Venezuela’s claim on Guyana affects Barbados
Guyana’s President, David Granger, says neighbouring Venezuela’s claim to its territory ropes in a number of Caribbean states, including Barbados, and this underlines the importance of the dispute to CARICOM.
Granger, who arrived here on Wednesday for the 36th annual CARICOM Heads of Government conference, told a group of Guyanese and diplomats resident in Barbados that Venezuela’s most recent claim in a dispute reaching back over 100 years is “outrageous” and “absurd”.
Last month, the Government of Venezuela proclaimed a Presidential Decree claiming maritime waters that encompass Guyana’s exclusive economic zone, in which a US exploration company two months back announced that it had found minerals on the seabed indicating there may be large deposits of oil beneath.
“We are on the brink of a major petroleum find. There is petroleum in Guyana, and Venezuela knows that more than anybody else,” Granger said at a reception hosted by Guyana’s Consul General to Barbados, Michael Brotherson.
The President continued: “Among other things, this is what has triggered one of the most absurd and outrageous claims on Guyana’s exclusive economic zone.
“In fact, the lines that the Venezuelan republic has drawn go as far right as to Surinamese waters. It is not just past Trinidad, Barbados and Grenada and Guyana, but it is gone into Surinamese waters as well.
“It is understood that parts of the zone to which President Granger referred, are subjects of maritime territorial agreements that Guyana, Barbados, Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago are soon to sign off on. The pending agreements are being scrutinised by regional officials and fall within CARICOM’s mechanism for cooperation.
Describing Venezuela’s recent decree, which is seen as an extension of a massive claim on Guyana’s land mass that Guyana contends was settled 116 years ago, as an extremely serious development, Granger said: “We are working with our colleagues in the Caribbean Community to ensure that the two things which our leaders stood for in 1965 –– national independence and regional integration –– are upheld at this CARCIOM heads of government conference and through future development of CARICOM.”
Granger said 1965 saw the genesis of what is now CARICOM because in that year the leaders of the yet-to-be-independent states of Guyana, Forbes Burnham, and of Antigua, Vere Bird, met Premier Errol Barrow here and the idea of the regional organization was born.
“I do believe that if the entire Community could come together with that same spirit that we had 50 years ago, we could overcome this problem, obstacle.”
Granger spoke of the restraining effect that the dispute with Venezuela has had on Guyana’s economy.
“We have come here under a cloud. We have laboured with a monkey on our back in all of our post-independence history. And that is the territorial claim by Venezuela.
“It is something that has obstructed our development, it has drained funds away from other forms of development. It has blocked hydro-power investment, intimidated investors.”
He added: “Right now we are faced with something called a decree, which was promulgated exactly five days after I paid a visit by helicopter to the Exxon Mobile exploration platform in Guyana EEZ [exclusive economic zone].
“It is all tendentious, contrived, intentioned to make everything Guyana does, we must run to Caracas and seek.
“Well, we can’t have that.”