Venezuela releases Guyanese fishermen
GEORGETOWN, Guyana – Twelve Guyanese who were on board two fishing vessels detained by the Venezuelan navy about two weeks ago, were on Wednesday making their way home after being released by the authorities in the Spanish-speaking nation.
Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hugh Todd confirmed that the men were released on Tuesday night.
“It shows goodwill and helps to rebuild some bridges between Guyana and Venezuela and by extension the rest of the Caribbean,” he said.
“It is a collection of the President’s statements that led to Venezuela paying keen attention to Guyana’s position and it helped to bring attention to the matter from the international community and CARICOM.
“The early release of the vessels provides political space for dialogue and think it is a good show from the Maduro administration and we must commend them and at the same time we must commend His Excellency, President Ali for leadership in this regard,” Todd added.
Trinidad and Tobago’s Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne had also said in a statement to the media in the twin-island republic, that the fishermen’s release had “come as a result of intense diplomatic work by the CARICOM chairman [Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley], the President of Guyana Irfaan Ali and the respective foreign ministers of both Guyana and Venezuela”.
The seamen are returning on the Lady Nayera and the Sea Wolf, the same two fishing vessels which had been intercepted by the Venezuelan navy ship on January 21 and forced to sail into Port Guiria in Venezuela.
Guyana had said the boats were within Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) when they were seized, but Venezuela claimed the men were fishing illegally in its territorial waters.
The 12-member crew appeared in court on January 25 and were told they would be held for 45 days pending an investigation.
But according to a statement issued by the Guyana government on Wednesday, Venezuela’s Minister of People’s Power for Foreign Affairs Jorge Arreaza confirmed to Minister Todd that all legal proceedings were discontinued at the request of President Nicolas Maduro.
The government in Georgetown, along with the Organisation of American States (OAS), the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and others in the international community, had been calling on Caracas to release the men and their boats. (CMC)