Venezuela border controversy: “Stay out of Essequibo!” – former T&T PM to Venezuela

Nicholas Maduro

Former Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) Prime Minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar has come out swinging at the Venezuelan Nicolas Maduro-led regime, warning the Spanish-speaking country to keep its hands off of Essequibo and pointing to the widespread support that Guyana has.

During one of her United National Congress (UNC) party events, the former Prime Minister made it clear to Venezuela that if they infringe on Guyana’s sovereignty, then they are infringing on the people of T&T as well.

“My clear message to Maduro is if you touch one, you touch all! We unequivocally support the people of Guyana in this crisis. Stay out of Essequibo!” Persad-Bissessar, who is currently the Opposition Leader of T&T, said.

Shoddy support

Persad-Bissessar echoed the widely held view that the Maduro regime’s sabre rattling is merely intended to shore up his shoddy support ahead of next year’s presidential elections in Venezuela. Even the Venezuelan Opposition has said that with an economy in shambles and nothing to show for his time in office but disaster, Maduro is grasping at the at the border controversy as a political ploy.
“The intention of the current crisis between Guyana and Venezuela, created by Maduro, is to whip up nationalism under the false pretext that the international community is mistreating Venezuela,” the T&T politician said.

“He wants to make himself a victim defending the motherland and will paint himself as a great hero of Venezuela as (Simon) Bolivar and (Hugo) Chavez. His intention seems to be to deploy the army due to the threat of war, then control streets and movements of persons to prevent campaigning and protests.”

Reference was made to a time back in 2015, when she was still Prime Minister. Persad-Bissessar recalled that back then, she and the UNC had stood with Guyana when the Venezuelans made an unjust claim to Guyana’s maritime waters after oil was discovered by ExxonMobil. This is despite the oil find being in Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

She also had criticism for current T&T Prime Minister, Dr Keith Rowley, for not doing enough to make his support for Guyana unequivocal. The former Prime Minister also questioned whether the Dragon Gas deal that T&T has inked with Venezuela, is responsible for the Government’s taciturn support.

“I stood with the people of Guyana in 2015 and the UNC will stand with the people of Guyana now… but Keith Rowley hides behind the zone of peace. Rowley’s talk about the Region remaining a zone of peace isn’t enough. Guyana must know they have our full support, with meaningful and practical backing!”

“If Trinidad and Tobago’s support means we have to wait longer for Dragon Gas, so be it. I tell the Guyanese people to stand your ground, you’ve suffered too long, but now you have a great future. Don’t let anyone take it from you,” Persad-Bissessar said.

Guyana’s Spanish-speaking neighbour has laid claim to more than two-thirds of Guyana’s landmass in the Essequibo region, and to a portion of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in which nearly 11 billion barrels of oil have been discovered largely by United States oil giant ExxonMobil.

Guyana has been informing regional and international partners of the referendum Venezuela carried out on December 3, which has been criticised by the United States, Caricom, and the Organisation of American States (OAS), as well as several other nations in the Region, including Brazil, for seeking to, among other things, gain a national consensus to annex Essequibo.

So far, Caricom leaders including Prime Minister Rowley, have been reaffirming their support for Guyana in its border controversy with Venezuela. Rowley in particular had said during a press conference last month that Venezuela is fully cognisant that Caricom supports Guyana. He had also said that the Region must remain a zone of peace.
“We are confident that the governments of Venezuela and Guyana would know that Caricom’s position – that our Region must be and remain a zone of peace – is the best position for all of us,” Rowley had said.

After years of failed good offices process via the United Nations (UN), Guyana is currently seeking a final and binding judgement to reinforce that the 1899 Arbitral Award remains valid and binding on all parties, as well as legal affirmation that Guyana’s Essequibo region, which contains much of the country’s natural resources, belongs to Guyana and not Venezuela.