Int’l community demands Venezuela release Guyanese fishermen
Venezuelan border provocation
…condemns aggressive actions at OAS Permanent Council
By Jarryl Bryan
A number of countries on the Organization of American States’ (OAS’) Permanent Council on Wednesday condemned the recent acts of aggression by Venezuela against Guyana, and called for the immediate release of the Guyanese fishermen being illegally held in Venezuela.
During the Permanent Council’s virtual meeting, Guyana’s Permanent Representative to the OAS, Riyad Insanally, informed the council about the recent actions of Venezuela. According to Insanally, Venezuela President Nicholas Maduro’s actions, including the recent decree reiterating that country’s illegal claims, are disturbing.
Insanally, who also serves as Guyana’s Ambassador to the United States, informed the Permanent Council that Venezuela’s actions pose a threat to security in the entire region. He told the Council that the Venezuelan vessel that detained the fishermen was illegally manoeuvring in Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The diplomat also noted that Venezuela’s decision to assert its illegal claims to Guyana’s territory by use of force is regrettable.
“It is regrettable that Venezuela has chosen to resort to the unilateral use of military force to assert its maritime claims, which Guyana regard as entirely baseless, rather than honour its commitment under the 1966 Geneva agreement to have the controversy resolved in a peaceful and binding manner,” Insanally said.
The diplomat took the opportunity to also urge Venezuela to accept the jurisdiction and ruling of the World Court, as it is bound to do, and noted Guyana’s reliance on the international community for support. A number of countries registered their displeasure with Venezuela.
Trinidad’s Representative to the OAS, Anthony Phillip-Spencer, reiterated Caricom’s statement on the controversy. He also read a statement from Trinidad’s Foreign Minister Amery Browne, who had summoned Venezuelan’s Ambassador for a discussion on the matter.
Antigua and Barbuda Representative to the OAS, Ambassador Ronald Sanders, also expressed concern over Venezuela’s actions of detaining Guyanese fishermen. Sanders, who is of Guyanese descent, also threw his support behind the Caricom statement and the OAS statement, and called for an end to Venezuelan aggression against Guyana and the immediate release of the fishermen.
“The Antigua and Barbuda delegation joins other Caricom Governments and indeed the OAS Secretariat in calling for an end to any aggression against Guyana by Venezuela, and for the immediate release by Venezuela of the civilian crew and vessels they are now detaining.
“Further, we remind that the border between Guyana and Venezuela was settled 121 years ago by an 1899 arbitration of distinguished jurists, and was accepted by all parties, including Venezuela, as a full and final settlement. And that continued until the eve of Guyana’s independence,” the diplomat said.
Sanders noted that the issue is now before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), where it belongs. He therefore urged both parties to pursue a resolution to the controversy through the ICJ.
The US Representative to the OAS, Bradley Freden, meanwhile condemned the seizure of the fishing vessels and called for the immediate release of the crew members. Expressing similar sentiments were the Brazilian, Belizean and Canadian envoys.
“The United States condemns the January 23 seizure and detention of two Guyanese fishing vessels by the Maduro regime’s navy. And we call for the immediate release of the Guyanese vessels and crew.
“The United States supports a peaceful resolution to the maritime boundary controversy. We welcome the December 18 judgement concerning jurisdiction of the ICJ, and we will continue to follow this case closely,” Freden said.
Brazil’s OAS Representative, Ambassador Fernando Simas Magalhães, also urged that Guyana and Venezuela’s territorial dispute be resolved peacefully.
According to him, it is important for both parties to avoid provocative actions.
“The Brazilian Government reasserts its commitment to favour a peaceful solution to the territorial dispute between Guyana and Venezuela, underscoring the principle of respect for territorial integrity within the framework of international law, and the need for parties to avoid any actions that would jeopardize peace and security in the region,” he said.
Meanwhile, Venezuela’s Representative, Gustavo Tarre Briceno, sought to defend his country when given a chance to address the OAS Permanent Council. He said Venezuela has a right to protect its ‘territory’. According to him, other means of conflict resolution should be resorted to, other than the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
However, Insanally rejected Tarre’s intervention, and reminded of Guyana’s provision of humanitarian assistance to Venezuelan refugees fleeing that country’s economic crisis, and made it clear that Guyana’s friendship must not be abused.
“We have given refuge and succor to tens of thousands of Venezuelans who have fled their country, at great cost but with no complaint, in the spirit of good neighbourliness and as the decent, humanitarian thing to do. We will not, however, stand for any abuse of our friendship. Mr Tarre’s way is not the way to make friends.”
The Permanent Council is one of the two main political bodies of the OAS, the other is the General Assembly. The Permanent Council keeps vigil over the maintenance of friendly relations among the member states, and for that purpose, effectively assists them in the peaceful settlement of their disputes.
This is not the first time the OAS Permanent Council has met to discuss the embattled Venezuela. The Nicholas Maduro regime pulled out of the organization effective in 2019, but, through Tarre, a nominee of Venezuela’s interim President Juan Guaido, Venezuela retains a presence in the OAS.
Meanwhile, the Caribbean Community (Caricom), in a statement of its own, urged the immediate release of the crew members and the vessels by the Venezuelan Government, while demanding that Venezuela desist from its aggressive actions which undermine the stability of the Region.
“Caricom expresses grave concern at the escalation of tensions between Guyana and Venezuela caused by the interception and detention in Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone of two Guyanese fishing vessels by a Venezuelan naval vessel on January 21, 2021,” the regional bloc said.
“Recalling its statement of January 12, 2021 in which it had firmly repudiated any acts of aggression by Venezuela against Guyana, Caricom urges Venezuela to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Guyana and to desist from aggressive acts that will seriously undermine the peace and security not only of Guyana and Venezuela but the entire Caribbean region.”
The Permanent Council meeting comes just days after two Guyanese-registered fishing vessels and crews comprising a total of 12 men, who were operating off the coast of Waini Point in Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), were intercepted by the Venezuelan naval vessel Commandante Hugo Chavez GC 24.
In fact, a statement from the Foreign Affairs Ministry said the Venezuelan vessel was illegally sailing within Guyana’s EEZ and contiguous zone when it intercepted and boarded the vessels, whose captains were instructed to chart a course to Port Guiria, where they were detained.
According to the Ministry, the Guyana Government was not notified of the detention of its nationals, in contravention of established norms.
The crew of one of the ships, the Lady Nayera, comprise Captain Richard Ramnarine and crew members Ramlakan Kamal, Nick Raghubar, Javin Boston, Michael Domingo and Joel Joseph. The other ship, the Sea Wolf, is captained by Toney Garraway, and its crew members are Errol Gardener, Orland Roberts, Christopher Shaw, Shirvin Oneil and Randy Henry.
They have all since been brought before a Venezuelan court, and reports indicate they would be kept in custody for some 45 days, pending an investigation.
The detention of the two vessels comes on the heels of Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro’s recent presidential decree which reinforced his country’s illegal claim to Guyana’s Essequibo region.