The Nicolás Maduro administration said the purpose of the trip was to “divulge the historical truth” of Venezuela’s claim over the Essequibo territory, as part of a peaceful strategy to resolve its dispute with Guyana.
In principle, this is a valid and worthwhile effort. The Venezuelan state has the right, and the duty, to explain to other countries, especially in the Caribbean, why it claims sovereignty over the Essequibo region and its waters.
The diplomatic visits are even more pressing considering the Guyanese government continues to grant oil concessions to transnational companies in the disputed territory, and since the the arbitration award of 1899 and the 1966 Geneva Agreement have not yielded a resolution.
On the surface, the Venezuelan government aims to help neighboring countries understand the controversy and invites them to collaborate in a diplomatic and peaceful solution within international law.
There would be little to question if this were truly the objective. However, the recent Chavista tour around the Caribbean goes well beyond offering an explanation or seeking diplomatic support.
In truth, the Venezuelan envoy has sought to discredit the new Guyanese government in each of its visits, accusing the administration of President David Granger of having a “hidden agenda” and colluding with multinational corporations to divide and destabilize the region.
“We know that Guyana has a hidden agenda that they are not explaining to the rest of the Caribbean nations,” Minister Rodríguez brazenly said while in the Dominican Republic, without producing any evidence.
“We have given details of the new Guyanese government’s behavior, which is in line with transnational interests, to create instability in the region and dismantle Latin American and Caribbean unity.”
Does that sound like a peaceful and diplomatic position?
These statements, not to mention the name-calling directed at President Granger, are counterproductive.
Instead, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is siding with Guyana. In their 36th meeting in early July, they issued a statement calling for Maduro to reconsider his presidential decree which created the Island and Sea Integrated Defense Operational Areas (Zodimain), including territories in the Caribbean for which boundaries have not yet been set. They also expressed support for Guyana’s current territory and sea limits.
Beyond Caribbean solidarity, it is difficult not to support a country whose 160,000 square kilometers in dispute hold abundant natural resources and amounts to two-thirds of its territory.
During Jorge Arreaza’s visit, Barbados prime minister and current president of CARICOM, Freundel Stuart, restated that his government and CARICOM are in Guyana’s corner.
The Maduro administration is grossly mistaken if they believe that this tour and this attitude will win CARICOM members over, similar to Mercosur.
Even though these governments have cordially and diplomatically received Venezuela’s envoys, it does not mean they will stop supporting Guyana. Historically, they never have.
It should be noted that the Caribbean community has always had an independent foreign policy and has acted as a single front, defending one another and working together to achieve shared goals and interests.
It’s always been CARICOM’s policy to maintain good relations with large countries that border the Caribbean Sea, such as Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, and the United States. In one way or another, these countries have provided a continuous flow of financial support and other forms of aid.
Venezuela, for example, has provided significant aid to Caribbean countries since 1958. However, whenever national or group interests are at stake, they cover each others’ backs, no matter how much they may have received from the other party.
Maduro and his team are late to the game. The Essequibo problem should have been dealt with during the Chávez administration. They should not have stopped abiding by the Geneva Agreement in light of the numerous concessions granted by the Guyanese government.
However, under the guidance of the Castro regime, silence prevailed for ideological and political reasons.