OAS Permanent Council to discuss rising tension between Guyana and Venezuela

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The Organization of American States (OAS) has put the rising tensions between Guyana and Venezuela on its agenda to be discussed at the level of the Permanent Council, in the wake of Venezuela’s recent intrusion into Guyana’s territory and the illegal detention of Guyanese citizens.

According to a short statement from its twitter account, the OAS Permanent Council will be meeting today, at 10:30hrs, to discuss the current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic in the region and “developments relating to the Guyana Venezuela controversy.”

The OAS did not specify what developments it would discuss. However, the Permanent Council meeting comes just days after two Guyanese registered fishing vessels that were operating off the coast of Waini Point in Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) were intercepted by the Venezuelan naval vessel, Commandante Hugo Chavez GC 24.

In fact, a statement from the Foreign Affairs Ministry said that the Venezuelan vessel was illegally sailing within Guyana’s EEZ and Contiguous zone when it intercepted and boarded the vessels, whose captains were instructed to chart a course to Port Guiria where they were detained. According to the Ministry, the Guyana Government was not even notified of the detention of its nationals, in contravention of established norms.

The crew of one of the ships, the Lady Nayera, include Captain Richard Ramnarine and his crew members Ramlakan Kamal, Nick Raghubar, Javin Boston, Michael Domingo and Joel Joseph. The other ship, the Sea Wolf, was captained by Captain Toney Garraway, while the crew members included Errol Gardener, Orland Roberts, Christopher Shaw, Shirvin Oneil and Randy Henry. They have since been brought before a Venezuelan court and reports indicate they will be kept in custody for some 45 days pending an investigation.

The detention of the two vessels also comes on the heels of Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro’s recent presidential decree which reinforced his country’s illegal claim to Guyana’s Essequibo region.

The Guyana Government has made it clear that it is working to get the men back as soon as possible. Guyana’s Foreign Affairs Minister Hugh Todd conducted a virtual meeting with his Venezuelan counterpart, Jorge Arreaza on Monday. During the meeting, Arreaza had assured that the men’s human rights were being respected and that he would pursue their early release.

In addition, on Monday, Minister Todd also called in the Chargé d’Affaires of the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Moses Chavez, to transfer a protest note from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Guyana to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Venezuela.

The protest note firmly condemned the illegal detention of the captains and crews of the Guyanese-registered fishing vessels and called for their immediate release. The Foreign Affairs Ministry also stated that the Government is using all diplomatic channels to ensure the safe return of the crew members and vessels to Guyana.