On the same day as the swearing-in of Venezuela President Nicholás Maduro, Guyana was among 19 countries to support a resolution refusing to recognise the legitimacy of a Maduro Government and to call for fresh elections.
This resolution was taken at the level of the Permanent Council of Organisation of American States (OAS), of which Guyana is a member. When the dust from voting had settled, OAS Assistant Secretary General Nestor Mendez announced that 19 voted in favour of the resolution, six were against it and there were eight abstentions and one member completely absent.
According to the resolution, the OAS would not recognise the legitimacy of Maduro’s new term as President. The resolution also urges member states to use lawful, diplomatic, economic and financial measures to restore democracy to Venezuela.
Among other things, it also calls for new, free and fair presidential elections to be held. The resolution notes that last year’s election failed to meet international standards for elections and lacked legitimacy.
The resolution also seeks “to invite Member States and Permanent Observers to implement measures to address the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela and impacted countries, through the support to appropriate international and regional organisations.”
It also urges “the Venezuelan regime to allow the immediate entry of humanitarian aid to the people in Venezuela, including epidemiological surveillance, to prevent the aggravation of the humanitarian and public health crisis, particularly against the reappearance and propagation of diseases,” going on to demand “the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners.”
The OAS resolution also assures the Venezuelan people of its solidarity and intention to restore democracy to the beleaguered Spanish speaking country, adding that the resolution will also be presented before the United Nations (UN).
It was noted in the resolution that Maduro’s Government has presided over “worsening political, economic, social and humanitarian crisis, resulting from the breakdown of democratic order and serious human rights violations in that state, and the Government of Venezuela’s negligence to meet the fundamental Inter-American standards of human rights and democracy.”
It adds that “as a consequence, a significant number of Venezuelans are being forced to flee the country because their basic needs have not been met.” The OAS also noted that with the collapse of Venezuela’s healthcare system, there has been a reemergence of previously eradicated infectious diseases across that country and into its neighbors and the wider region.
It is understood that besides Guyana, the other 18 votes in favour of the resolution came from Argentina, Bahamas, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, United States, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Dominican Republic, and St Lucia.
On the other hand, the six countries voting against were: Bolivia, Nicaragua, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica, Suriname, and Venezuela. The eight countries that abstained were: Mexico, St Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, and El Salvador. Grenada was absent.
It was only a week ago that Guyana’s Government had called on Venezuela to cease its intimidation tactics and respect Guyana’s territory. This had followed complaints late last year from ExxonMobil that the Venezuelan navy had intercepted one of its vessels while doing research work.
On December 22, ExxonMobil’s local subsidiary announced it had suspended the 3-D seismic tests it started only a month ago in Guyana’s Stabroek Block; after the appearance and approach of the Venezuelan navy caused the company’s seismic vessel to pack up shop and vacate the area.
Ramform Tethys, the vessel in question is owned by Norwegian company Petroleum and Geo Services (PGS). The company was contracted by Exxon to carry out tests and acquire seismic data.
The incident came at a time when Guyana has an ongoing territorial integrity case with Venezuela. While Guyana has submitted the relevant paperwork to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) the Venezuelan Government is yet to join the proceedings. During the 2019 budget debates, Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge had revealed that April 18, 2019 has been set for Venezuela to submit its counter memorial.
Guyana approached the ICJ in the hopes of a final judicial settlement of longstanding border controversies with Venezuela.
When US oil giant ExxonMobil announced the first of multiple oil finds in local waters in 2015, Venezuela renewed its claim to two-thirds of Guyana’s territory. Venezuela has been against oil exploration in Guyana’s Stabroek Block, where multiple oil deposits were found by ExxonMobil, and has since renewed claims to the Essequibo region.
On January 30, 2018, Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres concluded that the Good Offices Process – which the parties had engaged in for almost 30 years, but it failed to achieve a solution to the controversy – and chose the ICJ as the next means of settlement, for which Guyana has long been advocating. Sir Shridath Ramphal and Ambassador Audrey Waddell are assisting Minister Greenidge.