OAS Permanent Council to discuss rising tension between Guyana and Venezuela
– French envoy condemns Venezuela’s detention of Guyanese fishermen
The Organisation of American States (OAS) has put the rising tensions between Guyana and Venezuela on its agenda to be discussed at the level of the Permanent Council, in the wake of Venezuela’s recent intrusion into Guyana’s territory and detention of Guyanese citizens.
According to a short statement from its Twitter account, the OAS Permanent Council will be meeting today, at 10:30h, to discuss the current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic in the region and “developments relating to the Guyana-Venezuela controversy.”
The OAS did not specify what developments it would discuss. However, the Permanent Council meeting comes just days after two Guyanese-registered fishing vessels that 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 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.
The crew of one of the ships, the Lady Nayera, include Captain Richard Ramnarine and his crew members Ramlakan Kamal, Nick Raghubar, Javin Boston, Michael Domingo and Joel Joseph. The other ship, the Sea Wolf, was captained by Captain Toney Garraway, while the crew members included Errol Gardener, Orland Roberts, Christopher Shaw, Shirvin Oneil and Randy Henry. They have since been brought before a Venezuelan court and reports indicate they will be kept in custody for some 45 days pending an investigation.
The detention of the two vessels also comes on the heels of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s recent presidential decree which reinforced his country’s illegal claim to Guyana’s Essequibo region.
Meanwhile, Non-Resident French Ambassador to Guyana Antoine Joly paid a courtesy call on Attorney General and Senior Counsel Anil Nandlall. Among the things discussed were legal assistance in criminal matters and the use of Guyana as a transhipment point for Haitians travelling to French Guiana. But during the meeting, the Guyana-Venezuela controversy formed an integral part of the discussions.
According to a statement from the AG Chambers, Joly condemned Venezuela’s intrusion into Guyana’s territory during the meeting, as well as the arrest and detention of the Guyanese fishermen in the Spanish-speaking country.
“Ambassador Joly indicated that his country will be issuing a statement supporting Guyana and the responsible position the Government of Guyana has taken in dealing with the latest act of aggression by Venezuelan authorities,” the statement said.
“The Ambassador condemned the use of force by that country including their latest incursion into Guyana’s territorial waters and arrest and detention of two fishing vessels with Guyanese fishermen. He recognised the support Guyana has received from the Caricom Community (Caricom) and the global community and commits to lend a voice to the same.”
Even as the crew remain in custody, the Government of Guyana has made it clear that it is working to get the men back as soon as possible. Guyana’s Foreign Affairs Minister Hugh Todd conducted a virtual meeting with his Venezuelan counterpart, Jorge Arreaza on Monday. During the meeting, Arreaza had assured that the men’s human rights were being respected and that he would pursue their early release.
In addition, on Monday, the Minister also called in the Chargé d’Affaires of the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Moses Chavez, to transfer a protest note from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Guyana to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Venezuela.
The protest note firmly condemned the illegal detention of the captains and crews of the Guyanese-registered fishing vessels and called for their immediate release. The Foreign Affairs Ministry also stated that the Government is using all diplomatic channels to ensure the safe return of the 12-member crew and vessels to Guyana.
In a statement issued, Minister Todd took the opportunity of the meeting with Chavez to voice his concerns on the matter. The Foreign Minister also highlighted the regional zone of peace and called for Venezuela to operate in a manner consistent with international rule of law.