….Guyana issues protest note to Venezuela
…Govt condemns move as “aggressive” and “intimidatory”
…Army “vigilant” – Chief of Staff
By Jarryl Bryan
A little more than a month after Venezuela illegally detained 12 Guyanese fishermen in Guyana’s maritime space, the Government of Guyana has had to sharply condemn the unauthorised entry of two Venezuelan fighter jets into Guyana’s airspace.
At least one of the jets was filmed flying over Eteringbang in Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni) on Tuesday. The video showing the jet — a Russian-made, twin-engine, two-seat Sukhoi SU-30 fighter aircraft flying over some trees — was reportedly captured by a miner and sparked much speculation when it made the rounds on social media.
Sukhoi SU-30 fighter aircraft were developed in the Soviet Union by Russia’s Sukhoi Aviation Corporation.
When contacted by this publication, Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Chief of Staff Brigadier General Godfrey Bess was tightlipped, saying only that the Force has stepped up its vigilance, and that Guyanese can be assured the borders are secure.
“This matter is being addressed through the diplomatic channels. What I can say (is that) we reported, and would have seen, unauthorised aircraft in our airspace, and we are monitoring the situation. Since yesterday we have not seen it again. Our borders are safe, and we are alert,” Bess said.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Affairs Ministry subsequently issued a statement in which it condemned Venezuela’s actions and cited this as the latest in a series of intimidatory and lawless acts committed by the Spanish- speaking country against Guyana.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana wishes to inform that on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, at approximately 13:20 hrs, two Venezuelan Army Sukhoi SU 30 fighter jets overflew the community of Eteringbang and the air strip at a very low altitude of 1500 feet.
“The fighter jets circled the location once, before proceeding in an easterly direction.
“The Government of Guyana condemns this latest act of aggression by the Venezuelan Armed Forces as a violation of the sovereignty of Guyana over the air above its territory,” the Ministry said.
In the statement, it reminded that this latest act of hostility follows on the heels of Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro’s decree on January 7, reigniting Venezuela’s unlawful claim to Guyana’s maritime space, including its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and land territory west of the Essequibo river.
“The Government wishes to remind that this latest hostility (also) follows closely on the heels of…the illegal interception and detention of two Guyanese fishing vessels and their crew in Guyana’s waters, and the resolutions of the Special Commission for the Defence of the “Guayana Esequiba” and Territorial Sovereignty which recommended the convening a session of this Special Commission to the Essequibo with the assistance of the Venezuelan Armed Forces.”
The incursion of the two Venezuelan fighter jets into Guyana’s territory, the Ministry said, is a clear indication that “the Government of Venezuela is prepared to use aggression and intimidation to accomplish what cannot be accomplished by legal means – the surrender by Guyana of its patrimony. The Government of Guyana exhorts the Government of Venezuela, and its agents, to behave in a manner consistent with international law and good neighbourly relations,” the statement said.
Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Minister Hugh Todd on Wednesday summoned the Venezuelan Ambassador to Guyana, Luis Edgardo Diaz Monclus, to hand over a protest note and register the Government of Guyana’s condemnation of the recent violation of Guyana’s sovereignty.
Minister Todd informed the ambassador that on Tuesday, March 2, 2021, at approximately 13:20h, two Venezuelan Sukhoi SU30 fighter jets flew over the community of Eteringbang and the airstrip at a very low altitude. The fighter jets then circled the location once before proceeding in an easterly direction.
The Minister voiced the Government’s concerns on the act of aggression and stated that such an action was a clear violation of Guyana’s territorial space as well as International law and convention.
Further, the Foreign Minister noted that this act not only challenged the good neighbourly relations, but, by extension, peace and stability of the region.
He reiterated President Ali’s commitment to engaging with Venezuela in areas of mutual interest for the betterment and prosperity of the peoples of Guyana and Venezuela.
A statement from the Foreign Affairs Ministry said Ambassador Monclus registered his disappointment at hearing of this development, and mentioned that he is only aware of a reconnaissance mission within Venezuelan territory to monitor narco-trafficking and illegal activities.
He said Venezuela is committed to peaceful relations with Guyana, and committed to transmitting the information from the Foreign Minister to his Capital.
He promised to provide feedback in a timely manner.
According to the Ministry, the international community will be kept informed of all actions undertaken by Venezuela as it seeks to undermine the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Guyana, as well as threaten the peace and security of the region.
On January 21, 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 Toney Garraway, while the crew members were 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 have been kept in custody for some 45 days pending an investigation. However, Venezuela came under immense diplomatic pressure to release the men, and on February 2, the fishermen were released on the orders of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro himself, with the legal proceedings against them discontinued. They arrived in Guyana on February 6.
Venezuela’s acts of aggression come even as Guyana inches closer to a final, binding judicial settlement of its border with Venezuela. The International Court of Justice (ICJ), which met a little over a week ago, is expected to soon set various timelines by which Guyana and Venezuela would have to make their respective submissions in the border controversy case.