WHILE the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was signalling a warning last week to Trinidad and Tobago on its “vulnerability” to a decline in energy prices, Caribbean Community heads of government were urging Venezuela to move “definitively” for a resolution to its territorial dispute with Guyana.
Of immediate interest to Guyana is the urgency for an understanding by Venezuela of Guyana’s unhindered access to its territorial waters for off-shore oil exploration.
And the 19th century colonial-inherited territorial problem for the governments in Caracas and Georgetown is to be addressed during an informal meeting of the presidents of Venezuela (Nicolas Maduro) and Guyana (Donald Ramotar) on the margins of the current three-day summit of the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) bloc of states that started yesterday in Brazil.
Hosted by Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff, this sixth summit of BRICS is expected to announce either tomorrow or on Friday progress achieved on major economic issues including the inauguration of a US$100 billion New Development Bank.
Guyana and Suriname are the two Caricom members that are among countries of the Union of South American nations (UNASUR) participating in the current BRICS summit.
Venezuela’s age-old territorial row with Guyana dates back to an 1899 claim by which the Venezuelan regime of the time had laid claim to some two-thirds of the 83,000 square-mile territory of then colonial British Guiana—despite the ruling of an international tribunal in Paris declaring the Venezuelan claim to be “null and void”.
The other Caricom member state which continues to be afflicted with a colonial-inherited border dispute is Belize which had gained its independence from Britain while still contending with territorial claims by Guatemala.
At their recent 35th regular annual summit in Antigua Caricom heads of government reaffirmed continued support for the “sovereignty and territorial integrity” of both Guyana and Belize.
In relation to the Venezuela-Guyana dispute, the Caricom leaders expressed their concern “over the lack of progress towards the consideration of options, within the context of international law in delimiting the maritime boundary”.
Guyana’s anxiety over lack of progress has deepened since the status quo of inaction in Venezuela is regarded as contrary to the spirit of agreement by their respective foreign ministers at a meeting following the controversy that erupted last year when the Venezuelan navy seized and detained a seismic survey vessel in Guyanese territorial waters.
Disappointments over recurring failures to resolve a 19th century territorial dispute that continues to plague bilateral co-operation for development in the 21st century in the case of Venezuela and Guyana is all the more disturbing in view of both countries recurring stated “commitment’’ to a peaceful resolution and the pursuit of joint ventures for economic development.
Let’s see what new and encouraging public statement the presidents of Venezuela and Guyana would be ready to offer following their informal meeting in Brazil during the current BRICS summit.
Rickey Singh is a noted Barbados-based Caribbean journalist