-talks on road link to speed up
Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez has offered to supply all of Guyana’s fuel needs and restated a desire to build a pipeline across this country to Suriname.
Chavez, according to a release from his presidential complex, Miraflores Palace said that President Bharrat Jagdeo has signalled Guyana’s willingness to join the Venezuela-led Bolivarian Alternative for the Peoples of the Americas, (ALBA) as an observer.
The two countries have also committed to a peaceful resolution of Caracas’ claims to Essequibo. Jagdeo visited the Spanish-speaking country on Wednesday when four cooperation accords and one joint statement were signed. The agreements focused on agricultural, energy and fishery matters. It was President Jagdeo’s second visit to Venezuela.
The statement from the Miraflores Presidential Palace quoted Chavez as saying that Jagdeo had expressed his desire to make Guyana an observer in ALBA. According to Chavez, observer countries can attend meetings, join the Bank of ALBA and “seek funding and solutions to scourges such as poverty and hunger.” Chavez also said that he would discuss Suriname joining ALBA with the country’s new President, Desi Bouterse. Chavez has received an invitation to attend Bouterse’s inauguration. Membership of ALBA has been a touchy topic in Caricom with several countries in the region being enticed by Caracas to join up despite concerns over its ideological bent.
The Venezuelan President has also offered to supply Guyana with all the fuel it needs, saying Venezuela should share its oil wealth with its neighbours and strengthen regional unity. According to the Venezuelan state-owned AVN, Chavez told Jagdeo that Caracas is willing to increase oil shipments of 5,000 barrels a day to 10,000 barrels, which would satisfy Guyana’s fuel needs. Guyana receives Venezuelan oil under the Petrocaribe programme, which provides Chavez’s regional allies with oil on concessional payment terms in exchange for goods or services — not just cash. “This makes us feel more committed to South American integration,” Chavez was quoted as saying.
Meantime, in their joint statement released by the Government Information Agency here, the two presidents reaffirmed their confidence in the United Nations Good Offices Process “as a mechanism that would assist the Parties to advance towards a practical and satisfactory solution for the border controversy, without affecting good bilateral and regional relations.” They welcomed the appointment of and expressed their confidence in the work of Professor Norman Girvan as the Personal Representative of the United Nations Secretary General responsible for the Good Offices Process. Ambassador Roy Chaderton has been designated as the Facilitator for Venezuela while Speaker of the National Assembly, Ralph Ramkarran is Guyana’s Facilitator.
“We’ve been able to place our relationship beyond the border problems to work in areas that are vital to the development of both countries,” Jagdeo was quoted as saying in press reports. “We cannot allow the Essequibo disagreement to turn us into countries that turn their backs on each other,” Chavez added.
The bilateral agreements signed during Jagdeo’s visit included a Letter of Commitment between the Venezuela’s Ministry of the People´s Power for Food and the Ministry of Agriculture; a Memorandum of Under-standing (MOU) between Venezuela’s People´s Minis-try for Energy and Petroleum and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the supply of urea; another MOU between the two ministries for the supply of jet fuel and; a MOU between the two governments for the creation of a Committee for the Preven-tion, Investigation and Settle-ment of Fishing Incidents.
The Letter of Commit-ment could see Venezuela purchasing 50,000 tonnes of paddy and 20,000 tonnes of white rice from Guyana while the urea MOU will see Venezuela supplying 4,000 tonnes of urea to Guyana. Venezuela will also analyze opportunities to supply Jet A1 fuel to Guyana which also takes into account the possibility of triangulating such supply with third countries. The paddy and rice deal will apparently be financed by the barter arrangement under the Petrocaribe deal.
Meantime, the two leaders have also mandated their respective Foreign Ministries to work on the convening of the Fifth High Level Bilateral Commission Meeting (COBAN) to be held in Caracas.
They also expressed their determination to advance the necessary arrangements to execute the Feasibility Study and the Environmental Impact Study of the Venezuela-Guyana Road Link (Tumeremo to Georgetown), as a necessary undertaking for development and integration between both countries.
They have agreed to instruct the Guyana – Venezuela Joint technical working group on the proposed Guyana/Venezuela road link to immediately commence discussions with the Caribbean Development Bank with a view to having that institution act as the conduit for the resources for the conduct of the pre- and feasibility studies on the proposed road link. “Both Heads of State emphasised that the pre- and feasibility studies were critical to considerations for the advancement of the proposal”, the Joint Statement said.
Chavez disclosed that resources were recently approved for carrying out the exercise of updating the hydrographical data of the Mahaica, Mahaicony and Abary rivers in Guyana, which is needed to execute the dredging works in cooperation with Venezuela. Jagdeo announced Georgetown’s willingness to buy 100 VENIRAN tractors, in a demonstration of the commitment to intensify the commercial links between both countries, the Statement said.
The two leaders also expressed their satisfaction over the effective functioning of the petroleum cooperation programme, PetroCaribe and welcomed the progress of the social project financed through the ALBA-CARIBE Fund, concerning the construction of the Centre for Rehabilitation and Reintegration for Homeless Persons, said the statement.
It said that President Jagdeo expressed his appreciation at the timely decision of the Venezuelan government to purchase Guyanese rice, which has brought benefits to the small farmers. The progress of the project to improve the cold chain storage facilities for non-traditional agricultural and dairy products, from which small Guyanese producers would benefit by having access to markets further afield, was also noted.
The two Presidents also recognized the help that regional and sub-regional organizations can offer for the peaceful resolution of local controversies, and for preventive diplomacy. “In this sense, they highlighted the value and importance of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) as a mechanism for consensus and an effective political space to solve the differences in South America, reinforcing their commitment for their development and consolidation,” the statement said. Chavez congratulated Jagdeo on Guyana’s upcoming assumption of the Pro Tempore Chairmanship of UNASUR and confirmed that his participation in the next Summit to be held in Georgetown in August.
The two leaders also highlighted their satisfaction over the current status of the relations between Guyana and Venezuela “which were founded on the principles of solidarity, cooperation and complementarities”.
Meantime, a report from the official Venezuela News Agency (AVN) said that during his meeting with Jagdeo, Chavez proposed the creation of a gas pipeline in the eastern area of the country to supply oil to Guyana and Suriname. Chavez asked that Venezuelan and Guyanese technicians to begin research on this project.
“In Suriname, many families still cook with firewood, they do not have energy means and it is our duty to help them. They are our brothers,” he was quoted as saying. “Guyana has always admired you and your government in many areas,” Jagdeo told Chavez.