10 days later, no response from Venezuela

Border shooting

… situation unacceptable but will not escalate – President Granger

Ten days have gone by and the Guyana Government is still awaiting an official explanation from the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in response to the shooting incident which occurred at Eteringbang, in Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni) on May 30, 2016.

President Brigadier David Granger has since labelled the situation as unacceptable; however, he also expressed confidence that it will not escalate into an international conflict.

He also indicated that Government, once requested, might consider providing assistance to the Spanish-speaking nation during its time of economic crisis.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry had dispatched a Note Verbale to the Venezuelan Foreign Affairs Ministry conveying its gravest concern over the incident and calling on the Venezuelan Government to desist from such provocative and dangerous actions on Guyana’s border.

During an interview on the ‘Public Interest’, the Head of State explained that while the situation is unfortunate, it should not be a considered a clash between the two States.

“It is localised… It was a local incident and we are not saying that there is no fault but my information is that the rain was falling very heavily and there might have been some misunderstanding with the boat that was taking the officials…,” he stated.

Nonetheless, Granger said that matter is still unacceptable. “It is unacceptable in the relation between two States, on a river owned by Guyana for shots to be fired in a hostile manner,” he expressed.

Three mining officers of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) came under fire from the National Bolivarian Armed Forces while travelling in a boat in the Cuyuni River.

g officers, nor the captain of the boat were injured in the shooting incident.

The officers were carrying out inspections and monitoring gold mining camps in the Cuyuni area when the Venezuelan soldiers opened fire on them. They were forced to seek cover by lying flat in the boat as the captain sought to get the attention of the Venezuelan troops with whom he is said to be familiar with.

After recognising the captain, the Venezuelan troops ceased fire and asked the GGCM official to identify themselves before they were allowed to proceed.

According to reports however, the Venezuelan soldiers opened fire at the vessel because they suspected it was carrying smuggled fuel and other contraband.

This is not the first time there has been tension at the Guyana/Venezuela border.

In September last year, the Venezuelan military dispatched heavily armed troops as well as a gunboat and other heavy artillery to the Cuyuni area. Then in December, a Venezuelan helicopter landed at the Kaikan Airstrip, in Region Seven.

Relations between Guyana and Venezuela have been tense over the past few months after the Bolivarian Republic continues to lay claim over two thirds of Guyana’s territory, even though an 1899 Arbitration panel awarded the disputed Essequibo region to Guyana.

In February 1966, just before Guyana was granted Independence, in Geneva, Switzerland, the Governments of British Guiana, the United Kingdom and Venezuela signed an agreement to resolve its contentions, but Venezuela has sporadically raised the controversy it created.

The controversy was reignited by Venezuela when the Government of Guyana granted access to the US-based oil exploration company ExxonMobil, allowing it to drill for oil in the Stabroek block offshore Essequibo.

The Venezuelan Government was peeved at this move and made direct contact with the oil company, urging it to discontinue its attempt to carry out drilling activities in the area. Saying it had no part in the territorial issue, the oil company went ahead with its drilling activity.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro later issued a decree on May 26, 2015, which purported to ratify maritime sovereignty over waters within 200 miles including the entire Atlantic Ocean off the Essequibo Coast as well as part of Suriname’s maritime territory and an area which is under dispute with Colombia.

Guyana has been seeking the United Nations’ (UN) help in resolving the issue and has sought a juridical settlement if the UN process fails.

Meanwhile, when prompted on Government’s posture towards helping Venezuela during its troubling times, the President conceded that he has not contemplated the possibility.

However, he said if a request was made, his Administration will give it consideration. “Venezuela has not made a request to us and I am sure if they needed assistance and they asked for our help, we would consider it. But we must not exaggerate, we don’t know the exact situation in that country. We know about newspaper reports, there are some shortages but the Venezuelan economy is not on the point of collapse.

There are some shortages because of the inability to buy goods on the world market, particularly household goods, food stuff and so on. But the country is not on the brink of collapse you know,” he stated.