EDITORIAL: Venezuela, Guyana must seek peaceful solution
OUR FOCUS ON pressing domestic matters may have precluded our paying detailed attention to one of the growing threats to this region’s peace, security and stability. But, given the ongoing dispute and apparent deteriorating relations between Guyana and Venezuela, we ought to sit up and take notice.
The tension between the two countries gained a great deal of attention at the end of July when Caribbean Community (CARICOM) heads met in Barbados for their annual mid-year conference. Time has shown that that initiative was little more than a lot of hot air.
Venezuela clearly snubbed CARICOM when President Nicolas Maduro failed to turn up as anticipated for talks which would have included some of his country’s most ardent supporters in this region. It is quite obvious that CARICOM is not shaping Venezuela’s stance in its centuries-old claim to a large portion of Guyana. The tenuous situation between these South American neighbours may have taken this dangerous twist because of the “significant” reserve of high-quality crude oil found by American oil company, Exxon Mobil, in Guyana earlier this year.
But all is not lost with CARICOM and Venezuela. It is clear that the Spanish-speaking nation does appreciate the importance of many of the islands within the English-speaking Caribbean. Venezuela has extended a strong financial hand to this region through its PetroCaribe oil programme. In the aftermath of Tropical Storm Erika it has reached out in a significant way to help Dominica. For this month’s independence anniversary celebrations in St Kitts and Nevis, President Maduro was present. Venezuela has a strong diplomatic and cultural presence and makes a valuable contribution to CARICOM member states.
This is why the massing of troops – Guyana on its western border and Venezuela to its eastern side – will do no good to either side. Despite this show of arms, Guyana cannot take on Venezuela on the battlefield. Our long-standing CARICOM ally simply does not have the military strength to carry a fight against a country which has fighter jets, gunboats, anti-aircraft missiles and a huge standing army when compared with Guyana’s meagre military resources.
Venezuela should recognise that despite its military advantage, any action against Guyana would cost it dearly in CARICOM. It is also unlikely the Americans will ignore any acts of aggression from Caracas.
CARICOM nations, some of which have supported such Venezuelan initiatives as the intergovernmental organisation ALBA, must now encourage their Spanish-speaking ally to seek a negotiated settlement to its dispute with Guyana. The options are clear: either let the office of the secretary general of the United Nations mediate, or seek recourse to the International Court of Justice.
This is a not a situation where either side can be belligerent. There is one sensible solution: a peaceful settlement.