Venezuela border controversy: Caricom Member States fully support Guyana – Mottley & Gonsalves
…condemn threats of force, actions outside of international law
When it comes to Venezuela’s territorial controversy with Guyana, the Caribbean Community (Caricom) fully stands in support of its sister State. This is according to both Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley and St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, who is also Chairman of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).
The two Heads of State held a joint press conference on Saturday, where they were asked about the Guyana-Venezuela border controversy. According to Mottley, she has been following the issue very closely and is in full support of Guyana’s position, which she described as a strong one.
“I think Caricom has issued a very strong statement in support of Guyana. We have all, as individual countries, issued that. In this particular case, in our view, Guyana’s position has been strong. It has been unwavering. And it is before the International Court of Justice. And we have backed them 150 per cent with that.”
“But equally, we understand that where there is not the appropriate opportunity, to keep temperatures down, then things can happen that go beyond our control. It is fair to say Ralph is Chairman of CELAC, Roosevelt (Skerrit) is Chairman of Caricom. And I have every confidence in my two Chairs, to ensure we can keep the temperatures down even if there is not the settled outcome on the dispute that would be traditionally expected.”
Mottley, who recently caught flak for comments made that implied Guyana had as much responsibility to maintain peace as Venezuela even though the Spanish-speaking country has been the aggressor, also addressed the storm her comments raised.
“The fact that I said two weeks ago at my annual conference that in spite of that, Venezuela is a friend and therefore we would wish to see the Caribbean remain a zone of peace, seems to have excited condemnation, Ralph, on you and me in some quarters. But I have come to public life to promote peace, not division. But I’m equally conscious that in our lives, things will not always go as we would like,” the Prime Minister said.
Meanwhile, Gonsalves also expressed his support for Guyana and warned that no one would benefit from a clash between the two nations, except imperialistic interests. Gonsalves was of the view that it is important Guyana and Venezuela continue to have dialogue that is not connected with the case – a position the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Government has already affirmed.
“Guyana and Venezuela are among eight countries that belong to the Amazon Cooperation Treaty. There are things for them still, as neighbours, to talk about. There’s the question of the delimitation of the seas, which is not connected directly to the Arbitral Award.”
“The only entity to benefit from any clash is imperialism. Because historically, imperialism acts in its own interest. And it can flip the script tomorrow morning, if it chooses. And I don’t know why people don’t learn from history and the contemporary world.”
The St Vincent Prime Minister emphasised the importance of neither country taking actions outside of international law, such as using force or threatening to use force… something that Venezuela has been accused of doing, with Guyana having to bring to the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) attention to the build up of the Venezuelan army on their side of the border with Guyana.
“Venezuela has decided to have a referendum. There are five questions being posed. Now, the Parliament of Guyana has said the Government of Guyana must not have any conversations with Venezuela on the matter of the controversy. They’re neighbours,” Gonsalves said.
“It makes sense, even while this controversy is proceeding in the manner its proceeding, for both countries to affirm their commitment to international law and international legal principles, even though they may have a different approach, practically, to those questions, that they must uphold that the Region is one of peace and there will be no force or threat of force, singularly or jointly.”
Based on a 10-year-old census, the Essequibo area accounts for almost two-thirds of Guyana with around 125,000 of its 800,000 inhabitants living there. Venezuela has laid claim to this territory and has a referendum planned for December 3 that will seek the approval of Venezuelans to, among other things, annex Essequibo.
The Guyana Government has declared its commitment to resolving this longstanding border controversy with Venezuela through the legal process at the World Court. This position was also reaffirmed by Guyana’s National Assembly in a unanimous vote.
Over the past few weeks, Guyana has been informing regional and international partners of Venezuela’s planned referendum, which has been criticised by the United States, Caricom, and the Organisation of American States (OAS), as well as several other nations in the Region, including Brazil. There is a consensus that Venezuela’s referendum threatens the peace, security, and stability of the Region. (G-3)