Senior Political Reporter
Trinidad and Tobago must be extremely careful with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, since Maduro and his regime are not trustworthy, Guyana’s vice president Bharrat Jagdeo warned yesterday.
“Be extremely careful with the regime—they’re not trustworthy,” Jagdeo added as the overall message to T&T.
Jagdeo did so at a media briefing in Guyana, where he spoke on heightened tensions between Guyana and Venezuela on the border dispute concerning Guyana’s Essequibo district. The briefing was carried live on Guyana President Dr Irfaan Ali’s Facebook page.
Jagdeo spoke against the backdrop of today’s emergency meeting by Caricom leaders on the border issue. There is also a 3 pm meeting on the matter by the United Nations Security Council.
Foreign and Caricom Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne said yesterday that Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley would be back in time from London for the Caricom meeting, which is via video conferencing. He said a public statement will be issued afterwards. Browne gave no information on the meeting.
Last Friday, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that Venezuela should refrain from taking any action which would modify the current situation where Guyana exercises control over the Essequibo region. Caricom upheld that position.
But on Tuesday, Venezuela announced measures to enforce the views of its referendum last Sunday, backing its claim on the Essequibo. Measures included reconfiguring Venezuela’s map to include the Essequibo, oil and gas exploration in the district and other initiatives.
Guyana took the issue to the UN Security Council, Caricom, the OAS, Commonwealth and other international forums and countries.
Yesterday, Jagdeo was asked by a reporter what key lessons Guyana’s issue with Venezuela has for T&T, and what should be taken into account as a business partner for T&T in the Dragon Gas project on which T&T’s hopes are pinned.
Jagdeo said, “Maduro and his regime—they’re not trustworthy, they’re not trustworthy and Trinidad would have to be extremely cautious in engaging them. They’re not trustworthy.”
Jagdeo said if Maduro pursues his “crazy plans” further and “miscalculates again,” Guyana will be pushing for sanctions again. Jagdeo said he thought Maduro got some reprieve on that issue with T&T because Caricom wanted—at T&T’s request—to see the development take place.
“So he got that reprieve there, but it’s not going to be business as usual if he allows himself to be misguided again and does anything that goes against the ICJ ruling,” he said.
On today’s Caricom meeting, Jagdeo said Caricom has been very explicit in the statement that the ICJ is the route that will lead to the definitive settlement.
“That’s a unanimous position.”
He said some Caricom leaders believe Guyana should “engage” Venezuela to lower tensions.
“Our government has made it clear that any engagement—we’re open to engagement. However, that matter that they were so explicit on, that is not a subject of the engagement because we’re not compromising on that position, which is the ICJ route,” Jagdeo said.
“So many Caricom leaders have been given assurances by Maduro and he’s acted contrary to all of the assurances he gave many Caricom leaders. They thought Venezuela’s referendum would be the end of the matter. So I guess that will be explored in Caricom’s meeting and we have to make the point that he’s untrustworthy,” Jagdeo added.
“If he gave many leaders around the region his word and then they can’t trust him ... because many of them reached out saying that would have been the end of the matter. But we’re vigilant, we kept our guard up as we don’t trust Maduro.”
Jagdeo noted the position of some leaders—including Brazil—for the region to remain an area of peace. (See page 14)
“Caricom wants the same. Almost every Latin American country also,” he noted
He said he felt Maduro miscalculated that, given what is happening in Ukraine and Palestine, enough attention will now be paid to his “ambitions” in Guyana.
Jagdeo said the world had to be consistent, particularly in this hemisphere—especially the US and other countries that opposed Russia’s annexation in Ukraine.
He said Guyana has been fortunate in having a lot of of regional partners in Caricom and Latin America who’ve been robust in criticism of Venezuela but want peace.
Jagdeo said Guyana was pleased the UN Security Council took up the matter urgently, and the council will have the ICJ’s full ruling and measures, including for Venezuela to refrain from any step that would alter the border.
“We expect the council to deal with this matter swiftly,” he added.
He believes every council member, including China and Russia, will support the provisional measures of the ICJ, which is a UN body.
“We simply want Venezuela to comply with the ICJ—that the status quo not be altered until the substantive issue is determined, but we’ll work with all our partners, including the US, to ensure that if Venezuela defies the ICJ ruling and they infringe on our territory, or try to alter the status quo, then we just have to defend our country with our partners.”
He said Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is pushing against not just international law, but almost the entire international community.
Jagdeo said every single movement Venezuela makes, especially on the border, is tracked and any incursion on Guyana’s areas will be dealt with by its security forces. Jagdeo also spoke of yesterday’s US Southern Command flight over Guyana.
He said any award by Maduro’s companies—proposed for the Essequibo—would be seen as an incursion on Guyana’s economy. On Maduro’s measures calling for oil companies to leave in three months, Jagdeo declared, “Just ignore Maduro.”
Jagdeo said Guyana was focused on the ICJ and while it was always open to discussions with countries, Maduro was mistaken if he felt Guyana would return to the bilateral levels that would yield a negotiated settlement.