Venezuela denies soldiers shot at GGMC workers

Venezuela has denied that its army shot at Guyana Geology and Mines Com-mission (GGMC) workers last month while they were travelling in this country’s waters but Georgetown remains adamant the incident occurred.

“We did our investigation and we are very much convinced the incident occurred,” Chief of Staff  of the Guyana Defence Force, Brigadier Mark Phillips told Stabroek News yesterday, when contacted.

Georgetown has since protested to Caracas on the issue and has said that the matter will be brought to the attention of the Secretary General of the United Nation, Ban Ki-moon, in his capacity as Good Officer under the Geneva Agreement and members of the UN and its Security Council.

The Venezuelan Embassy here yesterday issued a press release dated June 6 denying the May 30th incident.

“The Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela firmly rejects the information reported on Tuesday, May 31st, 2016 on the first pages of the local newspapers…stating that Venezuelan soldiers attacked officials of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission, who were travelling in a boat in the Cuyuni River, Eteringbang area,” the release stated.

“It is important to note that the investigations carried out by the Venezuelan military authorities have not reported of any incident in the above-mentioned area and our military units confirm not having carried out any military exercise in that location…this news report lacks validity, since the Venezuelan military forces have not been involved in any incident…,” it added.

The embassy believes that local media operatives are “echoing the international media campaign against Venezuela” and called on them to stop.

On the incident, the foreign ministry stated that it received a preliminary report from the GGMC informing that on May 30th 2016 at approximately 17:20hrs, a team of three GGMC officers travelling on the Cuyuni River, came under fire from the Venezuelan army. “The officials were returning from a monitoring and inspection exercise at Arau, when the chartered boat came under attack, approximately one mile above the Eteringbang Police Station,” MOFA had said.

Relations between Guyana and Venezuela have deteriorated over the last year since President Nicolas Maduro issued a decree laying claim to most of Guyana’s Atlantic waters.

The Venezuelan decree had followed closely on the heels of an announcement by US Company ExxonMobil of a significant oil find in Guyana’s waters. The Venezuelan decree laid claim to this area.

Following the rising tensions, Presidents David Granger and Maduro met the Secretary General of the United Nations in September, where a number of steps were agreed. This was after Granger had turned to the world body for intervention.

Granger also embarked on a vigorous campaign to internationalise the issue and up the pressure on Caracas to withdraw the decree. Caracas later withdrew the decree and issued a new one which Guyana still finds objectionable.

Caricom has also expressed its support for the role of the United Nations Secretary General and his efforts, in keeping with the provisions of the 1966 Geneva Agreement, to bring the controversy to a definitive and judicious conclusion.

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