Eteringbang incident with Defence Board and Foreign Ministry – Chief of Staff

Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Chief of Staff, Rear Admiral Gary Best says the incident on August 31 where Venezuelan civilians and apparently military personnel entered the country at Eteringbang and were photographed with local soldiers is engaging the attention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Defence Board.

Speaking to Stabroek News yesterday, Best said that the GDF has submitted to the Ministry its official report on the incident and that report is now being considered at the level of the Defence Board.

“I cannot comment further on the matter. We sent in our report and it is being considered by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Defence Board,” he said.

An online report by Venezuelan media house El Universal said that 45 Venezuelans “went on a mission crossing the Cuyuni River and into the Guyana-Venezuela disputed area accompanied by officers of the Venezuelan army.” According to the report in the Venezuelan publication, “officers of the Venezuelan army” accompanied 45 Venezuelan citizens who carried out “an act of sovereignty in the Essequibo disputed area” on Saturday August 31, 2013. The publication quoted Venezuelan Ricardo de Toma as saying: “We came here to carry out a civil exercise of sovereignty, but we do not understand what President (Nicolas) Maduro was doing there (in Guyana).” Maduro had been on an official visit to Guyana at the time.

El Universal said de Toma and his colleagues were members of an organisation called ‘My Map of Venezuela also includes our Essequibo’. According to the publication, de Toma said that in spite of the mining projects Guyana has been developing in the “Essequibo-disputed area with Venezuela,” plus the granting of oil concessions in the Venezuelan Atlantic front, President Maduro “paid a visit (to Guyana) only to spread an ideological model.”

The visit by the Venezuelans came on the day that Maduro paid a one-day state visit to Guyana.

On Monday, Minister of Foreign Affairs Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett told this newspaper that preliminary reports indicated that the Venezuelans were students, who were granted permission to do research on the border. “The preliminary information available to me indicates that a group of Venezuelans came to Guyana via Eteringbang. They indicated that they were students and sought permission from the relevant Guyanese authorities to enter Guyana. That permission was given. They further indicated that they were doing a research in relation to the border,” she said.

“I am advised that they had security officers with them. I do not have any report of any ‘military exercise’ and will not speculate. I await a full report on the matter,” she said. Efforts to reach Minister Rodrigues-Birkett for an update on the matter yesterday proved futile.

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