuela. On the completion of the shipment of this quantity, the understanding was that another contract would be negotiated for further purchase. During the discussions, the two sides also proposed to explore the expansion of trade in other areas apart from rice.

The first shipment of this initial purchase arrived in Venezuela at the end of December 2009.


Following up on the Ministerial meeting in July, a delegation from Guyana comprising former Commissioner of Police, Floyd McDonald who represented the Ministry of Home Affairs; Seelall Persaud, Assistant Commissioner and Head of the Criminal Investigation Department of the Guyana Police Force; and James Singh, Head of the Customs Anti Narcotics Unit, attended a meeting in Caracas on 4-5 November 2009 to discuss with officials of the National Anti-Drugs Office (ONA) of Venezuela the problems associated with drug trafficking.

The Guyana delegation was augmented by Ambassador Odeen Ishmael as head of the delegation and Heather Seelochan (First Secretary) and Roxanne Vandeyar (Executive Officer) of the Guyana Embassy in Caracas. The meeting was held with the ONA's headquarters in Caracas.

The Venezuelan delegation comprised Manuel Gonzalez, Director of ONA, Rafael Sanchez (Director of Demand Reduction), Lillimar Chinea (International Analyst), Aleida Guedez (Treatment Specialist), Mercedes Mazzei of the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Mauro Leoni as translator.

Initially, this meeting was designated as that of the long-overdue Mixed Commission on Drugs, but after the Venezuelan side pointed out that the agreement of 1987 on the establishment of the Mixed Commission on Drugs had lapsed and had not been officially renewed, a decision was taken to title the meeting as the "Working Meeting on Drugs." The head of the Venezuelan delegation subsequently stated that his government would present the draft of a new agreement to the Guyana government.

During the meeting many issues of mutual interest in the fight against drugs were discussed. The matters ranged from mutual cooperation to the exchange of information and thirteen items were identified for follow up action to be taken by both countries. These items included the establishment of a mechanism to monitor cross-border criminal activities; the interdiction of illicit drug precursors transported across the two jurisdictions; mutual assistance in money laundering investigations; the provision of Venezuelan technical assistance in the acquisition of narco-detection equipment; and the training in Venezuela of Guyanese law enforcement officers in the Spanish language.

It was agreed by both delegations that the cooperation between the two countries to combat the drug trade should be strengthened and intensified.


Meanwhile, on 2 November 2009, the Venezuelan-aided US$2 million project for the construction of a shelter to house homeless persons at Onverwagt, West Coast Berbice, finally commenced with the signing of the construction contracts at the building site. Among those witnessing the signing were Minister of Transport and Hydraulics, Robeson Benn, Minister of Human Services and Social Security Priya Manickchand, Venezuelan Ambassador to Guyana Dario Morandy and officials from Petroleum of Venezuela (PDVSA). Morandy stated that with the signing of the contract, both governments were taking an important step not only with the project construction but as a pact between the two countries.


On 27 May, 2010, Dr. Norman Girvan, the UN Good Officer, who had arrived in Guyana the previous day, met with Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He was accompanied by Elio Tamburi, Senior Political Affairs Officer, Department of Political Affairs, Secretariat of the United Nations.

The Foreign Minister congratulated the internationally renowned, Jamaican born economist on the appointment saying, "the fact that Guyana and Venezuela could have so readily agreed to your nomination for the post of Personal Representative is testimony of the high regard, faith and confidence that both States repose in you. Guyana is certainly happy that the Secretary-General agreed with our nominee and has also demonstrated the same confidence by appointing you to the post."

She reiterated the Government of Guyana's commitment to the Good Offices process and offered Professor Girvan all the relevant support to execute his mandate. Girvan on the following day paid a courtesy call on Prime Minister Samuel Hinds in the absence of President Jagdeo who was away from the country. Later the same day, he held discussions with Ralph Ramkarran, Guyana's facilitator in the Good Offices process.

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On 21 July 2010, President Bharrat Jagdeo made a one-day state visit to Venezuela. He was accompanied by Minister of Foreign Affairs Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee, Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud and Director General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Elisabeth Harper. In Caracas, they were joined by Ambassador Odeen Ishmael and Roxanne Vandeyar, executive officer of the Guyana Embassy in Venezuela.


Upon his arrival in the Venezuelan capital, Jagdeo laid a wreath at the statue of Simon Bolivar and was given the symbolic "key to the city" by Jorge Rodriguez, the Mayor of the Libertador municipality within the city of Caracas, while the Head of Government of the Capital District Jacqueline Fariapresented him with a parchment accrediting him as an illustrious guest of the city.

Immediately after, Jagdeo and his delegation commenced discussions at the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry on a range of trade, infrastructural, aid and security issues with a Venezuelan team headed by Nicolas Maduro, the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Following a working lunch, the Guyana delegation moved to Miraflores, the presidential palace, where the Guyanese president was welcomed by President Chavez and a full guard of honour. This was followed soon after by the formal meeting between the Guyana delegation and President Chavez and his team of ministers.

After intense but cordial discussions, the two sides agreed on the texts of four agreements which were signed by representative ministers of both countries. These agreements were: a) a letter of commitment between the Venezuelan Ministry for Food and the Guyanese Ministry of Agriculture for the continued purchase of rice from Guyana; b) a memorandum of understanding between the Venezuelan Ministry for Energy and Petroleum and the Guyanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the supply of urea; c) a memorandum of understanding between the Venezuelan Ministry for Energy and Petroleumand the Guyanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the supply of Jet A fuel; and d) a memorandum of understanding between the Venezuelan and Guyanese governments for the creation of a committee for the prevention, investigation and settlement of fishing incidents.


At the end of the meeting, the following statement signed by Chavez and Jagdeo was issued:

Joint Statement of Presidents Hugo Chavez Frias and BharratJagdeo on the Occasion of the Official Visit of the President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Caracas, July 21, 2010

The President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez Frias and the President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, Bharrat Jagdeo, meeting on the historical occasion of the first official visit of President Jagdeo to Venezuela, expressed their satisfaction over the current status of the relations between Guyana and Venezuela which were founded on the principles of solidarity, cooperation and complementarities. They discussed issues of mutual interest on the global and regional agenda and reviewed the bilateral programme of cooperation.

President Hugo Chavez Frias and President Bharrat Jagdeo:

1. Verified the good level at which relations are developing between the two countries, which consolidate and fortify on the basis of the principles of solidarity, cooperation and complementarities.

2. Mandated their respective Foreign Ministers to work on the convening of the V High Level Bilateral Commission Meeting (COBAN) to be held in Caracas.

3. Expressed their determination to advance the necessary arrangements to execute the Feasibility Study and the Environmental Impact Study of the Venezuela-Guyana Road Link (Tumeremo to Georgetown), as a necessary undertaking for development and integration between both countries, in particular putting in place the process in the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) for the selection of consultants. In that context they agreed to instruct the Guyana-Venezuela joint technical working group on the proposed Guyana-Venezuela road link to immediately commence discussions with the Caribbean Development Bank with a view to having that institution act as the conduit for the resources for the conduct of the pre- and feasibility studies on the proposed road link. Both Heads of State emphasised that the pre- and feasibility studies were critical to considerations for the advancement of the proposal.

4. Expressed their satisfaction over the effective functioning of the petroleum cooperation programme under the PetroCaribe scheme. Likewise, they welcomed the progress of the social project financed through the ALBA-Caribe Fund, concerning the construction of the Centre for Rehabilitation and Reintegration for Homeless Persons.

5. President Jagdeo expressed his appreciation at the timely decision of the Venezuelan government to purchase Guyanese rice, which has brought benefit to the small farmers of the rice industry, highlighting the values of fair trade.

6. Noted the progress of the project for the improvement of the cold chain or non-traditional agricultural and dairy products, from which small Guyanese producers would benefit by having access to markets further afield.

7. The Venezuelan President informed his Guyanese counterpart of the recent approval of the necessary resources for carrying out the exercise of updating the hydrographical data of the Mahaica, Mahaicony, and Abary rivers in Guyana, needed to execute the dredging works in cooperation with Venezuela.

8. They recognised the help that regional and sub-regional organisations can offer for the peaceful resolution of local controversies, and for preventive diplomacy. In this sense, they highlighted the value and importance of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) as a mechanism for consensus and an effective political space to solve the differences in South America, reinforcing their commitment for their development and consolidation. The Venezuelan President congratulated his Guyanese counterpart for the recent appointment of his country to assume the Pro Tempore Chairmanship of this regional organisation, and confirmed his participation in the next Summit to be held in Georgetown in August this year.

9. President Jagdeo announced his government's willingness to buy 100 VENIRAN tractors, in a demonstration of the commitment to intensify the commercial links between both countries.

10. Expressed their satisfaction over the signing of the following bilateral Agreements which would pave the way for enhanced cooperation between their two countries in different fields: a) Letter of Commitment between the Ministry of the People's Power for Food of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the Ministry of Agriculture of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana; b) Memorandum of Understanding between the People's Ministry for Energy and Petroleum of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana for the supply of urea; c) Memorandum of Understanding between the People's Ministry for Energy and Petroleum of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana for the supply of Jet A fuel; and d) Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the Government of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana for the creation of a Committee for the Prevention, Investigation and Settlement of Fishing Incidents.

11. Finally, they affirmed their confidence in the Good Offices process as a mechanism that would assist the Parties to advance towards a practical and satisfactory solution for the border controversy, without affecting good bilateral and regional relations. In this sense, both Presidents welcomed the appointment and expressed their confidence in the work of Professor Norman Girvan as the Personal Representative of the United Nations Secretary General responsible for the Good Offices process. President Chavez announced the designation of Ambassador Roy Chaderton as the facilitator for Venezuela. President Jagdeo announced the designation of the Honourable Ralph Ramkarran as Guyana's facilitator.

President Bharrat Jagdeo expressed his sincere gratitude to President Hugo Chavez and the Venezuelan people, on his own behalf and on behalf of his delegation for the kindness and hospitality received, during his visit to the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

Signed in the city of Caracas on July 21, 2010.

Hugo Chavez Frias
President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

Bharrat Jagdeo
President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana

In a brief address at the signing ceremony, Jagdeo pointed to the relationship between the two states and thanked President Chavez and the people of Venezuela for their contribution to the Caribbean, especially Haiti. President Chavez said Venezuela's relationship with Guyana was moving beyond the diplomatic realm, citing the possible establishment of an oil pipeline to Guyana which could also supply Suriname.

He added: "We've been able to place our relationship beyond the border problems to work in areas that are vital to the development of both countries, and we cannot allow the Essequibo disagreement to turn us into countries that turn their backs on each other."

And commenting on the agreements reached, Chavez in response said, "This makes us feel more committed to South American integration." He also congratulated President Jagdeo for his "astute financial leadership," and extended best wishes to him on his chairmanship of the UNASUR.


Two days after the visit to Venezuela, Jagdeo at a media conference in Georgetown reported that as a result of the discussions in Caracas, Guyana managed to extend the existing rice agreement which would see an exportation of 50,000 tonnes of paddy and 20,000 tonnes of white rice, which the President said would give farmers in Guyana greater security that there would be the availability of a ready market in Venezuela.

He also disclosed that the possibility of purchasing fertilizers such as urea which might be obtained at a cheaper rate in Venezuela.

Focus was also placed on the possibility of purchasing aviation fuel, which Jagdeo said the Guyana Oil Company would have to pursue. He explained that the reason for this was because Guyana was paying twice as much for fuel than what was being paid at the John F. Kennedy Airport in New York. As such, since the country was also seeking to establish its own national flag carrier airline, it would require access to cheaper fuel in order to stay competitive.

Jagdeo added that tractors produced in Venezuela could also be purchased at reasonably competitive rates and these could be obtained for Amerindian communities and for the Guyana Sugar Corporation.

With regard to fuel purchases from Venezuela, he said that Guyana would become an observer of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), which would entitle the country to increase the amount of fuel received from Venezuela through the PetroCaribe agreement from 5,000 barrels to 10,000 barrels a day.

He added that the border issue between the two countries was discussed and that both parties were happy that Dr. Norman Girvan was appointed as the UN Secretary General's Good Officer. Both countries at the Caracas presidential meeting had also named their facilitators for the process, and Jagdeo explained that UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon had indicated that he was prepared to extend the stint of Girvan if required.


Jagdeo's visit to Venezuela did not receive much advance media publicity; actually the media both in Guyana and Venezuela were taken by surprise since the announcement of the visit was made at the very last moment. However, the signing ceremony at the presidential palace was broadcast live on Venezuelan television.

In Guyana, the state and private media on the day after the visit reported on the agreements reached and the general view was that they would be beneficial to the country.

However, the privately-owned Stabroek News, a bitter critic of Chavez, in the following editorial on 25 July commented on the outcome of the visit and what it viewed as ideological implications:

Caracas Visit

Considering that as far as the public was concerned Venezuela has not been on the foreign policy radar for so long, last Wednesday's visit by President Bharrat Jagdeo to Caracas came as something of a surprise. As it was, the outcome of the meeting with his Venezuelan counterpart covered a wide span. There were, of course, the usual trade agreements, including one for the supply of Jet A1 fuel and the revivification of the dredging project for the Mahaica, Mahaicony and Abary Rivers, which dates back to 2005. The proposal now is to update the hydrographical data preliminary to this. There was also mention of the social project involving a centre for the homeless and the obligatory meeting of the high level bilateral commission; however, none of this is exceptional. Some of the other announcements, in contrast, were a source for greater unease.

The one which stands out in particular, was the communication from President Chavez in the first instance, subsequently confirmed in Georgetown, that Guyana is to become an observer in ALBA. As we reported on Friday, the Venezuelan head of state added that he would discuss Suriname joining the organisation with President Bouterse of Suriname. Where Guyana is concerned, one can only presume that observer status is a prelude to full membership in due course, but either way, it has huge implications for this country.

In the first place, it puts President Jagdeo's jaunts to nations like Iran in context, and corroborates an earlier suspicion held by some that Guyana's foreign policy had changed direction in a fairly radical way. The ALBA grouping espouses socialism, and counts among its members countries not noted for their commitment to democratic principles. While some Eastern Caribbean states have been seduced into joining for economic reasons, it could hardly be claimed that the aims of the organisation are compatible with the Treaty of Chaguaramas or that membership of it does not undermine Caricom at some level.

There is nothing very socialist about the Co-operative Republic at the moment, but no nation which becomes a full satellite of our western neighbour while Miraflores' current incumbent is in office, will be allowed to operate in defiance of the doctrines which ALBA espouses. So is the government's long-term intention to resuscitate the economic mantra of an earlier era, and move in the company of those of a like mind, never mind how undemocratic they might be? At the very least, if Guyana ever became fully entrapped in the ALBA system, it will eventually lead to it having to vote with its fellow members in all international fora and to following the lead of Mr. Chavez, whether that means condemning the "evil empire," or supporting Iran on the nuclear issue. In other words, certain critical aspects of our foreign policy would be set in Caracas, not in Georgetown.

As an observer at meetings of the grouping, Guyana will be able to join the ALBA bank, and in the words of the Venezuelan President which we quoted in our Friday edition, "seek funding and solutions to scourges such as poverty and hunger." Was it the prospect of possible new funding sources which induced President Jagdeo to take the first step to locking this country into orbit around Venezuela, or are there other things in play as well?

It is worth remembering that islands like Dominica have paid a heavy price for accepting Venezuelan largesse, not the least of which is relinquishing the claim to Bird Island, which expands Venezuela's exclusive economic zone considerably, and diminishes not just Dominica's, but that of other Caricom territories as well. It has allowed Caracas to challenge Barbados's earlier declared intention to issue exploratory licences in a part of its EEZ, although admittedly the present Barbadian government has indicated it will not be pursuing oil exploration there now. As it is, however, some of the islands which are being assisted under the PetroCaribe arrangements have been effectively prevented from potentially exploiting hydrocarbons in what could otherwise have been their own waters. One would have thought that helping them develop their own resources might have been the more genuinely socialist approach, rather than making them dependent for fuel on Venezuela.

The problem in Guyana's case is that all agreements with our western neighbour occur within the context of the spurious Venezuelan claim to Essequibo. This is not to suggest that there should be no trade deals and cultural exchanges, etc., with Caracas; far from it. However, it does mean that a long-term view has to be taken of all accords, to see how they could affect us down the line if the situation becomes less benign than it is at present. President Jagdeo's government seems to have been lulled into a sense of security because as far as can be seen, President Chávez appears to have done a volte face, and abandoned the belligerence of his early years of office. However, the opposition in his country takes the traditional view of the claim, as do, no doubt, even some of those in the head of state's own party. Bilateral pacts cannot guarantee change to the context for the longer term; at some point, Mr. Chavez will have to leave office, and neither Guyanese nor Venezuelans have any idea who might succeed him or what their position on the border controversy would be.

But there are many ways for Miraflores to try and achieve its ends without sabre rattling or things of that ilk. First there is the proposed pipeline project to supply oil to Guyana and Suriname, which the Venezuelan President indicated he was anxious to advance. Again one has to wonder, if the objective of this government is to develop a local oil industry, why should we be seeking to make ourselves dependent on Venezuela for fuel? It is not as if once a pipeline is constructed at enormous expense, we could then abandon it some years later because we were in a position to exploit our own hydrocarbon resources; that would surely precipitate a major crisis with our neighbour. Leaving aside the environmental implications - which are enormous - if we intend to accept a pipeline, we are attaching ourselves to Caracas for the long term and placing an instrument for pressuring us in Venezuelan hands.

For good measure, Mr. Chavez offered to supply all Guyana's oil needs; at the moment Caracas provides about half. The current arrangement is sensible, since it reduces our level of dependency and makes it more difficult for the neighbouring government to use fuel as a lever at some future point. As for Venezuela, its economy has been experiencing difficulties, and its oil production has been declining in recent times, so even although Guyana's fuel needs are small, it is significant that the Venezuelan head of state should choose to be so generous at this point when he has been unable to fulfil all the earlier promises he made to some other countries.

And then of course, there is the road between Tumeremo and Georgetown, which the two Presidents in their joint statement demonstrated they were very anxious to expedite because it was important for "development and integration." The Georgetown-Brazil artery, which has not yet advanced from being a trail to a road, must nevertheless be a source of irritation to the Venezuelan President for a whole range of reasons. As has been said more than once before in these columns, a road to the west would bring us within the ambit of Venezuelan influence, and we would be unlikely at this point to be able to manage the consequences. Again, in addition the environmental impact would be enormous.

In the end, it is all about President Chavez's Bolivarian project to integrate South America and make the Caribbean Sea a Venezuelan pond. He must be aware by now that the former is a challenge too far, but that does not prevent him from trying to integrate the small states in the neighbourhood under the ALBA umbrella. Why quarrel about Essequibo if the whole of Guyana can gravitate to the Venezuelan sphere?

Finally, there was one slightly curious inclusion in the joint statement, and that was the acknowledgement at point 8, that "regional and sub-regional organs can offer [help] for the pacific resolution of local controversies, and for preventive diplomacy…"

At the same time in their final point, the leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the Good Offices process in seeking a resolution to the Venezuelan border controversy, seeming to rule out the possibility that point 8 referred to that. Moving the resolution process out from under the protection of the UN would undoubtedly be a huge mistake, but assuming that that was not intended, why would this point be included in a bilateral declaration unless it pertained to one of the two parties issuing the statement? Was it an allusion to a possible border settlement route for Guyana and Suriname perhaps, or was it just simply a bit of verbal fluff?

(With respect to the decision that Guyana would assume observer status in ALBA, up to end of 2010, the government had not made a formal request to do so and had also not participated in any meeting organised by the group.)


The Maritime Zones Bill which was tabled in the National Assembly on 15 October 2009 was finally approved on 9 August 2010 by the National Assembly and received favourable responses by Opposition members.

The bill, which benefited from extensive analysis and consultations at the level of a parliamentary sectoral committee, would provide for marine scientific research, maritime cultural areas, eco-tourism, marine parks and reserves, mariculture, the protection and preservation of the marine environment and other related matters.

Certain provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the United Nations Education Scientific Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) Convention were also incorporated in the legislation.

Speaking in the National Assembly, Foreign Minister Rodrigues-Birkett said that the committee held 11 meetings in order to bring the bill to fruition. She pointed out that before taking the bill to the select committee, legislation of other Caricom territories was consulted.

"This bill as amended in the select committee is a big step forward for Guyana and by extension for the Caribbean Community," she stated.

People's National Congress Reform (PNCR) member Aubrey Norton, in supporting the bill, highlighted that its passage would necessitate the building of human resources capacity and also pointed out that there was need to civil society and the general public on the provisions of the legislation.


The passing of this legislation received this detailed comment in the Venezuelan newspaper, El Nacional on 9 September 2010:

Guyana's government is getting ready to enact the Maritime Zones Bill 2009 - already approved by the Parliament - the content of which untowardly affects Venezuelan interests in the area.

The legal instrument set the guidelines on marine and submarine limits under the Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which Guyana is a party, but not Venezuela.

According to Guyana's Minister of Foreign Affairs Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, the bill tries "to safeguard the rights of Guyana over 200 miles of exclusive economic zone."

Under clause 35 of the law, "delimitation of the boundaries of territorial seas located between any States opposed or adjacent to Guyana, will be agreed between Guyana and said State; in the absence of an agreed upon solution, neither State is authorized to extend its territorial waters beyond the so-called midline."

In this regard, Venezuela's National Academy of Engineering and Habitat, in a newsletter, is certain that the proposal refers to "agreeing with Venezuela, because definition of (Guyana's) borders with Suriname was possible upon the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2007."

Delimitation of marine and submarine waters with Guyana is a pending task, because Venezuela insists on claiming the land portion to the west of river Essequibo, and under said law, Guyana sets guidelines to establish its maritime boundaries without taking into account the Venezuelan claim.

Further, the projection of the so-called midline harms Venezuela, because the outline of the geo-morphological inclination favours Guyana.

Clause 37 of the bill states that any disputes that may arise for failure to reach an agreement on delimitation between the parties will be settled under the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The so-called Convention sets forth in article 286 that in the event of not reaching a bilateral agreement, "any dispute concerning the interpretation or application of this Convention shall, where no settlement has been reached by recourse to section 1, be submitted at the request of any party to the dispute to the court or tribunal having jurisdiction under this section."

This runs counter to the spirit of the Geneva Agreement executed on February 16, 1966, which states as an objective "satisfactory solutions for the practical settlement of the controversy between Venezuela and the United Kingdom which has arisen as the result of the Venezuelan contention that the Arbitral Award of 1899 about the frontier between British Guiana and Venezuela is null and void."

Under international law, a practical settlement allows for political solutions, but the Maritime Zones Bill 2009 paves the way to resort to another jurisdiction, such as an international court, upon the decision of either party, not by common consent.

According to the Guyana Times, in its edition of August 11, the legal instrument will also legislate on territorial sea, internal waters, innocent passage, continental shelf, exclusive economic zone, maritime delimitation and geographical charts and coordinates, among other issues of interest for Venezuela.

Sources of the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs explained that they have not taken a stance yet on the law because it has not been enacted. However, in the event of being enacted, it will be refused by the Venezuelan government by diplomatic means. G. GUYANA'S RESPONSE

But according to the Guyana government, Venezuela's unhappiness, as expressed in the opinion column of El Nacional over an updated maritime law had no basis and was just a lot of fuss about an issue that would not affect that country's own sovereignty and territorial space.

On 10 September, Foreign Affairs Minister Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett pointed out that the Maritime Zone Bill was an updated one from 1977 and did not made any changes to areas of concerns raised in the newspaper's report. She insisted that the clauses in the new Bill, awaiting final enactment, remained virtually the same as the one of 1977.

She also explained that the bill set the guidelines on marine and submarine limits under the Convention on the Law of the Sea, to which Venezuela was not a party, while the aim of the bill was "to safeguard the rights of Guyana over 200 miles of exclusive economic zone."

The minister added that under Clause 35 of the law, "delimitation of the boundaries of territorial seas located between any states opposed or adjacent to Guyana, will be agreed between Guyana and said state; in the absence of an agreed-upon solution, neither state is authorised to extend its territorial waters beyond the so-called midline."

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Guyana-Venezuela relations continued smoothly at the start of the second decade of the twenty-first century, but there was one major diplomatic change when on 15 January 2011, Odeen Ishmael completed his term as Ambassador to Venezuela and departed for Kuwait where he took up the post as Guyana's first ambassador to the Mid-East nation. He was succeeded two months later by Geoffery Da Silva, a former cabinet minister and head of the Guyana Office for Investment.


But further developments occurred in September 2011 when Guyana moved to secure exclusive rights to the hydro-carbon and mineral deposits under the seabed, through the extension of its continental shelf. To this end, Guyana submitted on 6 September 2011 to the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS), through the UN Secretary General, all the relevant data with respect to its quest to extend its continental shelf by an extra 150 nautical miles from its current 200 nautical miles, in accordance with Article 76 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

On the following day, Minister of Foreign Affairs Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett at a news conference explained that Guyana's action was in "its interest and to ensure that, in the future, it has the legal basis to benefit from and to protect its rights."

The minister stated that Guyana's request to the UN was made without prejudice to any future delimitation of maritime boundaries with neighbouring States. She informed that an oral formal presentation of this request would be made to the Law of the Sea Commission at its session in April 2012 before a team of 21 commissioners. However, given the workload of the Commission, it would be sometime before the body would have the time to examine the submission and make recommendations on the outer limits of Guyana's extended continental shelf. But before making a decision, the Commission would have to examine all the technical work and seismic data submitted to make that determination, and should there be agreement on the request, Guyana would have to negotiate maritime boundaries with the neighbouring States.

Up to the time of the submission to the UN, Guyana could only benefit from the hydro-carbon or minerals under the seabed or fish in close contact with the seabed, but could not fish there as allowed in the exclusive economic zone.

Guyana signed on to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea on 10 December 1982, and it became a State Party to the Convention when it deposited the 60th Instrument of Ratification on 16 November 1993; and 12 months later, November 16, 1994, in accordance with Article 308, the Convention was entered into force.

Guyana acceded to the Agreement relating to the implementation of Part XI of the United Nations Convention (relating to the use of the resources of the continental shelf and the seabed) on 28 September 2008.

According to Minister Rodrigues, like other State Parties to the Convention on the Law of the Sea, Guyana in 2002 commissioned a desktop study to determine from data available locally and internationally whether the country met the basic criteria to claim for an extended continental shelf, and which, according to the provisions of the Convention, could be up to the limit of 150 nautical miles from the 200-mile outer limit of the exclusive economic zone.

A key objective for commissioning of the study, she noted, was to ensure that the commissioning of other more expensive works, including seismic data gathering that could cost millions of US dollars, would not be an exercise in futility.

The desk-top study, funded with the assistance of the Commonwealth Secretariat and conducted by Dr Galo Carrera-Hurtado, determined that Guyana met the criteria to claim an extended continental shelf.

As a consequence, in May 2009, Guyana provided initial information to the Secretary General of the United Nations regarding its claim to the extended continental shelf, and made the full submission on 6 September.

The minister recalled that in 2010 the Maritime Zone Act was put in force, adding that the promulgation of this comprehensive and modern legislation constituted another key component of the government's strategy aimed at ensuring that Guyana and its people can benefit from the resources in its maritime zones and to protect their rights to them.


Guyana's request to the UN drew a sharp response from the conservative Venezuelan newspaper, El Universal, on 13 September 2011. In an article written by Theis Reyes under the headline "Guyana seeks to extend its maritime domain," the paper stated:

The old Venezuelan claim to the Essequibo territory has not been able to gain a centimetre of that area, but on the other hand Guyana is trying to acquire a maritime space greater than it enjoys. Guyanese Foreign Minister Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, formalised last Tuesday at the United Nations a request to extend the continental shelf of the country by 150 miles (241 kilometres), which would mean an extension of its maritime domain.

Through a statement on the Guyana Foreign Ministry's web portal, Rodrigues Birkett shows that in 2002 a working group from that country was designated to conduct studies that would support the request for an increase of the platform, which is currently spread 200 miles and would expand to 350.

Already in 2009, Guyana submitted (its request) to the Secretary General of the UN and now all the documents and information for the application have been presented.

In the statement, the Foreign Minister explained that between 2008 and 2010 Guyana initiated consultations with Barbados, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago with respect to its application, but did not include Venezuela among the countries surveyed.

The request for extension of what they consider their maritime boundary will be raised by the Guyanese in April 2012 at the next session of the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.

"Guyana has acted according to their interests and has acted to ensure that in future they have the legal basis for their benefit and protect their rights," says the statement, and emphasises the economic importance of the area they intend to incorporate.

On the Guyanese claim the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry has said nothing publicly.

Venezuelan reaction

Ambassador Sadio Garavini, who headed the Venezuelan mission in Georgetown from 1980 to 1984, explains that in these cases the extent of the continental shelf is through a unilateral declaration. "It is like information which is provided to the effect that one is assuming the right that one already has."

He added that Venezuela's position must reject this extension, arguing that this is an area in which the country claims and have rights in that territory.

"This would be a good reason and a good time to push for negotiations," he said.

According to the ambassador when negotiations were "serious" Guyana informally offered its willingness to give Venezuela a very small area of land on the coast "but it gave the possibility of extending our territorial sea and exclusive economic zone, which is very important because it is rich in petroleum."

Consider that if Venezuela does not say anything about it, it would be a recognition that the area is Guyana's and said the government of Hugo Chavez has given one of the most important negotiating weapon was not withholding recognition of the investments made in the Essequibo territory by multinationals."

Currently in the maritime space claim, the investments are large oil transnationals. One such company, Canada's CGX Energy, conducts exploration activities and exploitation of hydrocarbons off the coast of the Delta Amacuro.

Garavini said that President Chavez has discredited the claim. In this connection, a cable from the U.S. Embassy in Georgetown February 2004 published by WikiLeaks, states that the Guyanese President Bharrat Jadgeo informed the US ambassador on duty that Chavez had said that the Venezuelan claim was spurious and the product of imperialist pressures.


The El Universal article drew the following editorial comment by the Guyana Stabroek News:

Nothing to negotiate

The recent statement by Foreign Minister Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett that Guyana has made a full submission of a claim to an extended continental shelf to the United Nations, in accordance with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), has elicited an interesting pair of responses in Venezuela - or rather, one interesting response and one interesting non-response.

In the latter instance, there has been no official reaction by the Venezuelan government. On the other hand, El Universal, a major Caracas daily generally regarded as conservative, appeared to take umbrage at this perfectly legitimate move to extend our continental shelf by up to 150 nautical miles from the 200 nautical mile outer limit of the existing exclusive economic zone. Venezuelan objections are, of course, rooted in that country's spurious and irritating claim to the Essequibo region and, by extension, the adjacent maritime zone, which has long been a hindrance to our development.

El Universal begins its September 13 article on a note of high indignation: "The old Venezuelan claim to the Essequibo territory has not been able to gain a centimetre of that area, but on the other hand Guyana is trying to acquire a maritime space greater than it enjoys." The newspaper goes on to report that the Venezuelan foreign ministry has not issued any public statement, in the absence of which, it turns to Sadio Garavini, the Venezuelan ambassador to Guyana from 1980 to 1984.

Mr. Garavini explains that, in such cases, the extension of the continental shelf is made known via a unilateral declaration: "It is like information which is provided to the effect that one is assuming the right that one already has." But then he adds that Venezuela should reject the extension, since the area under consideration is part of the so-called "Zone in Reclamation." It obviously escapes Mr. Garavini's attention that this term is itself a unilateral assertion, not supported by international law.

Moreover, Mr Garavini contends that since, in his view, Venezuela has rights to Essequibo, "this would be a good reason and a good moment to press for negotiations." Even more startling is his reported allegation that when there were "serious" negotiations, Guyana had indicated "informally that it was ready to give Venezuela a very small piece of territory on the coast." This would have offered Venezuela, in Mr. Garavini's words, "the possibility of extending our territorial sea and exclusive economic zone, which is very important because it is rich in petroleum."

It would be all too easy to dismiss this unsubstantiated recollection as the ramblings of an embittered, former diplomat put out to grass by President Chávez, but Mr. Garavini is remembered as an intelligent and energetic ambassador. There has to be another reason for such a position and it most probably lies in the complex domestic political situation prevailing in the 'Bolivarian Republic.'

Mr. Garavini is a known critic of Mr. Chávez and his government. In this regard, he assails the Venezuelan president for having delegitimized the Venezuelan claim by saying to President Jadgeo, according to a February 2004 US Embassy cable published by WikiLeaks, that it was "spurious and the product of imperialist pressures." Mr Garavini believes, furthermore, that for Venezuela to say nothing now would be a tacit recognition that the area is Guyana's and that Mr. Chávez's government has already ceded one of the most important weapons of negotiation by not withholding recognition of the investments made by transnational corporations in the Essequibo region.

This view of Mr. Chávez's seemingly benign disposition towards Guyana notwithstanding, no comfort should be taken from the official silence of the Venezuelan government thus far. The history of our relationship with our western neighbour shows that domestic political pressures have a way of rekindling nationalistic ogling of Essequibo. And the online reactions to El Universal's article have been unanimous in their anger at Mr. Chávez for allowing Guyana to hold on to and develop Essequibo.

We must therefore be vigilant with regard to the political dynamics in Venezuela and the popular belief in the righteousness of their false claim. The move by our government to protect our territorial rights and developmental interests, from the northwest to the Corentyne, in accordance with international law is correct. We must be equally unanimous in our support for such a course of action.

From our perspective, there is, of course, nothing to negotiate, no concessions to be made. Nor can Venezuela seek a negotiation on the extension of our continental shelf or the delimitation of our maritime borders, when it has chosen to remain outside the international legal framework of UNCLOS. And any solution to the border controversy has to remain within the multilateral ambit of the Good Officer process under the auspices of the UN Secretary General.


El Universal continued its campaign against Guyana's proposed expansion of the continental shelf in its issue of 22 September 2011. It reported that Aníbal Martínez, the head of non-governmental organisation Instituto de Defensa del Petróleo (Institute for the Defence of Oil), thought that Guyana's request to extend its continental shelf from 200 miles to 350 miles represented "the culmination of a series of hostile acts that have been carried out by this country against Venezuela, while our country has not exercised its legitimate right to defend the territorial integrity of the motherland."

The paper reported:

Martínez addressed the issue with members of the Ávila group, and said, "Venezuela has indisputable rights in its Atlantic front."

Martínez explained that since 1999 Guyana has bid oil and gas fields in marine and submarine waters located within the disputed territory, thus disregarding the historical documents that prove the legitimate rights of Venezuela, disturbing Surinam and Barbados, and extending its claims over disputed areas even within the 110 kilometres which are Venezuelan territory at the mouth of the Orinoco Delta.

He explained that the sea front has an area of square 159,000 kilometres. Nevertheless, both Barbados and Guyana have made bid oil fields located within 130,000 square kilometres corresponding to the Atlantic coast of Venezuela under the straight baseline set on July 9, 1978.

He stressed that Guyana's ratification in 1994 of the Law of the Sea Convention of 1982 hinted the position of Guyana, whose aspiration saw the light of day before the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, without any consultation with Venezuela "which is the legitimate holder of the rights over the disputed territory."

He said that instead of protesting at these hostile acts by Guyana, Venezuela has allowed Guyana to enter the Caracas Energy Accord (2001) and PetroCaribe (2005), under which Caracas supplies 24,800 cubic meters of gas per month to Georgetown.

In the same issue, the paper reported also that Carlos Eduardo Berrizbeitia, the national secretary of the opposition Proyecto Venezuela party and a deputy at the National Assembly for central Carabobo state exhorted the High Military Command to take a stance on what he termed "violation of sovereignty" concerning the Essequibo, "an area that has been claimed by Venezuela and the focus of a long-running boundary dispute with Guyana."

"The armed forces should not be silent on Guyana's public intention to take hold of a territory that is being claimed, as it belongs to Venezuela," the parliamentarian said.

The paper added that Berrizbeitia reminded military officers and government authorities that the Venezuelan Constitution prescribed protection of the Venezuelan territory; otherwise, he underscored, there would be high treason.

He added: "The silence of (President Hugo) Chávez's administration made them accomplices. . . We cannot understand that a government which cries out that the country's sovereignty should not be surrendered to any empire, says nothing in the face of glaring violation of our sovereignty."

El Universal also sought the opinion of Oswaldo Álvarez Paz, an opposition candidate running for primaries, who railed on the government's foreign policy regarding the boundary dispute with Guyana, and accused President Hugo Chávez of taking a too lenient attitude in this issue of national interest.

The Venezuelan president, he added, "has an accommodating attitude because he places the regime's political interests over the needs and rights of the nation."

With regard to the boundary controversy with Guyana, Álvarez Paz believed that "Chávez's actions against Venezuela are not due to errors or negligence, but they are in line with a political strategy on the international stage."


The Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs finally commented on Guyana's request to the United Nations with the following statement on 26 September 2011:

The Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela received September 7, 2011, the official notification that the Government of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana had lodged a presentation on the outer limits of the continental shelf of Guyana, within the framework of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which this country belongs to, with the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS)

The Bolivarian Government, by acting responsibly, has proceeded to evaluate this irregular situation in order to respond correctly in the light of international law and it is taking the necessary actions to preserve its right on the projection of its seafront.

The Government of Venezuela reiterates that this presentation does not prejudice matters relating to the establishment of maritime borders between Venezuela and Guyana, and is concerned since it ascertains that the Government of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana did not previously inform of this action, although fluid communication mechanisms, like the Good Officer of the Office of the UN Secretary General or the permanent bilateral dialogue the authorities of both countries keep at the highest level, exist.

The Bolivarian Government of Venezuela has developed a foreign policy based on defending the sacred interests of the country since the first day, and, at the same time, it has strengthened the friendship and solidarity with the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean, with special emphasis on the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, a country with which there is a territorial dispute inherited from the old colonialism.

President Hugo Chavez has implemented a correct policy of peace, sovereignty and respect for international law towards Guyana that contrasts with the old warmongering and threatening attitudes of the Venezuelan bourgeoisie, whose only aim was to harass the progressive governments of this fraternal Republic according to the intentions of imperial powers.

The Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela condemns the campaign of intrigues launched by the Venezuelan bourgeoisie from its propaganda media and political parties who seek to manipulate the Venezuelan people by misinforming about this sensitive issue. This bourgeoisie subjected to the orders of Washington and funded with money from the empire cannot claim to stand as patriots and defenders of the Venezuelan sovereignty.

The government of President Hugo Chávez, expresses its utmost willingness to build constructive and respectful relations with the Republic of Guyana and ratifies that it will continue to defend the vital interests of the country in the firmest way through the internationally established dialogue mechanisms. In this regard, it reaffirms its commitment to the process of the Good Officer of the Office of the UN Secretary General.


El Universal continued its campaign against Guyana's submission to the UN through an interview with Sadio Garavini, its expert on the boundary controversy. Under the headline, "Venezuela could lose 300,000 square kilometres on Essequibo" the paper stated:

Sadio Garavini thinks that as to the claim concerning Essequibo, Venezuela has moved back 50 years, taking into account that in the 1970's, 1980's and 1990's, Guyana brought forward a marginal rectification of land territory, including a substantial extent of marine and submarine areas. Now, it refuses to do so in order to come back to the award of the arbitration tribunal convened in Paris in 1899. In his opinion, it is Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's fault.

A diplomat, former ambassador to Guyana, the author of several related books, Garavini asks President Chávez to query the Armed Forces, particularly the Navy, about a policy towards Guyana.

How much territory would Venezuela lose in default of a renewed claim regarding Essequibo?

Guyanese Minister of Foreign Affairs (Carolyn) Rodrigues-Birkett asked at the United Nations to enlarge the continental shelf from 200 miles to 350 miles without consulting Venezuela. She did it though with other border countries -Barbados, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago. Such an initiative puts in jeopardy not only the Venezuelan claim of Guyana and it maritime extension, but also the extent towards the Atlantic front of Delta Amacuro. And this is the case, because in not consulting Venezuela, she put the line in her request, as she pleased. By pushing that line westwards, she closed the Atlantic extent of Delta Amacuro. Therefore, Venezuela could lose 150,000 square kilometres of marine and submarine areas rich in oil and gas.

Such an area is currently under Venezuelan jurisdiction?

Absolutely. The 150,000 square kilometres comprise the Atlantic extent of Guyana. However, only the Atlantic front of Delta Amacuro is a big chunk. Therefore, Venezuela should release an official communiqué, because under Public International Law, silence implies consent and acquiescence materialises.

Does such "acquiescence" mean losing about 300,000 square kilometres, including the 150,000 kilometres already claimed?

In the talks, pursuant to the Geneva Agreement, we cannot expect to get the whole Essequibo territory or all of the continental shelf or the exclusive economic zone. Nevertheless, the negotiation on 300,000 square kilometres of both land and sea territory is endangered.

Is there any timeframe to forward a note of protest?

I do not think so. This is helpful, because the technical process at the Commission on the Law of the Sea, at the United Nations, is not usually settled all of a sudden.

President Chávez and his foreign minister advocate friendship with Guyana and the existent identification between the two governments. However, they do not demand the same from their friend, (Guyana's) President Bharrat Jagdeo.

I have championed friendship with Guyana. Furthermore, we are doomed to neighbourhood forever. However, in order to keep friendship and prevent any troubles, we should heal the wound. And the outrage on Venezuela by the British empire in the 19th century should end amicably, as set forth in the Geneva Agreement. There must be a compensation for Venezuela, as the agreement reads, "amicably settled, satisfactory and sensible."

The initiative of the Guyanese Foreign Minister is not precisely friendly.

The fact of declaring unilaterally and warning in written form that she has not consulted Venezuela not only is an unfriendly move but clumsiness. Sadly, (Venezuelan) Foreign Minister (Nicolás) Maduro does not count on a qualified advisory team, and as he does not know these subjects; he has said that any proposal between the two countries would be dealt with the Good Officer and Guyana's government. This is a silly thing, because the Good Officer has no authority on this matter of Law of the Sea. He helps the parties negotiate. If there are not any advisors at the Foreign Office, then the Navy should take on such responsibility.


El Universal's feature writer Reyes Theyes on 26 September also pitched in with this story: Guyana ignores Venezuela's claim - Trinidad & Tobago and Barbados made some requests that would affect Venezuela

In a document submitted by Guyana to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) requesting an extension of its continental shelf, Guyana ignored Venezuela's centuries-old claim on the Essequibo territory.

The fourth item of the 16-page document submitted to the Commission reads: "There are no disputes in the region relevant to this submission of data and information relating to the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles."

Guyana's statement that there are no disputes in the region ignores the contents of the Geneva Agreement signed in 1966, in which the then British Guiana recognizes the dispute over the Essequibo territory and the need to seek a satisfactory solution for the practical settlement of the controversy between Venezuela and the United Kingdom.

Guyana's request to extend its continental shelf by 150 miles was not the only one submitted to the UN Commission that can affect Venezuela's maritime domain in the eastern part of the country. Trinidad & Tobago and Barbados have also made their submissions.

Barbados made its submission in 2008 and the CLCS issued in April 2010 the recommendations about what should be the coordinates of the outer limits of Barbados continental shelf.

Adolfo Salgueiro, an international law expert, argues that Guyana's submission "is an unfriendly move" because that country "has the commitment to resolve the dispute with Venezuela."

Although Venezuela is not a member of the CLCS because it did not sign the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, it can present its arguments.

According to Darío Morandy, the Venezuelan Ambassador to Georgetown, the issue is being assessed by the Department of Borders, Venezuelan Foreign Ministry, which is examining the scope of the Guyanese request.


In response to the statement issued by the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Guyana Ministry of Foreign Affairs on 26 September 2011 insisted in a public statement that Venezuela was made aware since 13 May 2009, of Guyana's intentions to extend its continental shelf by 150 nautical miles.

The Guyana Foreign Ministry stated:

The Government of Guyana is aware of the communiqué issued by the Ministry of External Affairs of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela regarding Guyana's submission of a claim to an extended continental shelf, beyond 200 miles, to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.

The Government of Guyana wishes to clarify that under cover of a Note Verbale dated May 13, 2009, the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela was provided with a copy of the Preliminary Information and Data which Guyana submitted to the Secretary General of the United Nations. That document constitutes the Executive Summary of Guyana's full submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf except for the fact that it has adjusted coordinates for the outer limits of the extended continental shelf based on additional seismic data that were obtained after May 2009.

The Government of Guyana wishes to state that as was made pellucid in Guyana's submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, Guyana's submission of information and data pursuant to Article 76 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is without prejudice to any future maritime delimitation exercise with neighbouring States. The communiqué from the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela recognizes that fact since it declares that the submission of the Republic of Guyana does not prejudice eventual maritime delimitation between Guyana and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

The Government of Guyana notes that the Good Offices process of the United Nations Secretary General has a clear mandate as stated in the Geneva Agreement of 1966. That process therefore relates exclusively to the resolution of the controversy that has arisen from the Venezuelan contention that the Arbitral Award of October 3, 1899, that definitively delimited the land boundary between Guyana and Venezuela, is null and void.

The Government of Guyana values the relations that have developed between Guyana and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in the recent past, and it was in that context that Guyana shared with that State the Preliminary Data and Information it provided to the Secretary General of the United Nations in May 2009 and the Executive Summary of the full Submission in September 2011.

The Government of Guyana reiterates its interest in the development of continued harmonious relations with the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and anticipates that since the submission of Guyana to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf is without prejudice to future maritime delimitation exercises with neighbouring States, whether within or beyond 200 nautical miles, this issue would not be allowed to adversely affect the exceptionally good relations that exist between Guyana and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela today.


The announcement of Guyana's request to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf spurred heated discussions in both Venezuela and Guyana with extremist individuals in both countries using the media and online blogs to generate animosities. Those in Venezuela accused the Chavez administration of being "too soft" in dealing with Guyana and urged the Venezuelan military to step up its militarisation along the common border. They also alleged that Guyana's request was aimed at acquiring territory at the expense of Venezuela. They failed to consider that the request was made without prejudice to any future delimitation of maritime boundaries with Venezuela and other neighbouring states and that the Commission would take a relative long period to examine the submission and make recommendations on the outer limits of Guyana's extended continental shelf.

On the other hand, the hard liners on the Guyana side, in response to the Venezuelan government's statement that it was taking the necessary actions to preserve its right on the projection of its seafront, interpreted that to mean that Venezuela intended to take military action against Guyana. Using aggressive language, some even urged a military resistance against Venezuela and a reduction in diplomatic relations, even though the Venezuelan government made clear its friendly relation with Guyana and noted that the Guyanese submission to the UN did not prejudice matters relating to the establishment of maritime borders between Venezuela and Guyana.

Apparently concerned that extremist elements in both countries were stoking the flames of enmity, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez on 27 September 2011 said that he asked his Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro to "walk on eggshells" and to "assess the situation thoroughly." He said that the government was acting in a responsible manner, but he expressed his concern over the request by Guyana to the UN.


The general views of the Venezuelan political opposition were stated in this El Universal report on 28 September 2011:

The Venezuelan government's response to the request made by Guyana to extend its continental shelf by 150 nautical miles has been described as "very soft," "weak," and "ambiguous," by foreign affairs analysts.

Venezuela's Foreign Ministry issued a communiqué on Monday in which it lashed "the Venezuelan bourgeoisie" and described as "irregular" the request made by Georgetown.

Former Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Adolfo Taylhardat said that the Venezuelan communiqué is "very soft," because President Hugo Chávez "wants to handle relations with Guyana with kid gloves."

"It is not a (note of) protest, but a communiqué taking a very soft stance," Taylhardat highlighted.

According to retired General Fernando Ochoa Antich, a former Minister of Defence and Foreign Affairs, "Hugo Chávez's constant statements on the issue have been extremely serious and have undermined Venezuela's claim against Guyana."

In the Venezuelan response, Hugo Chávez's government stated that Venezuela's claim is a "territorial dispute inherited from the old colonialism." Besides, it questioned the State policy on the subject of previous Venezuelan governments, saying the Venezuelan bourgeoisie had the sole objective of "harassing the progressive governments" of Guyana.


The privately-owned Guyanese daily Kaieteur News, in an editorial in its issue of 28 September 2011, commented on the continental shelf issue:

Venezuelan Rumbles

It would seem that not all is quiet on the western front. Just when we might have thought that the Venezuelan land grab to two-thirds of our territory had receded to just an ugly footnote in hemispheric realpolitik, reports out of Venezuela suggest that the controversy might once again erupt.

It all began with a seemingly innocuous application of Guyana, pursuant to Article 76 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLS), to ascertain whether Guyana could extend its boundaries from 200 to 350 nautical miles into the Atlantic Ocean.

Article 76 defines the term "continental shelf" as follows: "The continental shelf of a coastal State comprises the seabed and subsoil of the submarine areas that extend beyond its territorial sea throughout the natural prolongation of its land territory to the outer edge of the continental margin, or to a distance of 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured where the outer edge of the continental margin does not extend up to that distance."

What this means is that all coastal states are entitled to 200 nautical miles but if there is a continental shelf, the country's boundary could extend to its margin to a maximum of 350 nautical miles. Back in 2002, Guyana initiated a study to determine whether Guyana qualified for the extra real estate. No squawks from Venezuela. It took a while, but after the study pronounced positively, Guyana provided initial information to the Secretary General of the United Nations regarding its claim to the extended continental shelf in 2009. Still not a peep from the west.

It was only three weeks ago when the official application was made that objections are being made. If Guyana has rights to 200 nautical miles into the Atlantic at the present time - while Venezuela's spurious claim is before the UN Secretary General Good Offices process - nothing is altered if that boundary is extended.

As the Minister of Foreign Affairs Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett said when announcing the action, all Guyana was doing was to secure "its interest and to ensure that, in the future, it has the legal basis to benefit from and to protect its rights". As a matter of fact, since Venezuela is not a signatory to the UNCLOS it should view Guyana's move as inflating its purported "claim".

For its part, the Venezuelan government is evidently piqued that the Government of Guyana "did not previously inform of this action, although fluid communication mechanisms, like the Good Officer of the Office of the UN Secretary General or the permanent bilateral dialogue the authorities of both countries keep at the highest level, exist." It stated somewhat vaguely that it "has proceeded to evaluate this irregular situation in order to respond correctly in the light of international law and it is taking the necessary actions to preserve its right on the projection of its seafront."

What was heartening was the conclusion of the press release by the Venezuelan Government: "The government of President Hugo Chávez, expresses its utmost willingness to build constructive and respectful relations with the Republic of Guyana and ratifies that it will continue to defend the vital interests of the country in the firmest way through the internationally established dialogue mechanisms. In this regard, it reaffirms its commitment to the process of the Good Officer of the Office of the UN Secretary General."

The note refers to the efforts of the political opposition in Venezuela to exploit the strong nationalistic sentiments on the border controversy so as to create tensions between Venezuela and Guyana - while making local political hay. In Guyana, we have to also be careful not to be drawn into pointless polemics. Even though this newspaper expressed grave early reservations about the position of the Chávez administration on the border controversy, we must accept that unlike previous Venezuelan regimes (their successors now in the opposition) the present regime has acted very maturely, for instance, when the development of hydropower in Essequibo has been placed on our agenda.


Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministers of both countries were engaged in a series of telephone conversations over the existing state of affairs. Finally, on the morning of 29 September 2011, President Chávez announced that the two governments agreed to handle the issue at the highest level and in a very responsible manner.

During a telephone conversation with state-run TV channel Venezolana de Television (VTV), Chavez said his government was conducting a very intensive work and would not let "some sectors there (Guyana) or here (Venezuela) create internal conflicts. We will not let that happen."

Later the same day, Guyana's Foreign Affairs Ministry announced a meeting between the two Foreign Ministers was scheduled for 30 September in Port of Spain, Trinidad.

The two ministers with their advisers duly met on 30 September 2011 in Port of Spain and discussed in detail Guyana's submission to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (UNCLCS). Accompanying Minister Rodrigues-Birkett to the meeting Friday were Ralph Ramkarran, Guyana's facilitator in the Good Offices Process of the United Nations Secretary-General, and Keith George, Director of the Frontiers Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Minister Maduro was supported by a team of specialists from his ministry.

During the discussions, Guyana stated that it recognised the right of the Venezuelan government to present its views to the UNCLCS. For its part, Venezuela recalled its legitimate right to sovereignty and jurisdiction over the Atlantic front.

The two sides also noted that the delimitation of maritime boundary between Guyana and Venezuela was still outstanding and agreed that further negotiations would be required for its finalisation. The ministers later met with Norman Girvan, the UN Good Officer, and informed him of their deliberations.


At the end of their meeting, the ministers signed the following joint declaration:

The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Guyana, Her Excellency Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett and the Minister of External Relations of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela His Excellency Nicolás Maduro Moros met today in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, in order to review several matters of mutual interest, including the Good Offices process.

The Ministers expressed satisfaction with the excellent relations that have developed between the two States and reiterated their commitment to maintaining that level of relations.

The Ministers acknowledged that the relations are at a historically high level, characterized by respect, fraternity and solidarity, and agreed that Guyana and Venezuela develop cooperation projects in various areas and consolidate their integration schemes such as the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), PetroCaribe and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), convinced that the bonds that unite them go beyond the legacy of division inherited from colonialism.

In discussing Guyana's submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, Guyana stated that it recognised the right of the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to make its views known to the Commission. The two Ministers agreed that their respective facilitators will discuss issues related to Guyana's submission and report to their respective Governments.

Both Ministers recognised that the delimitation of the maritime boundaries between their two States remain an outstanding issue and agreed that such delimitation will require negotiations.

Recognising that the controversy in relation to the 1899 Arbitral Award about the frontier between Guyana and Venezuela still exists, the Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to the Geneva Agreement and the Good Offices Process. The Ministers recognised that this controversy is a legacy of colonialism and must be resolved. The Ministers briefed the Personal Representative of the United Nations Secretary General, Prof. Norman Girvan, on their discussions.

Finally, the Foreign Ministers of Guyana and Venezuela thanked the Government of Trinidad and Tobago for the excellent arrangements put in place to facilitate their meeting.


As soon as the joint statement by the two ministers was made public, a section of the he political opposition immediately expressed dissatisfaction with it. On the afternoon of 2 October 2011, the political party, Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD) (Unified Democratic Table), stated that "the delimitation of maritime and submarine areas between the two countries is linked to the settlement of the territorial claim, based on the Geneva Agreement. It makes no sense to take the risk that an eventual settlement on the maritime area has irreversible effects on our territorial dispute."

According to a news item in El Universal the next day, the MUD added that the work of facilitators "is to seek a satisfactory and practical" settlement for the parties, as the Geneva Agreement provides. Their task is not related to the negotiation of maritime areas."

"A new threat to Venezuela emerges from the silence of the (Venezuelan) government apropos the delimitation of maritime and submarine areas between Trinidad and Barbados, and between Guyana and Suriname, including some maritime areas over which Venezuela has rights. In addition to this, Guyana intends to extend its continental shelf . . . The MUD believes in integration, but does not put it above territorial integrity," the opposition group declared.

The same issue of El Universal also carried the views of its regular contributor and critic of the Venezuelan government, Sadio Garavini, who claimed that the terms of the document were favourable to Georgetown rather than to Caracas.

Garavini said that the parties are "not negotiating an arbitral award but a satisfactory and practical" settlement of the dispute as established in the Geneva Agreement signed in 1966. For this reason, Garavini described as nonsense the following paragraph of the statement endorsed by the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs: "Recognizing that the dispute concerning the Arbitral Award of 1899 on the border between Guyana and Venezuela continues to exist..."

According to Garavini, "with this 'recognition' of the award, Venezuela accepts the Guyanese stance, even though the goal of the Geneva Agreement is the practical settlement of the dispute that is a satisfactory and admissible to both parties. The statement underpins the Guyanese position of prioritizing the Arbitral Award of 1899, which is very serious."

The former ambassador also believed that Foreign Minister Maduro "was very badly advised on the legal and political aspects of the statement." In his opinion, the joint statement should have mentioned only the Geneva Agreement which, he reiterated, "is the only valid legal framework of the dispute."

Garavini also rejected the fact that the statement referred to the delimitation of maritime and submarine areas of Delta Amacuro (an eastern Venezuela state) along with the claim of the Essequibo territory: "This mixture could be very dangerous to the Venezuelan interests. Both processes are different but are related and complex. A decision in relation to a basepoint in the Delta Amacuro coast for delimitation purposes could adversely affect the claim," he concluded.

But the Venezuelan opposition was sharply criticised on 4 October by the country's ambassador to the Organisation of American States (OAS), Roy Chaderton, during a media interview which was broadcast on Venezuelan He stated that opponents of President Chavez wanted to turn the territorial dispute with Guyana into an opportunity to cause a war scenario that could set the ground for a military intervention by the US and NATO countries. Chaderton praised the meeting that Venezuela and Guyana held by the two ministers in Trinidad.


The Stabroek News on 2 October 2011 examined the on-going issue with the following editorial:

Continental Shelf Submission

On September 6 this year, Guyana formally submitted her claim for an extended continental shelf of 150 nautical miles to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, pursuant to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The following day Venezuela was given notification of Guyana's submission. There was no immediate response from the Government of Venezuela, but then there was no response from our western neighbour either when in May 2009 Takuba Lodge first apprised them of this country's intention to submit a formal claim to the extension. On that occasion the Chargé d'Affaires of the Venezuelan Embassy had been given a note verbale and an executive summary captioned, "A submission of data and information on the outer limits of the continental shelf of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana." Furthermore, according to the Venezuelan daily El Universal, Venezuelan Ambassador to Guyana Dario Morandy had advised his government to issue an immediate response to the note. This advice was not acted upon.

As was clear from our editorial of September 16, this time around it was opposition figures and "experts" contacted by El Universal for a comment who were the first to give their views on Guyana's formal submission on September 6. Their positions all reflected the traditional revanchist stance of Venezuela, and were in general expressed with some vehemence which in one or two instances bordered on bellicosity. In the process the interviewees relieved themselves of a number of erroneous and misleading observations, including one that suggested that by submitting the claim Guyana was not adhering to the Geneva Agreement and that it had abandoned the Good Officer process.

El Universal, as was said in our leader of September 16, is generally viewed as a fairly conservative paper, but what is more pertinent here is that it sits squarely in the opposition camp. At this point in time President Chávez because of his recent illness and his chemotherapy regimen is only functioning at "half-throttle," to use his own words, while the opposition in general is in vigorous mode, not least because national elections are due in Venezuela in 2012. The boundary controversy with Guyana can always be depended upon to have resonance with the populace in the republic to our west, although it can lie dormant for long periods, as indeed it has done in recent years. Guyana's continental shelf extension, therefore, has provided an excuse for the opposition to resuscitate the border controversy and create a cause which can rouse the Venezuelan electorate. It is also an easy issue with which to assail Miraflores. It might be noted, for example, that El Universal reported that one private institute was printing maps showing Essequibo as part of Venezuela for free distribution.

President Chávez is no laggard when it comes to politics, and the implications of the clamour from some quarters that a strong stance should be adopted towards Guyana would not have been lost on him. Any perception that he was too weakened to assert himself in relation to Georgetown, or that he lacked the necessary commitment to his country's territorial interests, or that his foreign policy was in a shambles, could not be allowed to take hold in the public mind. Almost three weeks after Guyana had formally submitted her continental shelf claim, therefore, the Government of Venezuela issued a statement on the matter. Whether anything official would have been said at all had it not been for the brouhaha stirred up by some in the opposition and the media, is perhaps a moot point, although the fact that the statement lambasted the "bourgeoisie" who it said were unleashing their "propaganda" and seeking to "manipulate the Venezuelan people [who are] uninformed about such a sensitive topic," may be a hint that indeed it would not have been. In addition, of course, if Caracas did not want to make an issue of the extension claim in 2009, it is difficult to see why it should have wanted to do so now.

As it was, the statement which the Government of Venezuela eventually released on Monday, September 26, was remarkably restrained in its tone, although in careful language by implication it acknowledged the concerns which had been made public by alluding to the fact it was taking action to preserve the law with regard to the extent of Venezuela's "maritime façade" - an oblique reference to the Essequibo coastline. However, it went on to reflect the tenor of a part of Guyana's submission of September 6, which had said the claim had been made without prejudice to the delimitation of the continental shelf boundaries between states. The Venezuelan statement, however, did expand Guyana's limited reference to continental shelf boundaries, by saying that Guyana's claim did not prejudge the issues relative to the determination of maritime boundaries between the two countries. It is true that maritime boundaries, let alone continental shelf boundaries, have not been fixed in this part of the Atlantic, and involve not just Venezuela and Guyana, but also other states such as Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago. (Venezuela and Trinidad signed a maritime boundary treaty in 1990, to which Guyana made formal objection since it encompassed waters believed to belong to this country.)

The Venezuelan government statement, of course, did not satisfy the critics, from whom there was an immediate reaction. The Unified Democratic Panel, an alliance of various opposition personalities and groups, issued a release describing Miraflores' response as "insufficient," and saying that Guyana had ignored "the very existence of our claim and seems to ignore the Geneva Agreement of 1966." Another commentator said that Guyana did not take Venezuela's claim seriously. It is nonsense to suggest that Guyana has ignored the Geneva Agreement, and as for the claim, every government in this country has always recognized the 1899 Award (the 112th anniversary of which falls tomorrow) as a "full, perfect and final settlement" - as did Venezuela up until 1962. The current boundary with Venezuela is an internationally recognized border and no government in this country has ever seen the claim as an impediment to development in Essequibo, although in practical terms, various governments in Caracas, including the current one, have stymied projects there at one time or another.

The issue for the Venezuelan critics is not the continental shelf per se, since they are conveniently ignoring the fact that Guyana has made clear in its submission, as said above, that this would not prejudice future delimitation of continental shelf boundaries; it is simply about the Essequibo claim. As they see it, if Venezuela secured even a portion of Essequibo, it would affect boundary contours in the maritime zone and by extension, the continental shelf. As said earlier, therefore, Guyana's submission is an opening for them to beat the nationalistic drum and resort to jingoism against a President who says he will lead his party to elections next year, and who for reasons which are not altogether apparent, has not pursued an aggressive line on the Essequibo claim in more recent times.

President Chávez reacted quickly to this round of criticism too, and promptly dispatched his Foreign Minister, Nicolas Maduro, to Trinidad to meet with his Guyanese counterpart, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett. They issued a joint statement, the substance of which was published in our edition yesterday. Some of its key points were that Guyana recognized the right of Venezuela to make its views known to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf; and that the delimitation of their maritime boundaries was an outstanding issue and would require negotiations. The Ministers also recommitted to the Geneva Agreement and the Good Offices process, and the two facilitators under this process are to meet to discuss Guyana's submission and report back to their respective governments.

The statement had one sentence which might be a source of slight unease, namely: "The Ministers recognized that this controversy is a legacy of colonialism and must be resolved." It must be emphasized that the Venezuelans alone generated the controversy in 1962, when they first challenged the validity of the 1899 Award at the United Nations after having recognized it for more than 60 years. It is true that Guyana (then British Guiana) was a British colonial territory at the time, and technically, the initial negotiations with regard to the claim were conducted between the British and the Venezuelans. However, given that Caracas raised a meretricious challenge to the Award, the controversy could hardly be described as a British legacy; it was and is a Venezuelan 'legacy.' If the Venezuelan government is implying, therefore, that the challenge is valid but Britain would not resolve the issue, then that would be problematic from Guyana's point of view. Perhaps the Guyanese public would feel more comfortable if such ambiguities of expression were avoided, lest our unqualified commitment to the Arbitral Award of 1899 is erroneously perceived as less than solid.

What can be said is that the controversy looks as if it has become an election issue for Venezuela, and that the opposition there is adopting a hawkish line. One hopes that Guyana's Ambassador, Mr. Geoff da Silva has acquired a sufficient understanding of the issues and of Venezuelan politics to keep Takuba Lodge fully informed of developments and likely trends, and that he is provided with the necessary diplomatic resources if those are required.


The state-owned Guyana Chronicle also commented on the situation in its editorial of 2 October 2011:

Guyana's territorial move

In these times of international conflicts - some very costly in human and material resources - in various regions of the world, it is encouraging to know that the governments of border neighbours, Guyana and Venezuela have chosen the path of political maturity by resorting to the United Nations Good Offices mechanism to deal with the recent misunderstanding that arose from a claim in Caracas over this country's notification to the UN of intention to extend its continental shelf.

That initiative, consistent with Guyana's commitment as a signatory to the Law of the Sea Convention and without prejudice to the 1966 Geneva Accord, was undertaken by the Guyanese government back in 2009, when it was so advised the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

However, due to an apparent misinterpretation, there was a communication from the government in Caracas expressing concern about not receiving prior information about Guyana's decision to extend its continental shelf "in the hope of finding oil and gas," as explained last week by Foreign Minister Carolyn Rodriques-Birkett.

The Foreign Minister's statement was quite specific in recalling that a diplomatic note on the proposed extension of this country's continental shelf was forwarded to the Venezuelan embassy here in Guyana on May 13, 2009, with a copy of the preliminary information and data sent to the UN Secretary-General.

Regrettably, while the government here was extending all relevant courtesies, and maintaining desired cordial relations with Venezuela, without prejudice to its historical commitment to preservation of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of this country, there emerged a strange warning from an opposition Venezuelan congressman (Carlos Berrizbeitia) to the country's "High Military Command not to be silent" on what he termed a "violation of sovereignty" by Guyana in relation to areas in the Essequibo region.

In his apparent anxiety to score a political point against the Venezuelan government of President Chavez, the opposition congressman may have forgotten, or expediently ignored the reality, that proposed extension of Guyana's continental shelf was quite within its sovereignty, and does not constitute a violation of either the spirit or letter of the UN Good Offices process in relation to the original dispute that had arisen from Venezuela's claim to Guyana's defined territorial boundaries.

Nevertheless, it is good that the governments of Guyana and Venezuela have opted to refer the matter to the UN Good Offices process for which the well- known Caribbean scholar, Professor Norman Girvan, is the mutually accepted mediator.

In the circumstances, it is important that both countries avoid misunderstandings by public statements, and focus on how best to methodically and effectively make good use of the UN Good Offices process for resolution of an age-old territorial dispute.


The Venezuelan government on 4 October 2011 expressed optimism over the joint declaration. The Foreign Ministry announced that it would communicate to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) its position vis-à-vis the Guyanese request to extend its continental shelf by 150 nautical miles. For this purpose, the technical teams of the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry began working on a paper on Venezuela's position on the issue, to be later submitted to the UN.

According to the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry, the parties agreed that the delimitation of maritime boundaries between the two States remains an unresolved issue and reaffirmed their commitment to the Geneva Agreement. The Ministry argued this statement included in the joint declaration would refute the allegations Guyana made in the fourth item of the 16-page document submitted to CLCS which claimed: "there are no disputes in the region relevant to this Submission of data and information relating to the outer limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles."

The Ministry stated that at the meeting, Venezuelan diplomats made all efforts to obtain a declaration in which Guyana recognised the existence of a dispute but finally accepted the position that the facilitators of both countries would discuss topics related to Guyana's request to extend its continental shelf.

Venezuela was also hoping that the Guyanese recognition of the existing non-delimitation of the maritime boundary would serve to activate Annex I of the Rules of Procedure of the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf: "In cases where a land or maritime dispute exists, the Commission shall not examine and qualify a submission made by any of the States concerned in the dispute."


The agreement reached in Port of Spain continued to bother Venezuelan opposition analysts. Reyes Theis, writing in El Universal on 8 October 2011 saw the Chavez government's stance on the claim to Essequibo shifting with changes in ideological positions.

He wrote:

In 1999 Chávez rejected all concession proposals; in 2004 his position changed. Back in 1999, Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías was only in his first year as Venezuelan president. His stance on territorial claims over the Essequibo region was clear: no concessions to multinationals would be granted, and Venezuela's rights over the area were to be strongly vindicated. After 2003, that initial position began to dwindle.

Changes in the government's claims over the Essequibo territory have coincided with the shifting ideological outlook of the Venezuelan president. . .

In fact, in those first four years of Chávez's government, a series of actions took place resembling Venezuela's traditional state policies on the Essequibo territory.

The first sign that the traditional strategy was changing was evidenced when Guyana granted a license for petroleum exploration activities in the Pomeroon oil field near Delta Amacuro state. . .

This sort of action was forcefully objected on July 13, 1999, and several complaints were made before a number of World Congresses of Petroleum.

On May 23, 2000, President Chávez was adamant in connection with another concession granted by Guyana to Beal Aerospace Technologies Inc., a US corporation, for installation of a platform for launching space rockets in that region.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued an official notice stating that "the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela deplores the aforementioned Agreement and reaffirms to all interested parties that it does not recognize those concessions or any other concessions granted in and over the Essequibo Territory or its maritime adjacencies." Days later, a formal notice of protest was sent to the Embassy of Guyana in Caracas.

The ban on concessions in the area of Venezuela's claim was used as a means to leverage negotiations. . .

On February 20, 2004, the Venezuelan president set the stage for the most significant twist in the history of this territorial dispute.

During a visit in Georgetown, Chávez announced that "the Venezuelan government will not be an obstacle to any project to be implemented in the Essequibo territory aimed at benefitting the population of that area. This includes projects such as access to water for human consumption, new roads, energy programs and agricultural activities." He added the following: "The issues over the Essequibo territory will be dismissed from the context of social, political and economic relations between both countries."

According to former Minister of Defence and Foreign Affairs Fernando Ochoa Antich, the government currently views the ties between both countries "as ideological relations and not as opposing interests."

In 2005, in his nationally televised program Aló Presidente, Chávez denounced for the first time that the United States intended to use Venezuela to overthrow Guyanese heads of state, "especially Cheddi Jagan," allegedly "out of fear that Guyana could become a Communist government along the lines of Cuba."

This interpretation of history and his outspoken ideological inclinations led Odeen Ishmael, Guyanese ambassador to Venezuela, to declare in 2007 that "this confraternity between both socialist countries calls for an end to all territorial claims since, as brothers, were are bound to live on peacefully with one another."

Chávez's statements on the reasons behind the Venezuelan claim were no blunder, however. In March 2008, during the Rio Group Summit, the president reaffirmed that "after 20 or 30 years, the truth prevails. They wanted to use us to invade Guyana, on the basis of our territorial claim, and overthrow Forbes Burnham, a left-wing leader."

Therefore, the claim no longer originated from the fact that "Venezuela was stripped of its land (the Essequibo territory) by that tainted 1899 Paris Arbitration Award," as Chávez pointed out in 1999; it was now a product of an imperial conspiracy to overthrow a progressive government, as claimed by the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs this past 26th of September.


Sadio Garavini again expressed his concerns, this time over what he felt was the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry's failure to address seriously the delimitation of marine and submarine areas with Guyana.

El Universal on 25 October 2011 reported that the former Venezuelan ambassador criticized a section of the preamble to the draft 2012 Budget Law, in which the government stated its intention to solve the delimitation of marine and submarine waters, "but from a base point that, according to Guyana, marks the border with Venezuela, thus ignoring the Essequibo territory."

Garavini said that he did not know whether the text that set the Punta de Playa base point as the border with Guyana was drafted "because of the ignorance of the person who drafted the text or because of high treason."

"It is a very serious fact. Punta de Playa cannot be set as the border with Guyana because such a move favours the thesis of the Arbitral Award (of 1899). This is the border established in the Award," he added.

Garavini referred to the text of the draft 2012 Budget Law:

"If the Venezuelan government itself says that it intends to demarcate the border from Punta de Playa, it is clearly recognising the sovereignty of Guyana in the zone in reclamation. Therefore, the fact that we have a zone in reclamation is either forgotten or ruled out. There are two possible explanations: First, there is huge incompetence because of the ignorance of the person who drafted the text or there is high treason. It could also be a combination of both. We do not know what happen there."

Then on 27 December 2011, in this opinion piece carried by El Universal, Garavini lashed out at President Chavez, whom he accused of committing treason, and questioned the allegation of US Cold War machinations to urge the Venezuelan government in 1962 to re-open the border issue:

Guyana, U.S., and Chavez

In February 2007, President Chavez said, and since then has repeated on several occasions, that the reactivation of the Venezuelan claim on the Essequibo territory in 1962 by the government of Romulo Betancourt was the result of U.S. pressure supposedly interested in destabilizing the self-government (but not yet independent) of the then Prime Minister of British Guiana, Cheddi Jagan, who was an avowed Marxist-Leninist. The then Guyanese ambassador in Caracas, Odeen Ishmael, in an interview with El Nacional, referring to the presidential statement and the alleged brotherhood between the two "socialist and anti-imperialist governments", said President Chavez should "step forward to desist from the Venezuelan claim."

The claim that U.S. pressure on Venezuela to reactivate its territorial claim, although uncertain, could have a relative historical credibility. Recall that in 1961, during the "Cold War" the U.S. attempted to block the Soviet Union's influence there and in April of that year there was the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. The U.S. government developed the "no second Cuba policy", which became the centrepiece of U.S. foreign policy toward Latin America and the Caribbean during most of the early '60s. In this context, an independent Guyana with Jagan in power, had, in the eyes of Washington, all the characteristics of a potential "second Cuba."

For its part, the Betancourt government faced in the early years of the '60s, to an insurrection, which was inspired and financed by Cuba, as Che Guevara expressed in the thesis of the "export of revolution."

In 1962, Betancourt had to put down two bloody coup attempts, known as the "Carupanazo" and "Porteñazo" caused by the infiltration of "Castro" elements in the Armed Forces. The coincidence of interests between Betancourt and President Kennedy is evident. Betancourt needed American support to deal with both leftist insurgency, as well as the militarist right conspiracies, sponsored until his death in May 1961 by the Dominican dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo. Also, economically, Betancourt required American support because of the serious crisis that was triggered by a drop in oil prices. For Kennedy, the Venezuelan representative democracy was the alternative model to Castro's Cuba in Latin America.

A model must be attractive to be successful, and so much of Kennedy's policy toward Latin America was going by the success of Venezuela's democratic experiment. As part of this "special relationship" between Kennedy and Betancourt, personally reaffirmed during Kennedy's visit to Caracas in late 1961, it would be inconceivable to the hypothesis of an agreement for Kennedy to use Betancourt's Venezuelan claim to prevent the emergence of a "second Cuba" in the hemisphere. For Venezuela, it was not just to take advantage of a unique historical situation, to regain the territory lost to the unjust 1899 arbitration award but to avoid the establishment of a regime that could become a base of support for a potential guerrilla war in the east of the country.

Now, an event that has historical credibility is not necessarily true. Obviously, the Betancourt government sought and obtained the support of the Kennedy administration for the above circumstantial coincidence of their interests in this regard. Coincidence, of course, that was completed after Kennedy's death, with the coming to power in 1964 in Burnham, who in those years emphasised skilfully his anti-communism, support for U.S. and Great Britain to their aspirations. Indeed, with Burnham in power, the U.S. stopped supporting our claim.

But actually, the position is an absolute falsehood of Guyanese history. The revival of the claim was an absolutely autonomous process within the Venezuelan government, led by the imminence of the independence of Guyana. It is also obvious from all this that, as Guyana was in 1962 a British colony, to prevent a pro-Communist government arising in the future independent state, it was not necessary to "use" the Venezuelan claim, but just enough that the British government should postpone independence until Burnham and its allies win the elections.

More recently, the Guyanese government has renewed Ambassador Ishmael call on Venezuela to definitively abandon the claim, supported by the statements of President Chavez, who, incredibly, takes the most chauvinistic position of the Guyanese government, to politically delegitimise the claim itself, saying it was just an instrument of the Cold War.

President Chavez could be charged with treason.


For the remainder of the year, the issue of Guyana's intention to expand its continental shelf disappeared from the pages of the Venezuelan print media, and particularly El Universal which had tried to whip up a bellicose opposition to Guyana's request to the United Nations. No doubt, the newspaper's aim was to whip up strong sentiments among the Venezuelan population against Guyana, but this obviously failed since it became clear that the Guyanese request to the UN would not prejudice any future delimitation of the maritime boundary between the two neighbours.


Bharrat Jagdeo's term as President of Guyana came to an end as 2011 drew near. In general elections held on 28 November 2011, Donald Ramotar was elected as President of Guyana. His would be the task of continuing on the trail of diplomacy in the effort to bring an end to the claim by Venezuela to Guyanese territory west of the Essequibo River.

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