Int’l community to be alerted over Venezuelan violation of Guyana’s sovereignty – Foreign Minister
…says Govt working to get 11 detained Guyanese returned safely
By Jarryl Bryan
Making it clear that the Government is working hard behind the scenes to get the detained 11-member Guyanese crew returned safely from Venezuela, Foreign Affairs Minister Hugh Todd on Sunday said that the international community will also be alerted about Venezuela’s latest actions.
It was announced on Saturday that two Guyanese-registered fishing vessels – the Lady Nayera and the Sea Wolf – had been intercepted by the Venezuelan navy off the coast of Waini Point and their crew detained.
In an interview with this publication on Sunday, Todd confirmed that the crew, composed of 11 members, was still in Venezuelan custody at Port Guiria in Sucre, Venezuela. According to him, the Government is using its diplomatic channels to get the crew returned safely and will be issuing a note verbale in protest of the Venezuelan navy’s actions.
“So far, the Venezuelans have confirmed that they detained the two vessels. We are using the diplomatic channels. We are going to write to Caracas a protest note on this issue,” Minister Todd said.
Violation of sovereignty
“We see it as a violation of our territorial integrity and sovereignty. And we put out a statement which reflects our views on the situation. We see it as troubling. And we’re deeply concerned about the action of the Venezuelans.”
The Minister also noted that the international community, which has overwhelmingly sided with Guyana on its territorial rights to Essequibo and Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), will be alerted about Venezuela’s actions. According to Todd, the Government is also in communication with the family of the detained crew members.
“We’re going to alert the international community of this recent development and we will continue to work with our international partners and institutions to ensure that we’re able to have a peaceful resolution to this. Their actions is really part and parcel of what they would have done with the decree.”
“So, we’re trying our best to alert the international community. We’ve spoken to the relatives of the persons who are now being detained. So, we’ll be in touch with them, to give them updates. Our main concern is to get the captains, crew and vessels released,” the Foreign Minister said.
In a statement late Saturday evening, the Foreign Affairs Ministry had revealed that the two Guyanese-registered fishing vessels were operating off the coast of Waini Point in Guyana’s EEZ when they were intercepted by the Venezuelan naval vessel, Commandante Hugo Chavez GC 24.
In fact, the statement said that 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.
“Guyana condemns in the strongest possible terms this wanton act of aggression by the Venezuelan armed forces against Guyana and Guyanese citizens. This Venezuelan action amounts to an interference with the sovereign rights of Guyana in its EEZ, contrary to international law,” the statement had said.
“The Government of Guyana insists on the immediate release of the crew and vessels. It further exhorts the Government of Venezuela, and its agents, to behave in a manner consistent with international law and good neighbourly relations,” it added.
The detention of the two vessels comes on the heels of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s recent presidential decree which reinforced his country’s illegal claim to Guyana’s Essequibo region.
Additionally, the Venezuelan President had announced that he has written to Secretary General of the United Nations (UN) Antonio Guterres, to lead direct negotiations between the two countries, as opposed to the binding judgement of the International Court of Justice.
That option has been exhausted, however, as the UN tried to mediate discussions between Guyana and Venezuela for years as part of an ultimately futile good offices process until Guyana activated its right to take Venezuela to the ICJ in 2018 to get a final ruling on the border issue.
In the wake of Maduro’s decree, condemnation has flowed from President Dr Irfaan Ali, Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon, the United States and Canada, as well as the Caribbean Community (Caricom).