Guyana will formally inform Caricom shortly of its disaffection with the new decree issued by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, which replaced the infamous May 26, Decree 1787.
Speaking to reporters after signing of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative Letter of Agreement with US Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Bryan Hunt at the Foreign Ministry yesterday, Minister Carl Greenidge said there was need to formally state that issues remain. Decree 1859, which replaced decree 1787, was devoid of the longitude and latitude elements, however the basis of the new decree is still stipulated in unlawful occupation.
Greenidge said, “The Caricom Heads of Government when looking at the actions of Venezuela… recognize and acknowledge the inveigled claims in territories of Caricom which are illegal, [they] expected that Venezuela would be doing something about those claims.”
He highlighted the Caribbean community’s friendly relationship with Venezuela, but noted that as a result of the controversy and the decrees which sought to annex maritime territory from multiple nations the relations may have been “poisoned.”
The minister said his understanding is that while “it has not done much to attenuate the concerns of the Caricom countries, it, interestingly enough, seems to have done enough to at least assuage the most burning concerns of Colombia. Isn’t that interesting?”
On his return from the July 2 to 4 summit in Barbados, Greenidge had stated that Guyana was pleased with Caricom’s response to the recent escalation of its border controversy with Venezuela.
“I think Caricom has shown they can operate on the basis of principle,” he also said. Following the summit, Caricom leaders called on Venezuela, in the spirit of friendship and cooperation, to withdraw the elements of the decree that apply to the territory and maritime space of member states.
Greenidge noted that Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne, in his capacity as Caricom Chairman along with several other heads of state, had hammered out an agreement with Venezuela’s Vice President Arreaza and Rodriguez.
Meanwhile, speaking to the Good Officer process, which Venezuela is attempting to re-engage, Greenidge said it has run its course without yielding results.
Greenidge said the process itself has been used to the detriment of the resolved the border controversy. “It has already been indicated by the previous government that the process of good officers has run its course. It can’t take us anywhere constructive and indeed I think the feeling is as it has evolved it has served as the cover, not deliberately on the part of the UN of course, but it has served for a cover under which Guyana’s sovereignty has been threatened…”
In the same breath the minister restated that the next functional step would be a judicial solution. “I don’t know what else you can do in terms of mediation when you think of what has been happening over the years and… the only option that is left would be for a judicial resolution of this matter that is our position,” he said.
The minister’s comments come just days after it was revealed that Maduro had written to the United Nations asking for the appointment of a Good Officer. The last Good Officer was Norman Girvan who died in April 2014 and was not replaced.
Pointing to the amount of times Venezuela has directly overstepped its authority as it relates to Guyana’s sovereignty, Greenidge said “Something has to be unacceptable about a framework that allows one side to do this and to do this with impunity and to do it effectively, frequently.”
Greenidge said, “We have indicated very clearly to the Secretary General of the United Nations that the Good Officer process to which we have adhered faithfully does not seem to offer any prospect of moving forward and indeed my understanding is that the PPP government indicated the very same thing to both the UN and the Venezuela government so that isn’t something we are going to be exercising our mind over in the future.”
When asked whether Guyana would approve should a new Good Officer’s name be floated for appointment, Greenidge said he would prefer not to answer at this moment.
“I am not aware that the Good Officer process has any further to go. We have been on this particular line for the last 25 years and it seems to me that in that time the actions that we thought had been captured within the Geneva Agreement the process for the practical resolution of the controversy, the controversy being a claim that the 1899 Arbitrations Award by the Tribunal was null and void, has never been addressed in 25 years,” the minister said of the UN endorsed process.
He continued, “As far as I am concerned the passage of decrees claiming on the basis of criteria unknown anywhere else in the world, unilateral claim to maritime space, I am not aware that it is one that the Good Officers process can resolve and that is because the determination and delineation of maritime boundaries are specifically within the competence of other UN agencies such as the Convention on the Law of the Sea the commission dealing with the Law of the Sea.”
The minister noted that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had met Caricom Heads of State in Barbados and the UN will be sending teams to both Guyana and Venezuela in the near future to assess the current state of affairs.
Moving forward, he said that ultimately should the issue be taken to the International Court of Justice it is the UN Secretary-General who would have to make the call to do so. “The judicial solution has to be on the basis of an action taken by the Secretary-General. In other words, it is he who has to say okay we will now turn to this dimension,” Greenidge told reporters after clarification was sought as to whether Guyana could proceed without a consensus on the issue.
“The next step in this process requires and can only be taken within the context of the Geneva Agreement by the Secretary General of the United Nations it is he who has to decide given that there is a new development of the crisis, call it what you will, it is he who has to decide on the next step,” Greenidge said.