CLEMENT PAYNE MOVEMENT
Our Duty To Defend Venezuela
Our Duty To Help Solve the Guyana – Venezuela Border Dispute
In a letter to the Editor published in the 28th of February 2018 edition of Guyana’s Kaieteur News, a Mr Earl Hamilton identifies me– David Comissiong– as a “Vincentian political activist”, and accuses me of suffering from “a gross and unfathomable ignorance of current affairs and geo politics” in light of my having publicly chastised President David Granger for breaking ranks with the majority of CARICOM states and joining with the American dominated “Lima Group” of countries at the Organization of American States (OAS) to attack and vilify the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
As far as Mr Hamilton is concerned, the fact that there is a border dispute in existence between Guyana and Venezuela must be taken into consideration, and justifies whatever position President Granger’s administration has adopted against Venezuela in the international arena. Well, I beg to differ.
And I disagree, not because I am anti-Guyanese, or in any way ignorant of the border dispute or insensitive to Guyanese interests and concerns in relation to the border issue. In fact just the opposite is the truth!
To begin with, I am not a “Vincentian political activist”. I am, in fact, a Barbadian Attorney-at-Law ( born in St Vincent) who has a deep and profound family connection with Guyana. In addition, I am widely known in Barbados (and in Guyana) for my legal and political advocacy in defense of Caribbean migrants in Barbados– particularly Guyanese.
Furthermore, I have written about the Guyana / Venezuela border dispute on several occasions, and to the best of my recollection a couple of these Releases were published in the Kaieteur News.
The Press Releases that I have recently been involved in authoring– “Are Guyana, St Lucia and Jamaica the three blind mice of CARICOM’ and “An Urgent Letter to the CARICOM Heads of Government meeting in Haiti”— are ,however, not about the Guyana / Venezuela border dispute at all !
Rather, they are about the folly and infamy of a number of Caribbean states (principally Jamaica, Guyana and St Lucia) being used by the Trump Administration (and its multi-millionaire Secretary of State Rex Tillerson of Exxon Mobil fame) to attack Venezuela in the most unprincipled manner, with the intention of bringing down the Socialist Government and once again getting their dirty imperialistic hands on Venezuela’s vast oil resources.
I ask the questions — What do the Guyanese people know about this “Lima Group of states” that Guyana is now a part of? And what has become of the CARICOM principle of forging a collective CARICOM position on important international issues that the late Forbes Burnham so strenuosly championed?
Are the Guyanese people aware that their Government recently lined up behind Trump’s USA at the OAS to pass a Resolution that was cynically designed to cause as much damage and subversion in Venezuela as possible– a Resolution that was deliberately premised on the patently false and fraudulent notion that there is such a breakdown of democratic order, rule of law, and social peace in Venezuela, that the Presidential elections that are scheduled for the 22nd of April 2018 will not be democratic, transparent and fair.
The said “Resolution of infamy” also encouraged and portended an illegal and subversive intervention in the internal affairs of Venezuela with its demand that the Venezuelan Government postpone the Presidential election and open the country up to interventionist so-called “assistance” from OAS member states that are hostile to the Bolivarian Government.
My colleagues in the Caribbean Peace Movement and I believe that this myopic and unprincipled vote on the part of not only Guyana, but of Jamaica, St. Lucia, Barbados, and the Bahamas as well, is not only a despicable betrayal of CARICOM’s traditional principles of non-interference in the internal affairs of other nations and respect for other nations’ right to self-determination, but that it is also a betrayal of a friend who has extended to us badly needed assistance through the Petro Caribe Energy Cooperation Agreement and other forms of aid to foster the development and prosperity of our peoples.
The fact that Guyana has a border dispute with Venezuela does not give the government of Guyana the right to abandon fundamental principles of International Law, to disregard Guyana’s proud historical record of socialist internationalism and Third World solidarity, and to side with what is perhaps the most reprehensible imperialist Government in the world today– the Trump administration of the USA– to unjustly attack and subvert a sister Caribbean and Latin American nation.
And surely, the Guyanese people must know that the border dispute with Venezuela is a hold over from the colonial past , and that it was inherited by the Administrations of Chavez and Maduro, just as it was inherited by the Granger Administration. The Guyanese people must also be aware that in the past it was cynical imperialist Administrations in the USA and Britain that encouraged the then conservative, capitalist, right wing Government of Venezuela to dredge up the border dispute in order to use it against what they perceived to be the radical socialist Government of Cheddi Jagan !
It is a bold faced fiction– otherwise known as a lie– that the socialist Administration of Nicolas Maduro has adopted an aggressive anti-Guyana position on the border issue. This “bold faced fiction” had its genesis when the newly elected and precariously poised APNU+AFC government suddenly made a dramatic announcement in which they claimed that Maduro had issued a Presidential decree unequivocally laying claim to the disputed territory.
Unlike virtually every single one of the Media houses of the Caribbean, I did not simply accept the word of the Granger Administration, but made it my business to go and read an English translation of the actual text of the Presidential Decree.
The first thing I discovered was that the Maduro decree (Decree No. 1.787 of 8th June 2015) was NOT specifically about Guyana or about Venezuela’s border with Guyana at all ! The Decree was actually devoted to outlining a comprehensive organizational model that the Government of Venezuela had recently decided to employ in organizing its defense of its national territory and maritime waters. However, prior to outlining the structure of this new national defense mechanism, the Presidential Decree stated as follows:-
“The territory and other geographical spaces of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela are those corresponding to the Captaincy General of Venezuela before the political transformation begun on April 19, 1810, with the modification from treaties, agreements and arbitral awards not vitiated nullity.
“The Venezuelan State recognizes the existence of maritime areas pending for delimitation in accordance with international agreements and treaties signed by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and that require attention by the Venezuelan State until the achievement of final friendly boundary demarcation.”
In other words, in the very text of President Maduro’s Decree was an acknowledgment that some of the territory and maritime space claimed by Venezuela is still under dispute, and that its ultimate ownership is dependent on the outcome of the “friendly boundary demarcation” process– obviously a reference to the “Geneva Accord” process.
Furthermore, in order to make the Venezuelan position absolutely clear, the following paragraph appeared in the second publication of the Decree:–
“However, there exists a maritime area pending for delimitation, which will be determined once the pending dispute is resolved between the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, according to the 1966 Geneva Agreement….”
The socialist Government of Venezuela had therefore made it extremely clear that it is committed to amicably and lawfully negotiating its boundary dispute with Guyana, and that it had no intention of seeking to use its larger size and greater material power to impose its will on Guyana!
A boundary dispute is a very very difficult thing to resolve, because no national government can contemplate the idea of going back to their people and telling them that they have negotiated away territory that the people believe to be their sacred national patrimony. And so, it will require much good faith, adherence to principle, and feelings of mutual respect and regard as two Third World / Caribbean and Latin American peoples on both sides of the Essequibo border to bring this matter to a successful resolution.
The last thing– the very last thing– that we need in this very difficult and sensitive process of negotiating and resolving the Guyana / Venezuela border dispute is the obnoxious, ill-intentioned, and imperialistic interference of outsider nations like the United States of America.
Clement Payne Chambers