Posted December 23rd. 1999

Mr. Chairman,

I wish on behalf of the Government and people of Guyana to offer our deepest sympathy to the Government and people of Venezuela on the tragic loss of the thousands of its citizens caused by the horrific flooding disaster that has bludgeoned the country over the past week.

Venezuela needs all the international help it can get to try to overcome the effects of the disaster and to help rebuild the lives of the thousands that have been battered

This horrible tragedy that has struck Venezuela -- our neighbour -- is unfolding more and more each day and the people of Guyana cannot be unmoved by the scale of what has happened there.

Guyanese are deeply concerned over the tragedy that has affected our brothers and sisters in Venezuela. We cannot stand aloof from this disaster.

I must inform the Permanent Council that the Guyana Government has approved an initial 15 million Guyana dollars in humanitarian assistance for the victims and an appeal has been made throughout my country for assistance from groups and individuals to help in whatever way they can. This information has already been communicated by the President of Guyana to President Chavez.

This initial monetary contribution was approved after consultations with the Venezuelan Ambassador to Guyana to determine what form of relief Guyana can provide.

Venezuela is one of those countries that helped Guyana cope with the effects of the prolonged El Nino drought conditions last year, Now it is our neighbour’s hour of need, and I want to assure my distinguished colleague, the Ambassador of Venezuela, that Guyanese are responding in providing necessary assistance.

In Guyana itself, the Venezuelan Embassy and a leading non-governmental organisation known as the "Guyana is First" group are coordinating the relief effort. Among items being collected are non-perishable foods (sugar, rice, flour, salted fish), and also blankets, boots, children's diapers, sleeping bags, industrial and portable camping stoves, portable ice boxes, mosquito nets and camping lamps. I have been informed that the Ministry of Health of Guyana has already donated a few hundred mosquito nets which will be airlifted to Caracas with the other items collected.

The President of Guyana, His Excellency Bharrat Jagdeo has also sent a message of sympathy to President Hugo Chavez and has indicated that Guyana stands willing to help in whatever way it can.

This message of sympathy to the Government and people of Venezuela from President Jagdeo and the people of Guyana was read in the Guyana National Assembly on Tuesday. President Jagdeo in his message said:

"I have been following the sad events in your country caused by heavy flooding and resulting in death and destruction. On behalf of the people and government of Guyana, please accept our heartfelt sympathy to the people and government of Venezuela.

"In this hour of need, I also extend to you assistance within our means to help your country and people to deal with the consequences of this disaster."

The President, in another statement, declared:

"It is with deep sympathy that we have learnt of the tragedy that swept several areas of Venezuela which has resulted in the tragic loss of many lives and severe damage to property and infrastructure. . . We will also take necessary measures to reach out in solidarity with our neighbour as they cope with this natural disaster...I am sure that all the people of Guyana share the sense of loss in our sister republic."

The President emphasised that Guyana will continue to monitor the situation and extend assistance on behalf of the Guyanese people as far as possible.

Mr. Chairman, at this time of the year when we traditionally extend Christmas wishes, our hearts are wrenched with sad feelings for the people of Venezuela, especially those in the disaster zone, who are enduring great suffering. Thousands of children in the disaster areas will not have a cheerful Christmas. But the knowledge that the international community, including particularly our own hemispheric community, is consolidating a humanitarian effort to render assistance, will certainly inspire hope -- an essential message for the Christmas season. Our brothers and sisters in Venezuela must hold on to this message of hope as they work to build back their lives.

Thank you.

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