Release of Guyanese fishermen ordered by Venezuelan President
…Govt lauds role played by Caricom, int’l community
The release of the two Guyanese fishing vessels and their 12 crew members that were detained by Venezuela some two weeks ago was done on the orders of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro himself.
This is according to Guyana’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, which sent out a statement on Wednesday in which it confirmed that the men have been released and the legal proceedings against them discontinued.
“The Foreign Minister of Venezuela, His Excellency Jorge Arreaza confirmed to Foreign Minister Honourable Hugh Hilton Todd that all legal proceedings had been discontinued at the request of His Excellency, Nicolás Maduro. The vessels are expected to set sail for Guyana on February 3, 2021.”
Guyana and a number of countries had condemned Venezuela’s actions and urged the Spanish-speaking country to release the fishermen. In the statement, the Ministry lauded the role played by the international community in supporting Guyana.
“The Government of Guyana appreciates the efforts of the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community and of the wider international community in securing the release of the crew and vessels. His Excellency, President Irfaan Ali was tireless in his efforts to ensure the safe and speedy return of the crew to their families,” the Ministry said.
“The Government of Guyana wishes to underscore the value of mutual respect in the relations between the Cooperative Republic of Guyana and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela,” the statement also said.
Meanwhile, the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry released a statement of its own, in which it attributed the release of the men to the intermediation of specific Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries like Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago
“The Venezuelan Government wishes to recognise that this measure of grace, motu proprio, constitutes a genuine initiative in favour of peace, responding to the sincerest interest that the Caribbean remains a Peace Zone, As Well as to the intermediation of the Governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago, in benefit of the stability of the Region and the good co-existence as neighbours,” the Venezuelans said.
“In this sense, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela takes this opportunity to reiterate to the Government of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana its willingness to settle any dispute always in adherence to respect and the principles of international law,” the statement added.
On January 21, the two Guyana-registered fishing vessels, Lady Nayera and Sea Wolf, and their crews were operating off the coast of Waini Point in Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) when they were intercepted by the Venezuelan naval vessel Commandante Hugo Chávez GC 24, which was illegally traversing Guyana’s waters.
The Venezuelans boarded the vessels and the Captains were instructed to chart a course to Port Guiria where they were detained. The Lady Nayera crew comprised Captain Richard Ramnarine, 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.
The men were subsequently brought before a Venezuelan court, and reports emerged that they could be kept in custody for some 45 days pending an investigation. However, Venezuela came under immense diplomatic pressure over the past weeks to release the men.
Last week, the Permanent Council of the Organisation of American States (OAS) met to discuss, among other things, the tensions between Guyana and Venezuela. At the meeting, a number of countries on the Council took a firm stance against Venezuela, including the United States, Canada, Trinidad, Brazil, Antigua and Barbuda, and Belize.
The Permanent Council is one of the two main political bodies of the OAS, with the other being the General Assembly. The Permanent Council keeps vigilance over the maintenance of friendly relations among the member states and, for that purpose, effectively assists them in the peaceful settlement of their disputes.
Caricom and the OAS issued statements in which they urged Venezuela to release the men and cease its acts of aggression against Guyana. Statements also came from the new Joe Biden Administration in Washington, in the form of acting US State Department Assistant Secretary Julie Chung. French Ambassador to Guyana, Antoine Joly also spoke on the issue. (G3)