PM tells OAS of reports that Venezuela is building landing strip near Essequibo

Prime Minister Mark Phillips at the OAS Permanent Council

Prime Minister of Guyana Mark Phillips today addressed the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS), where he highlighted the country’s concerns regarding Venezuela’s planned referendum on the Essequibo region and also of the Spanish-speaking nation’s increase of military troops near the border.

The Hybrid Special Session of OAS Permanent Council was called following a request by Guyana.

“Instead of complying with its international obligations, Venezuela has further embarked on what appears to be an intensified campaign of intimidation and threats to force Guyana to concede to its wishes. Perhaps the most concerning of these is the planned consultative referendum of the Venezuelan Parliament,” the PM informed.

On September 21, there was a decision of the Venezuelan National Assembly to undertake a referendum on the status of the Essequibo region, part of the sovereign territory of the Government of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, set for 3 December. This move has already been widely condemned by the international community.

Nevertheless, Venezuela’s National Electoral Council published a list of five questions that it plans to put before the Venezuelan people in the referendum.

Question Five proposes the creation of Venezuelan State of Guyana Essequibo and an accelerated plan for giving Venezuelan citizenship and identity cards to the Guyanese population.

According to the PM, “…Venezuela has not been shy of using force or the threat of the use of force against Guyana in the past. We are therefore vigilant of the intentions and implications of the impending referendum.”

He further informed that, “Venezuela could be seeking to establish the foundations for actions aimed at the annexation of two-thirds of Guyana’s territory, although the matter of the resolution of the controversy is quite properly before the ICJ.”

Phillips went on to inform the OAS that, “coupled with the decision to conduct this referendum, it is confirmed that Venezuela has significantly increased its military forces and equipment on its border with Guyana. While the position of the Government of Venezuela which was communicated to Guyana is that the security forces have been mobilised on the border to curb illegal mining, there have also been reports of the Venezuelan military building a landing strip in a zone near to the Essequibo region. No explanation about the airstrip has been provided to the Government of Guyana, but it is clear that it is the intention of that State to increase rhetoric on the controversy and drive fear in the Guyanese population.”

Meanwhile, the PM said Guyana is also grateful of the efforts of the Secretary General of the OAS Luis Almagro, including his continued advocacy of a peaceful settlement of the border controversy in accordance with international law.

The OAS recently expressed that Venezuela’s recent actions are an irrefutable violation of Guyana’s territorial rights.