uyana Diary

November 2009

Monthly Newsletter of the Guyana Embassy, Caracas, Venezuela

Quinta Roraima, Prados del Este, Caracas 1050, Venezuela
Telephone: 58-212-977-1158; 58-212-975-3687
Fax: (58) 212 976-3765

On the Internet: http://www.guyana.org/spanish/venezuela_embassy.html

Posted November 2009 - Issue No. 70 - Back to Embassy page

Previous Guyana Diaries are available here.

National Assembly approves Guyana ratification of UNASUR

A motion on Guyana’s ratification of the Constitutive Treaty of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) was on October 14 approved by the National Assembly.

The treaty, founded by Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Uruguay, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela, was signed by those nations on May 23, 2008, in Brasilia, Brazil.

“The objective of UNASUR is to build, in a participatory and consensual manner, an integration and union among its peoples in cultural, social, economic and political fields, prioritising political dialogue, social policies, education, energy, infrastructure, financing and the environment, among others, with a view to eliminate socioeconomic inequalities, in order to achieve social inclusion and participation of civil society, to strengthen democracy and reduce asymmetry within the framework of strengthening the sovereignty and independence of States, ” the agreement stated.

Addressing the House, Foreign Affairs Minister Mrs. Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett said, the time is opportune for Guyana to pursue its South American destiny.

She pointed out that Guyana is the incoming UNASUR Chair and by virtue of being a member of that body, it will provide the avenue to link the Caribbean with South America and to explore various opportunities of mutual understanding.

Rodrigues-Birkett noted too that the agreement promotes gradualism, and peaceful resolution in matters of dispute, among other benefits.

Regarding issues of dispute settlement, the agreement states that any dispute which may emerge between State Parties regarding the interpretation or implementation of provisions of the treaty will be settled through direct negotiations.

“In the case where a solution is not reached through direct negotiation, the Member States involved will submit the dispute for the consideration of the Council of Delegates, which will formulate, within 60 days, the appropriate recommendations for the settlement of the dispute.

“If a solution is not reached by the Council of Delegates, the dispute will be taken to the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, which will consider it at its next meeting,” the agreement pointed out.

Guyana economy doing well, says President Jagdeo

“The Guyana economy is doing well despite the global situation,” President Bharrat Jagdeo reiterated on October 12.

He was replying to questions about the performance for this year at a press conference in the Guyana International Conference Centre, Liliendaal, East Coast Demerara.

He stated: “So far, I think, given what is happening around us, I feel comfortable that the economy is doing fairly well. I wouldn’t say along the same growth plan that we had planned before the crisis but it is doing better than many other countries in our part of the world and also our revenue is doing fairly well.”

Last July, the president had also said he was pleased with the way the economy was performing on the revenue side, although it deteriorated from the previous year’s comparable period, as was expected because of the global financial crisis.

Mr. Jagdeo said, in spite of what has happened, “in the real sector, we have still been able to maintain the revenue. In fact, we have a higher revenue inflow this year than last year.”

He added: “In spite of the global crisis, I think we have managed to hold things steady here, particularly if you look at the macro fundamentals, you will see that they are stable unlike in many countries of the region and the rest of the world.”

He went on: “In Guyana’s case, we think we can cover all of our short term gaps, from the balance of payments perspective, because our budget will be fully financed, so we will not have that unfinanced fiscal gap, and the balance of payments gap, too, could be met over the medium term.”

Guyana to export rice to Venezuela

Guyana on October 21 signed a US$18.8 million (G$3.7 billion) agreement with neighbouring Venezuela for that country to purchase 50,000 tonnes of local cargo rice.

Guyana Rice Development Board (GRDB) General Manager, Mr. Jagnarine Singh signed the multi-million dollar agreement with Head of a Venezuelan trade team, Colonel Rodolfo Marco Torres at the Ministry of Agriculture.

The historic occasion was witnessed by Agriculture Minister Robert Persaud, Venezuelan Ambassador to Guyana, Mr. Dario Morandy, Rice Producers Association General Secretary, Mr. Dharamkumar Seeraj and other officials from both countries.

Persaud pointed out that initially 10,000 tonnes of white rice and 40,000 tonnes of paddy will be exported to Venezuela and the GRDB has been tasked with facilitating the trade.

When the agreement has been finalised, the two countries will explore the expansion of trade in other areas apart from rice.

The aim of the agreement is to have the first shipment leaving Guyana in November and there will be about 10 shipments with the last shipment being in the last week of February. These arrangements will not preclude other agreements the two governments many wish to enter.

Torres said the Venezuelan Government was pleased to be importing rice from Guyana while Ambassador Morandy noted that the agreement marked a historic moment for both countries and Venezuelans back home would be looking forward to enjoying the local staple.

Cubana air disaster commemoration

A solemn wreath-laying ceremony, to remember the 73 victims, including 11 Guyanese, who died in the 1976 Cubana air disaster, was held on October 6 at the Cuban Embassy in Georgetown.

It was organised by the Embassy of Cuba in Guyana and the Guyana/Cuba Friendship Society, in collaboration with the Guyana/Venezuela Friendship Society, to commemorate the 33rd anniversary of the tragedy.

The 73 were killed when flight CU 455, en route to Jamaica, was blasted out of the sky by a terrorist attack shortly after takeoff from Barbados, on October 6, 1976.

Those on board the aircraft met their deaths in what was then the most deadly act of terrorism in the Western Hemisphere, using two time bombs.

The passengers were scheduled to fly from Guyana to Cuba via Trinidad, Barbados and Jamaica.

The Guyanese who died were medical students Ann Nelson, Eric Norton, Rawle Thomas and Seshnarine Kumar, all aged 18, and Jacqueline Williams and Raymond Persaud, both 19 years old. With them were the wife of the Second Secretary in the Guyana Embassy in Havana, Mrs. Margaret Bradshaw, 22, Sabrina Harripaul who was going to seek medical treatment and Gordon Sobha, Violet Thomas and Rita Thomas.

Notably, among the victims were all 24 members of the 1975 national Cuban fencing team that had just won all the gold medals in the Central American and Caribbean Championship in Venezuela. Many of them were teenagers.

Evidence implicated several Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) linked anti-Castro Cuban exiles and members of the Venezuelan Secret Police (DISIP).

Hernan Ricardo and Freddy Lugo, two Venezuelans mercenaries placed the explosives on the journey from Trinidad and Tobago to Barbados and returned to Trinidad where they were arrested and immediately confessed their participation.

Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch, intellectual perpetrators of the terrorist crime, and who were linked to the CIA from 1960, were arrested in Venezuela, but they managed to escape to the United States where they currently reside. Extradition requests to the United States authorities from the Venezuelan government have so far been refused.

Successful GuyExpo

The Guy-Expo trade fair and exposition, held on October 1-6, was a huge success, particularly for the craft producers, with many making contact with overseas buyers and indicating that they had secured export markets for their products, considered by many to be the best in terms of quality in the Caribbean.

Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce Manniram Prashad, said that the craft, agriculture, furniture and food sectors stood out at this year’s trade show, held at the Sophia Exhibition Centre.

Noting that many Guyanese attending the fair were surprised that the items on display were locally-made, Minister Prashad said one of the factors that contributed to the high quality and fluidity of presentations in the craft section this year was the formation of the Craft Producers’ Association. This organisation was responsible for the selection of craft exhibitors and the high level of displays was a testimony to the effectiveness of this group.

Additionally, the Agro-Producers Association screened their membership and was able to display several booths with high quality displays.

Furniture manufacturers also did well and visitors were of the view that the products displayed, especially kitchen sets, were of exceptional quality.

WWF to support butterfly farming in Rupununi

The World Wildlife Fund (WWW) on October 22 signed a grant agreement with the North Rupununi District Development Board (NRDDB) for a sum of G$7 million, aimed at supporting the NRDDB’s project to promote sustainable community-based livelihoods with butterfly production in Guyana. The project is also supported by the Iwokrama International Centre (IIC) as a collaborative partner.

This project follows on the heels of the recently concluded three-year Darwin Initiative funded project entitled “Biodiversity and sustainable development of butterfly production in Guyana”, which ended in June 2009.

The current project is expected to build on the achievements of the Darwin project with some of the main collaborating partners including the IIC, NRDDB, University of Warwick and University of Guyana.

Pointing to the multiple benefits of the project, NRDDB Executive Director, Mr. Vincent Henry, noted that it is expected that sustainable utilisation of the natural resources will improve the socio-economic situation in the Rupununi region and will promote local peoples’ desire to keep their natural environment intact and free of chemicals such as pesticides and fertilisers which are common threats in many areas.

Kawa Amazonica, the butterfly farm located in Fair View Village within the Iwokrama Forest, will serve as a hub for community based butterfly export businesses, a training centre and tourist attraction, and are meant to benefit the livelihoods of the communities in the North Rupununi, according to WWF Country Manager, Dr Patrick Williams.

World Bank supports Guyana’s climate change model

The World Bank is moving ahead with a support project for Guyana’s climate change model and a 22-member bank mission visited the country during October 6-14 to finalise aspects of the scheme.

Guyana is leading a group of 37 countries around the world that stands to benefit from the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), a Multi-Donor Trust Fund (MDTF) administered by the World Bank.

World Bank Guyana Country Representative, Mr. Giorgio Valentini, said the bank wants to reinforce the message that it supports the Guyana government on its climate change programme, including the Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS).

During its visit, the team, including bank officials, government, civil society and donor representatives met 16 Amerindian communities at Iwokrama, Nappi and Kamarang to discuss the government’s proposed Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) strategy to keep forests standing, store carbon, and in return, receive payments from the international community.

On October 13, team members commended Guyana for its open, transparent and intensive consultations and other approaches centred on the proposed Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS).

The mission included representatives from the United States and the United Kingdom, two of the FCPF donor countries, and it would provide the final assessment before anticipated approval of support for Guyana under the trust fund.

Heads of Guyana’s Missions conference convened

The conference of Heads of Mission, bringing together all the heads of Guyana’s overseas embassies, high commissions and consulates, was held at the Guyana International Conference Centre, Liliendaal on October 12-14.

The conference was held under the theme, “Repositioning the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to effectively promote the national interest”.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and International Relations, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, explained that the intention of the three-day conference was to review Guyana’s strategies, and the positions taken, and ensuring all the missions were familiar with them, so as to be more prepared to advance the country’s foreign policy.

At a media briefing on the opening day, she said: “We will certainly be looking at new alliances that we need to make and strengthening the traditional ones that we’ve had. Traditionally, we’ve been dealing with the ABC countries of (United States of) America, (Great) Britain and Canada, but we’re also looking at our relations with other countries like Brazil, and also what we want to do in the Middle East, Asia and so on

Further, she indicated that administrative issues would also be reviewed to ensure that the missions’ work is improved.

This was the first Heads of Mission conference in nine years, with the last such session being in 2000.

Head of State Bharrat Jagdeo delivered the feature remarks at the opening session, and Prime Minister Samuel Hinds and the other members of the Cabinet were on hand to interact with the Heads of Missions.

Foreign Minister visits Cuba

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, on October 21-22 paid an official two-day visit to Cuba at the invitation of her Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez Parilla.

During the visit she held official meetings with the Cuban Foreign Minister and Vice President of the Council of Ministers of Cuba Mr. Ricardo Cabrisas Ruiz to discuss pertinent issues of interest in the Guyana/Cuba bilateral relationship, as well as issues of interest to both countries in the United Nations and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).

She also participated in a wreath laying ceremony at the Monument of Cuban national hero, José Marti, and held discussions with Guyanese scholarship students studying at the Latin American School of Medical Sciences.

Construction of homeless shelter to commence

Homeless persons across the country will soon benefit from the construction of a shelter which will provide counselling services to enable persons to be reintegrated into their families and society or to stay there depending on their preference. They will also be provided with transportation, skills training, medical assistance and treatment, toiletries, clothing, and meals at the expense of the Ministry of Human Services.

The shelter will be constructed at Onverwagt, West Coast Berbice and will accommodate 200 males and 100 females in separate dormitory facilities.

The project, when completed, will benefit homeless persons from across the country who will be housed at the facility and trained with life skills to be reintegrated into society.

The facilities will include a medical building to house a resident doctor and nurse, a mess hall and kitchen, a training room/conference hall, and a recreation centre for skills training.

Construction is expected to commence soon and the completion is scheduled for August 2010.

The project, which is being funded by the Venezuelan government, is divided into five lots and amounts to approximately $402.8 million.

Guyana’s tourism advances

Guyana has taken the lead in tourism, recording the largest proportional tourist arrivals increase in the Caribbean region, for this year, Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce Mr. Manniram Prashad said on November 4.

The minister was reporting at a press conference at his South Road, Georgetown office, on a recent Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) meeting in St. Lucia.

He said the disclosure was made in a document prepared for the CTO, under the title “The Outlook for the Global Economy and Caribbean Tourism,” by Tourism Economics, an Oxford economics company.

Prashad said, according to the report, “the Caribbean has borne the brunt of the economic downturn with double digit declines in visits across the majority of destinations. Only Guyana, Jamaica, Cuba and Saba have registered increases for the year.”

He said: “I am happy to say that we have been vindicated in what we have been saying all along, that Guyana is seeing increased arrivals for 2009.”

The minister stated that at the end of October, the numbers showed an increase close to 9 percent and, at the CTO gathering, Guyana came in for high praise, in terms of having increased its arrivals over 2008.

Guyana says US “mastermind” behind arson attacks

Recent arson attacks and shootings in Guyana are the work of a mastermind living in the United States, President Bharrat Jagdeo alleged.

Jagdeo made the allegation on November 6 shortly after the government submitted a request to the American Embassy in Georgetown for assistance with the investigation.

“There is a terrorist mastermind who lives in the US,” Jagdeo told reporters. He declined to give more details.

Carol Horning, acting charge d’affaires at the US Embassy, is reported to have said on November 7 that the Department of Justice is reviewing the request and will likely help out by checking US phone records.

Early on the morning of November 4, a group of attackers dressed as police officers firebombed the Supreme Court building and set fire to the Richard Ishmael Secondary School in Georgetown. The attackers later fired shots at the Brickdam and La Penitance police stations, wounding one officer in the jaw and another in the ankle.

It is believed that two of the gunmen recently escaped from jail where they were being held on suspicion of burning down the Health Ministry in July.

Police searched villages along the southern edge of the capital, Georgetown, where they believe the gang members who carried out the attacks are hiding.

Ambassador Ishmael elected as Chairman of SELA

Guyana’s Ambassador to Venezuela, Odeen Ishmael, was on October 27 elected unanimously as Chairman of the Latin American Council, the political governing body of the Latin American and Caribbean Economic System (SELA).

Ambassador Ishmael will head the Council for the next year and will preside over all forums organised by SELA. This is the first time a Guyanese has been elected to this position.

Ambassador Ishmael’s candidature was proposed by Chile and representatives of 14 other countries made statements of support of his nomination.

The delegates from the 27 member states also elected Guatemala as First Vice-Chairman, Bolivia as Second Vice-Chairman and Cuba as Rapporteur.

During the Latin American Council Ministerial Stage, which began on October 28, a "Forum on Convergence and Integration of Latin America on Health" was convened with the participation of representatives of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

The meeting also addressed various topics related to the better participation of countries in shaping programmes to develop the software and the digitalisation of the various procedures of foreign trade.

SELA is a forum for consultation and coordination that brings together the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. It was established in 1975 at the initiative of Venezuela and Mexico, and its charter and goals were set by the Panama Convention.

News Briefs

Credits: Stabroek News, Chronicle, Mirror, Kaieteur News, GINA

Compiled and edited by Evangeline Ishmael

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