The Trail Of Diplomacy

A Documentary History of the Guyana-Venezuela Border Issue
by Odeen Ishmael
© Copyright 1998


Back to table of contents




Just before the Geneva conference was due to be convened the daily Guiana Graphic on Monday 14 February 1966 carried this report from its foreign correspondent:

Tremendous political pressures have built up in Caracas during the past fortnight on Venezuela's territorial claim to five-eights of British Guiana.

And Venezuelan delegates who on Saturday night flew off to Geneva for this week's discussions with the UK and BG about the border left with their ears ringing with declarations by leading political parties that the land should either be obtained by peaceful means - or it should be seized by force.

The use of force as the ultimate means of "recovering" the land most Venezuelans believe belongs rightly to them is a course of action seriously suggested by many well-known and otherwise responsible political leaders ranging from the official Opposition COPEI - which is backed by the powerful Catholic Church - to the URD, the second largest member of President Leoni's three-party coalition Government.

On the 15 February, the same correspondent reported for the Guiana Graphic: "From the Essequibo eastwards we are willing to be brothers to Guyanese. But west of the Essequibo is a different matter. That land is ours and we demand it."

The man who said that to me was no street corner demagogue. Rather it was one of Venezuela's leading jurists, Dr. Orlando Tovar, Professor at Caracas University, legal adviser to the Venezuelan Government, and - more importantly - spokesman on international affairs for his party, the URD. The URD is the second largest party in President Leoni's three-party coalition Government.

In Caracas itself tension was whipped up. On the 16 February, the day the Geneva Conference opened, there was a demand for the seizure of British properties and holdings in Venezuela if the Venezuelan claim was not recognized. The Guiana Graphic carried this report from Reuter:

It was reported in Caracas yesterday that State Legislators have called for the confiscation of all British properties and holdings in Venezuela if their territorial claim is not recognized. Meeting at Ciudad Bolivar, the Presidents of Venezuela's 20 States signed a declaration asking the Government to consider economic sanctions against Britain if the nation's claim fails.

Undoubtedly, political manoeuvres were made before, during and after the sessions of the Geneva Conference. Significantly, the London Times, a newspaper of great influence, predicted on the 15 February that the Conference would reach a settlement. The Guiana Graphic on the following day reported the prediction of the Times:

The Venezuelan case is clearly, and it may be said, irretrievably weakened by the fact that an award of an Arbitration Court in Paris in 1899 was accepted by both sides as a full, final and perfect settlement.

The paper made the suggestion that the Geneva meeting will reach an agreement - without any cession of territory - upon the joint development by Venezuela and Guyana of a large area of land west of the Essequibo River. This area is known to be rich in mineral resources and an excellent hydro-electric potential exists.

The Financial Times of London hoped that any agreement reached at Geneva would include joint development of the Essequibo region. In its issue of the 15 February, the paper declared that "joint development should make economic sense if it proves politically possible. If this fails the next developments would be unpleasant..."


The two-day Geneva Conference was duly held on the 16 and 17 February 1966.The British Guiana delegation, which teamed up with the British delegation, included Burnham, Minister of State Shridath Ramphal and a team of advisers. On the first day of the Conference, Burnham delivered an exceptionally strong speech in which he told the delegates that British Guiana (and ultimately the new independent state of Guyana) was not prepared to yield even a square inch of soil to Venezuela. The Guiana Graphic correspondent at Geneva, Colin Rickards, in a report on the first day of the Conference, stated:

After the Prime Minister's very positive stand, the Venezuelans shifted from actual discussion of the boundary itself to the question of how they as a friendly nation could show their good neighbourliness by helping to develop the Guyanas through economic aid.

It took the whole day to discuss this. . .

Further discussions continued on the following day with speeches made by the Foreign Ministers of both Great Britain and Venezuela who exchanged numerous suggestions for solving the controversy. The Conference ended later that day with the signing of the following document which became known as the Geneva Agreement:


Agreement between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in consultation with the Government of British Guiana, and the Government of Venezuela, Geneva, 17th February, 1966.

The Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in consultation with the Government of British Guiana, and the Government of Venezuela;

Taking into account the forthcoming independence of British Guiana;

Recognising that closer co-operation between British Guiana and Venezuela could bring benefit to both countries;

Convinced that any outstanding controversy between the United Kingdom and British Guiana on the one hand and Venezuela on the other would prejudice the furtherance of such co-operation and should therefore be amicably resolved in a manner acceptable to both parties;

In conformity with the agenda that was agreed for the governmental conversations concerning the controversy between Venezuela and the United Kingdom over the frontier with British Guiana, in accordance with the joint communiqué of 7 November, 1963, have reached the following agreement to resolve the present controversy:


A Mixed Commission shall be established with the task of seeking satisfactory solutions for the practical settlement of the controversy between Venezuela and the United Kingdom which has arisen as the result of the Venezuelan contention that the Arbitral Award of 1899 about the frontier between British Guiana and Venezuela is null and void.


(1) Within two months of the entry into force of this Agreement, two representatives shall be appointed to the Mixed Commission by the Government of British Guiana and two by the Government of Venezuela.

(2) The Government appointing a representative may at any time replace him, and shall do so immediately should one or both of its representatives be unable to act through illness or death or any other cause.

(3) The Mixed Commission may by agreement between the representatives appoint experts to assist the Mixed Commission, either generally or in relation to any individual matter under consideration by the Mixed Commission.


The Mixed Commission shall present interim reports at intervals of six months from the date of its first meeting.


(1) If, within a period of four years from the date of this Agreement, the Mixed Commission should not have arrived at a full agreement for the solution of the controversy it shall, in its final report, refer to the Government of Guyana and the Government of Venezuela any outstanding questions. Those Governments shall without delay choose one of the means of peaceful settlement provided in Article 33 of the Charter of the United Nations.

(2) If, within three months of receiving the final report, the Government of Guyana and the Government of Venezuela should not have reached agreement regarding the choice of one of the means of settlement provided by Article 33 of the Charter of the United nations, they shall refer the decision as to the means of settlement to an appropriate international organ upon which they both agree or, failing agreement on this point, to the Secretary-General of the United Nations. If the means so chosen do not lead to a solution of the controversy, the said organ, or as the case may be, the Secretary-General of the United Nations shall choose another of the means stipulated in Article 33 of the Charter of the United Nations, and so on until the controversy has been resolved or until all the means of peaceful settlement there contemplated have been exhausted.


(1) In order to facilitate the greatest possible measure of co-operation and mutual understanding, nothing contained in this Agreement shall be interpreted as renunciation or diminution by the United Kingdom, British Guiana or Venezuela of any basis of claim to territorial sovereignty in the territories of Venezuela or British Guiana, or of any previously asserted rights of or claims to such territorial sovereignty, or as prejudicing their position as regards their recognition or non-recognition of a right of, claim or basis of claim by any of them to such territorial sovereignty.

(2) No acts or activities taking place while this Agreement is in force shall constitute a basis for asserting, supporting or denying a claim to territorial sovereignty in the territories of Venezuela or British Guiana or create any rights of sovereignty in those territories, except in so far as such acts or activities result from any agreement reached by the Mixed Commission and accepted in writing by the Government of Guyana and the Government of Venezuela. No new claim, or enlargement of an existing claim to territorial sovereignty in those territories shall be asserted while this Agreement is in force, nor shall any claim whatsoever be asserted otherwise than in the Mixed Commission while that Commission is in being.


The Mixed Commission shall hold its first meeting at a date and place to be agreed between the Governments of British Guiana and Venezuela. This meeting shall take place as soon as possible after its members have been appointed. Thereafter the Mixed Commission shall meet as and when agreed between the representatives.


This Agreement shall enter into force on the date of its signature.


Upon the attainment of independence by British Guiana, the Government of Guyana shall thereafter be a party to this Agreement, in addition to the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Government of Venezuela.

In witness whereof the undersigned, being duly authorised thereto by their respective Governments, have signed this Agreement.

Done in duplicate at Geneva this 17th day of February, 1966 in the English and Spanish languages, both texts being equally authoritative.

For the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland:

Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs

Prime Minister of British Guiana

For the Government of Venezuela:

Minister of Foreign Affairs


A joint Communiqué which reflected the decisions and the purpose of the Geneva Agreement was issued immediately after the Agreement was signed.

Shortly after the signing of the Geneva Agreement, Venezuela's Foreign Minister, Dr. Ignacio Iribarren Borges, sent a copy of the document in a letter to the UN Secretary-General, U Thant. On the 4 April 1966, the Secretary-General replied to the Venezuelan Foreign Minister:

Most Excellent Sir,

I have the honour to acknowledge receipt of the text of the agreement signed in Geneva on the 17th day of February, 1966, by the Venezuelan Foreign Minister, the Foreign Relations Minister of the United Kingdom and the Prime Minister of British Guiana. I have made note of the obligations that eventually can fall on the Secretary-General of the United Nations by virtue of Paragraph 2 of Article IV of the agreement and it pleases me to inform you that the said functions are of such a nature that they can be appropriately carried out by the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

I take this opportunity to reiterate to Your Excellency my highest and most respectful consideration.

(Signed) U Thant

The Geneva Agreement was eventually registered with the UN Secretariat on the 5 May 1966 as an official UN document.


Immediately following the signing of the Geneva Agreement, press reports indicated that the Agreement was well received in Venezuela and most Venezuelan newspapers headlined the decision as a victory for Venezuela's efforts to reach an understanding. La Republica, Venezuela's semi-official daily, on the 18 February greeted the four-year negotiation period as "the re-opening of the controversy". The paper stated that if the decision of 1899 was not annulled at least it would be revised.

And on the 25 February, the Caracas English language paper, The Daily Journal, reported on a press conference given the day before by the Venezuelan Foreign Minister on his return from Geneva: Foreign Minister Ignacio Iribarren Borges yesterday once more pointed out that it had been Great Britain and not Venezuela who had changed her position at the last meeting of the parties in Geneva.

Speaking at a press conference, Iribarren Borges said that the joint communiqué to which Great Britain had subscribed had been drafted originally in London, and that its signature now actually meant that the 1899 decision would be reconsidered.

He also denied rumours that Great Britain was no longer a party to the dispute, pointing out that the agreement to arbitrate had been between Venezuela and Great Britain with British Guiana as a consultant who when it was granted its independence would become a full partner to the agreement.

Questioned as to why British Guiana was dealing directly with Venezuela when it was not an independent body, Iribarren Borges replied that Great Britain had agreed to approve anything signed between British Guiana and Venezuela.

As for the independence and recognition issue, Iribarren Borges said that when British Guiana becomes independent Venezuela may recognise her but not the territory in dispute.

Asked if he had confidence that a new arbitration tribunal would reverse a 70-year decision, the Foreign Minister said he did, and added that Venezuela was not to blame for the size of the territory which was taken from her in 1899 and that was now two-thirds of British Guiana.

Another point raised was whether Venezuela did not fear another "unjust" decision would be rendered, to which the Foreign Minister answered that Venezuela has "valid facts" to prove the 1899 decision to be null and void and it was against that arbitration ruling, not against the institution of arbitration itself.

But the Foreign Minister refused to term the recent Geneva meeting as a "diplomatic triumph" for Venezuela, saying that as head of the delegation that went to that talks, it would be improper for him to say so. . .


In British Guiana, the PPP, in a response to the signing of the Geneva Agreement, issued the following statement on the 19 February 1966:

In the light of the decisions of the Geneva Conference on the British Guiana-Venezuela border issue, the People's Progressive Party wishes to denounce the so-called settlement for the reasons that it gives substance and status to a spurious claim that has no legal basis and also compromises the sovereignty of this country by associating an aggressor Government in a special arrangement in relation to the territory which is the subject of controversy and the basis for a threat of aggression.

It should be noted that the present Government of British Guiana had declared that it would refuse to recognise that Venezuela had any claim to territory in British Guiana. In discussions with representatives of the PPP, the Prime Minister had also said that the British Guiana Government would not agree to any arrangements for the joint development of the territory claimed by Venezuela on conditions which would give to that country any special rights or imply any special status for Venezuela in relation to the territory claimed. The PPP had sought representation at the Conference with the object of strengthening the Government's bargaining power by presenting a united front.

The British Guiana Government has yielded ground at the Conference on both of these vital issues with the result that Guyana is committed to joint action with Venezuela in seeking a solution to a dispute which has no legal basis but which is now given international status. In addition to this, Venezuela appears to have been given special consideration with regard to the exploitation of the natural resources of what that country calls Guyana-Essequibo - the territory which is the object of the claim. These conclusions are borne out by the Conference Communiqué and by press comments in Venezuela.

The PPP is most unhappy over the outcome of the Conference and declares its determination to work steadfastly and strenuously for reversals of the decisions of the Geneva Conference in so far as they prejudice the interests of the people of Guyana and threaten our country's territorial integrity.

In his booklet, Venezuela Border Issue and Occupation of Ankoko - A Sellout by the Coalition Government, (published by the PPP in 1967), Jocelyn Hubbard, an executive member of the PPP, pointed out that "one of the features of the agreement which is of utmost importance is the decision that Britain shall remain party to the Agreement after independent Guyana comes into being. This clearly reveals the political nature of the Agreement since independent Guyana should inherit all Britain's rights and obligations in respect of Guyanese territory on the attainment of independence".

The PNC-UF coalition Government, on the other hand, welcomed the Agreement, and on the 5 March 1966, Prime Minister Burnham insisted that there was no question of the Geneva Agreement being regarded by his Government as a compromise on Guyana's territorial integrity. Interestingly, in a separate comment, Attorney General Shridath Ramphal admitted that the Agreement "became a requisite to independence".

However, PPP Leader, Dr. Jagan, who returned to British Guiana in early March from abroad, declared that the Geneva Conference had only shelved the issue until it was expedient to raise it again.

A resolution to approve the Geneva Agreement was tabled in the British Guiana House of Assembly during April. In a general debate on the 28 April, the Government and the Opposition disagreed strongly, but it was finally approved with the PPP voting against.


Obviously, there were political influences at work long before the Geneva Agreement was worked out. The political manoeuvres leading up to the signing of the Agreement were explained explicitly in the New York Times of the 22 February 1966:

Venezuela undoubtedly was concerned at the possibility that Dr. Cheddi B. Jagan might return to power and make independent Guyana a base for Marxist subversion against its neighbours.

The agreement on the boundary question after a two-day conference in Geneva will bolster the prestige of Premier Forbes Burnham's coalition Government at an opportune time and remove at least one major problem from its very full plate.

With this report, the New York Times, no doubt, was deliberately throwing the task on Venezuela to carry out the US State Department manoeuvre to prevent a progressive government under the PPP from coming to power in an independent Guyana. This political manoeuvre was therefore aimed at making Guyana available to the United States as a base to carry out its destabilising plans against any pro-socialist government in the Caribbean and Latin America.

Then on the 24 February 1966 the authoritative pro-government Venezuelan newspaper, La Republica, in a most revealing statement in an editorial, showed very clearly the pro-imperialist reason for the settlement in Geneva. The paper said that Venezuela should not force the frontier issue with British Guiana to a point which might cause the overthrow of the Government of the Burnham Government. The editorial revealed that the four-year period agreed on for the negotiations between Venezuela and the shortly-to-be independent Guyana was a concession by Venezuela which demanded that in return Britain and British Guiana should recognise the Venezuelan case in depth and agree to discuss it. In effect, according to the editorial, both Britain and British Guiana agreed to the Venezuelan demand.

La Republica added: We have already said that in this kind of negotiations one cannot be inflexible. Besides, the original proposition of the British Guianese delegation was for a period of twenty years.

We must not lose sight either of certain political requirements which suggested yielding on this point. The Government of Burnham is pursued by extremist adversaries. . .

To force the situation on the part of Venezuela could precipitate a popular reaction in Guyana capable of pulling down a Government which identifies itself with ours in the defence of democratic principles and in struggle against extremist aggression. . .


The aim of the Geneva Agreement was to afford Venezuela an opportunity in essentially a bilateral context to have examined its contention of nullity of the 1899 Award. (Venezuela has never managed to establish such a contention).

In the maintenance by Venezuela of its claim, the Geneva Agreement was also a logical part of the process of examination of documentary material to establish nullity, the onus being on Venezuela to produce such evidence. But there was an important difference. The Geneva Agreement unlike "an offer" was now an international Treaty which was legally binding. Thus the Geneva Agreement provided an agreed legal mechanism for continuing the process started in 1963, that is, of examining the Venezuelan contention of nullity of the 1899 Award.

The provisions of the Geneva Agreement also maintained the position taken by the British in 1962, that is, the Agreement was in no way related to substantive talks about the revision of the frontier. The Geneva Agreement was therefore a legal basis for dealing with the political situation caused by Venezuelan revanchism in asserting and maintaining a claim to two-thirds of Guyana's territory.

From the beginning, Venezuela ignored the main role of the Agreement. Under the Geneva Agreement a Mixed Commission was established to deal with the Venezuelan contention of nullity of the 1899 Award. The Commission was given a maximum of four (4) years to complete its task. At the very first meeting of the Commission the Venezuelan Commissioners were invited by their Guyanese counterparts to produce evidence to support their contention of nullity. However, the Venezuelans took the position that the Commission should not be concerned with such a question but rather with the revision of the frontier. The Mixed Commission in subsequent meetings was unable to fulfil its mandate largely because Venezuela declined to deal with the question of their contention of the nullity of the 1899 Award.

Venezuela consistently misinterpreted the Geneva Agreement which appointed the Mixed Commission comprised of Guyanese and Venezuelans and given a period of four years to carry out a certain mandate. That mandate contained in Article I of the Geneva Agreement specified:

"A Mixed Commission shall be established with the task of seeking satisfactory solutions for the practical settlement of the controversy between Venezuela and the United Kingdom which has arisen as the result of the Venezuelan contention that the Arbitral Award of 1899 about the frontier between British Guiana and Venezuela is null and void".

During the existence of the Mixed Commission, the Venezuela representatives refused to face the fact that the central issue was the contention of their Government of the nullity of the 1899 Award.

The Venezuela argument and actions during the term of the Mixed Commission were designed to have a discussion on the revision of the frontier. However, the Geneva Agreement never allowed for such a demand.

In citing the Geneva Agreement, especially Article I, the Government of Venezuela attempted at subsequent meetings of the Mixed Commission to limit the scope and application of the Geneva Agreement. Venezuelan officials emphasised on the words "the practical settlement of the controversy" to the exclusion of all other phrases in the relevant provisions. Shortly after, they began to described the issue as a "territorial controversy". However, Guyana stated that there was no "territorial controversy" - only a controversy over the contention by Venezuela of the invalidity of that the Arbitral Award of 1899. According to the Guyana Government, in any discussion with a view to finding a solution to any controversy, Venezuela must agree that the prior issue to be discussed was its contention of the nullity of the 1899 Award. (Actually, Venezuela has never proven before any international tribunal the nullity of the Award).


Significantly, the Geneva Agreement recommended that both Venezuela and Guyana should revert to Article 33 of the United Nations Charter to bring about a peaceful solution to the issue. Article 33 states:

1. The parties of any dispute, the continuance of which is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security, shall, first of all, seek a solution by negotiation, enquiry, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice.

2. The Security Council shall, when it deems necessary, call upon the parties to settle their disputes by such means.

Of interest to note is that a corollary of Article 33 seems to be reflected in Article 36 (3) of the UN Charter. This Article which is of significance to matters like the Guyana-Venezuela border issue, specifies:

In making recommendations under this Article, the Security Council should also take into consideration that legal disputes should, as a general rule, be referred by the parties to the International Court of Justice in accordance with the provisions of the Statute of the Court.

Interestingly, the Geneva Agreement did not specify what should follow if all the means of peaceful settlement, as specified in Article 33 (as well as Article 36) of the UN Charter had been tried and had failed to produce a solution.


With the signing of the Geneva Agreement, the Mixed Commission, formed of representatives of the Governments of British Guiana and Venezuela, was established. The Venezuelan appointees were Dr. Luis Loreto and Dr. Garcia Bustillos, while those appointed by British Guiana were Sir Donald Jackson and Dr. Mohamed Shahabuddeen. The Venezuelan advisers to the Commission were General Luis Ordonez, Padre Hermann Gonzalez-Oropeza, Padre Pablo Ojer-Celigueta, Dr. Luis Herera Campins (later to become President of Venezuela in 1980), Captain Euclides Russian and Dr. Oscar Arnal Nunez. Shirley Patterson (later to be known as Shirley Filed-Ridley) was the lone adviser of British Guiana to the Commission.

The Commission held its first meeting in Caracas in July 1966 and the second in Georgetown in September 1966. Two months before the first meeting, on the 26 May, British Guiana became the independent state of Guyana and, thus, became a full partner to the Geneva Agreement.

As stipulated by the Geneva Agreement a Sub-Commission of experts was also established. Its members were Dr. Oscar Arnal Nunez, Dr. Pedro Pablo Azpurua and Dr. Rivas Casado of Venezuela and Shirley Patterson of Guyana. This Sub-Commission did not hold its first meeting until January 1968.

Meanwhile, at around the same period when the Mixed Commission was being established, rumours were rife in that Venezuela was covertly interfering in Guyanese internal affairs especially aimed at undermining the loyalty of the Amerindian population in the Essequibo region of the country. In May 1966, just before the independence celebrations, a political party called the Guyana Amerindian Party was launched. It was headed by a former leading Amerindian member of the PNC, Anthony Chaves. This party, which did not survive for long since it failed to attract support, was suspected of being funded by Venezuela.


With Guyana becoming a fully independent nation on the 26 May 1966, Venezuela was one of the first countries to formally recognise the establishment of the new State. However, it must be noted that on the day before, a Communiqué issued by the Venezuelan Foreign Affairs Ministry indicated that it would not recognise Guyana's control over the western Essequibo. (This was to be later repeated by the Venezuelan Foreign Affairs Minister in a statement on the 16 September).

The Venezuelan Government, through its Foreign Minister, Ignacio Iribarren Borges, sent this Note of Recognition on Guyana's Independence Day to the Guyanese Minister of External Affairs, Prime Minister, Forbes Burnham:


I have the honour to inform Your Excellency that the Government of the Republic of Venezuela, considering that this 26th day of May, 1966 has been proclaimed the independence of the State of Guyana, has decided, with special pleasure, to grant it its recognition with the reservation that is explained in this Note.

The Government of Venezuela entrusts me to express through Your Excellency its cordial greetings to Her Majesty Elizabeth II, and to Honourable Mr. Forbes L. Burnham, Prime Minister of that friendly nation.

Under these circumstances, the Government of the Republic of Venezuela wishes to establish relations with the State of Guyana on the basis of common interest and mutual respect, and is willing to exchange diplomatic representatives with the Government of Your Excellency, whenever both countries deem it convenient.

The Government of Venezuela, recognising the new independent State of Guyana, wishes to express the joy which overcomes all the National Community when witnessing the birth of a new country on American soil upon the old vestiges of colonialism, thus incorporating its strong and hard working inhabitants into the community of free nations of the world.

According to the Agreement subscribed at Geneva, on the 17th February, 1966 between the Government of the Republic of Venezuela and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, this latter in consultation with the Government of British Guiana, and by virtue of Article VIII of the aforesaid Agreement, as of today the 26th May, 1966, the Government of Your Excellency becomes part of the referred to Agreement.

Consequently, in view of what is stipulated in Article V of the said Agreement, the recognition that Venezuela makes to the new State of Guyana, does not imply on the part of our country waiver or reduction of the claimed territorial rights, nor in any manner does it affect the sovereign rights which emerge from the claim risen by the Venezuelan contention that the so-called 1899 Paris Arbitral Award about the Venezuela-British Guiana boundary is null and void.

Therefore, Venezuela recognises as territory of the new State the one which is located on the east of the right bank of the Essequibo River, and reiterates before the new State, and before the international community, that it expressly reserves its rights of territorial sovereignty over all the zone located on the west bank of the above-mentioned river. Therefore, the Guyana-Essequibo territory over which Venezuela expressly reserves its sovereign rights, limits on the east by the new State of Guyana, through the middle line of the Essequibo River, beginning from its source and on to its mouth in the Atlantic Ocean.

The Government of Venezuela expresses its sincere wishes so that the exercise of activities of the Government of Your Excellency shall become a source of benefits for the sister nation.

I make use of this opportunity to reiterate to Your Excellency the testimony of my highest and distinguished esteem.

(Signed) Ignacio Iribarren Borges
Minister of Foreign Relations of the Republic of Venezuela


The Guyana Government eventually replied to the Venezuelan Note of Recognition in a letter to the Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Affairs on the 19 August 1966:

Your Excellency,

I have the honour to acknowledge receipt of Your Excellency's Note of the 26th May, 1966, the date of the proclamation of Independence of the State of Guyana, and to put on record, in the name of the people of Guyana, our esteem for the expression of faith and hope formulated by the Venezuelan Government in the feeling that the action taken by the Guyana Government will lead to countless benefits.

My Government takes note of the pleasure with which the Government of Venezuela has granted its recognition of Guyana, but observes, with regret, that the Government of Venezuela has delineated the middle line of the Essequibo as the western boundary of the State of Guyana which is in contradiction with the 1905 agreement, being the result of the work of the Boundary Commission, which laid out and delineated the boundary west of the Colony of British Guiana along the rivers, Cuyuni and Wenamo.

In this respect I desire to point out that Article I (2) of the Guyana Constitution stipulates that the territory of Guyana embraces all that area, which immediately before the 26th May, 1966, comprised the old Colony of British Guiana, together with the area which by Act of Parliament may be declared as part of the territory of Guyana. The territory which extends between the middle line of the Essequibo on the east and the boundary of the old Colony of British Guiana all along the rivers Cuyuni and Wanamo on the west, was already included on the 26th May, 1966, judicially and administratively, within the old Colony of British Guiana and forms part of the State of Guyana.

Your Excellency's Note refers to the Geneva Agreement of 1966. I wish to assure the Government of Your Excellency that the Government of Guyana intends, in conformity with well established international practice, to carry out all obligations of the said Agreement.

We have noted the desire of the Venezuelan Government to interchange at the proper time, diplomatic representatives.

Because of our limitations in so far as trained personnel and our limited financial resources, the Government of Guyana regrets the fact that it does not find it possible at this time to establish a diplomatic mission in Venezuela. However, the Government of Guyana would receive any decision on the part of the Government of Your Excellency to raise the actual Consulate-General of Venezuela in Georgetown to the status of Embassy and appoint, whenever it is convenient, an Ambassador to represent Venezuela in the State of Guyana.

We appreciate the greetings of Venezuela's satisfaction because Guyana has at last freed itself from colonialism, and I desire to ratify to the Government of Venezuela the assurance that Guyana will join its efforts with all nations of the world in search of peace and democracy as well as in the opposition to all the remainder of colonialism or intention to install it.

(Signed) L.F.S. Burnham
Prime Minister and Minister of External Affairs

top of pageTop of Page  

Back to table of contents




It will be recalled that the objective of the Geneva Agreement was to preserve the pre-existing state of affairs, unless and until it was changed by a decision properly taken in accordance with the peaceful procedures set out by that Agreement. The Agreement provided that "no new claim or enlargement of an existing claim to territorial sovereignty in these territories (of Venezuela and British Guiana) shall be asserted while this Agreement is in force, nor shall any claim whatsoever be asserted otherwise than in the Mixed Commission while that Commission is in being".

On the 11 September 1966, a Venezuelan destroyer arrived in Georgetown bringing an eight-man team for the second meeting of the Mixed Commission. However, while this meeting of the Commission was in session, Venezuelans, including a well-armed group of soldiers, had already encroached upon territory on the Guyana side of the border. This encroachment which apparently had been taking place over the past few months, unknowing to Guyana Government, occurred on the island of Ankoko at the confluence of the boundary rivers, Cuyuni and Wenamu (Wenamo), and took the form of the introduction of military and civilian personnel and the establishment of an airstrip and the erection of other installations and structures, including a post-office, school and military and police outposts.

The incursion on Guyanese territory on Ankoko Island by Venezuela was reported to the Guyanese authorities early in October 1966, just after the conclusion of the second meeting of the Mixed Commission, by a diamond prospector who happened to be in that forested and almost uninhabited area at the time. On the 12 October, a Guyanese team of senior officials, including police officers, visited the island and verified what had occurred.

On the morning of the 14 October 1966, Forbes Burnham, as Prime Minister and Minister of External Affairs of Guyana, dispatched the following protest to the Foreign Minister of Venezuela:

On the 12th October, a Guyanese mission discovered Venezuelan personnel occupying a portion of Ankoko Island in the Cuyuni River which is Guyanese territory. The Venezuelans also constructed an airport within Guyanese territory.

I energetically protest the intromission by Venezuelan personnel on Guyanese territory and request that immediate steps be taken by your Government to guarantee the withdrawal and removal of the installations and thus carry out the stipulations of the Geneva Agreement.

Following the dispatch of the protest, Burnham called in the Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Jagan, to brief him of the situation.


The first public announcement of the incursion on Ankoko was made later that morning of the 14 October by Prime Minister Burnham in a radio broadcast. He said:

At one point of Guyana's western border with Venezuela, the Wenamu River flows into the Cuyuni River and there is an island at this junction called Ankoko Island of about two or three square miles. According to the map in existence since 1904 the border runs roughly through the centre of Ankoko Island from north to south so that the western part of the island is Venezuelan and the eastern Guyanese.

Some time during last month a number of Venezuelans crossed into the Guyanese side and have since been carrying out certain works on our territory.

The report of this came to the notice of the Government a few days ago, and an inspection party of senior officials and two senior police officers visited the island day before yesterday, Wednesday 12th October. This party verified and confirmed the earlier report through unofficial channels.

In the opinion of the Government this intrusion by Venezuelans constitutes a breach of the Geneva Agreement entered into between the Governments of the United Kingdom and Venezuela on the 17th February, 1966, to which the Government of Guyana is now a party, and I have today sent a cable to Dr. Iribarren Borges, the Foreign Minister of Venezuela, strongly protesting the intrusion of Venezuelan personnel into Guyanese territory and asking that immediate steps be taken by the Government of Venezuela to ensure the immediate withdrawal of such personnel.

I have this morning informed the Leader of the Opposition of the situation and held discussions with him. Meanwhile, I await a reply from the Venezuelan Government.

I consider it my duty to inform this nation of the latest development and to assure you that every step is being taken to retain our territorial sovereignty by peaceful means.

Your Government proposes to abide by the terms of the Geneva Agreement and it is hopeful that the Government of Venezuela will do likewise.

You are asked to remain calm and to await further information.

Long live Guyana!


Burnham's announcement received a mixed reception in Guyana. But despite the scepticism and bewilderment it created, all Guyanese condemned Venezuela's actions. A few hours after the broadcast, members of the Progressive Youth Organization (PYO) and the Young Socialist Movement (YSM), the youth arms of the PPP and the PNC respectively, mounted a large protest demonstration outside the Venezuelan Consulate General in Middle Street, Georgetown. In the course of the noisy demonstration, some of the protestors invaded the compound and pulled down the Venezuelan flag from the mast and then proceeded to burn it on the street.

An immediate protest to the Guyana Government was made by the Consul General, Senor Aranguren. During the evening regrets over the incident were issued in a letter to the Consul General by the External Affairs Ministry. On the following morning, the 15 October, the Minister of State and Attorney General, Shridath Ramphal, sent a Note of regret over the flag-burning incident to the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry and later the same day, Burnham met with the Consul General to personally express regrets over the matter.

The PPP, on the 15 October, issued a statement condemning the Venezuelan incursion on the Guyanese side of Ankoko Island and expressed the hope that this action of Venezuela was not a manoeuvre to prevent the withdrawal of British troops which were expected to be removed from Guyana at the end of October. Some days later, the youth section of the United Force at a public meeting in Georgetown condemned the Venezuelan action.


The Venezuelan Foreign Minister replied on the 18 October to the protest sent by Guyana four days before. In a Note to the Minister of External Affairs, (Burnham), he stated:

I have the honour to state to Your Excellency that I have received your cablegram on the 14th instant, in which the Honourable Government of Guyana formulated a protest for the presence of Venezuelan personnel in the island of Ankoko in the confluence of the Wenamu and the Cuyuni Rivers.

In reply I have to inform Your Excellency that the Venezuelan Government does not accept the said protest, as the island of Ankoko is Venezuelan territory in its entirety and the Republic of Venezuela has always been in possession of it.

At the same time, I wish to point out to Your Excellency that if the Honourable Government of Guyana should have any reclamation to formulate, it should do so through the Mixed Commission which was created for the effect by the Geneva Agreement dated 17th February, 1966 in accordance with Paragraph 2 of the fifth Article of the said treaty.

As a result of the flag-burning incident outside the Venezuelan Consulate General in Georgetown, the Venezuelan Foreign Minister, also on the 18 October, sent the following protest to Burnham:

I have the honour to state to Your Excellency and to ratify in the name of the Venezuelan Government, the protest made by the Consul General in Georgetown, for the violation by an organized group of persons in the Consulate compound and the vandalism against the national flag of Venezuela.

The Venezuelan Government estimates that, due to the tone and content of Your Excellency's radio broadcast on the 14th instant, your Government should have taken the necessary steps to impede the carrying out of the exercises which could not be classified as unforeseen. The Venezuelan Government hopes that, in similar cases, the Honourable Government of Guyana acts with due diligence to guarantee the protection of the Venezuelan representation in your country.


On the following day Burnham sent this response to the Venezuelan Foreign Minister:

I have the honour to refer to Your Excellency's telegram to me dated 18th instant, relative to the incident of the 14th October when the Venezuelan flag was torn and destroyed outside the consulate in Georgetown. The Guyana Government profoundly deplores this lamentable act.

On the night of the 14th October, the Government expressed its regrets to the Consul General in Georgetown, and the following day in the name of the Government, the Minister of State sent a note of excuse to be transmitted to Your Excellency. On the same day I personally presented excuses to Mr. Aranguren. I ratify and confirm to Your Excellency all these expressions of regrets which have already been given to the Consul General.

The demonstration that took place on the afternoon of the 14th October, outside the Venezuelan Consulate General in Georgetown was spontaneous reaction to reports of Venezuelan personnel entering on the island of Ankoko on the Guyanese section, and could not be attributed in any way to the tone or content of my radio message of this day, as I avoided carefully, in one or other respect, to inflame Guyanese public opinion.

Nevertheless, the Guyanese Government, conscious of its obligation to protect the property and the accredited personnel of Your Excellency's Government in Guyana, desires to confirm the assurances already given to Your Excellency, and accepted by your Consul General in Georgetown, in the sense that all types of precaution will be taken by the Guyana Government to make sure that the Consul General, and members of his family, employees and the properties of the Consulate General, shall be properly protected.


There continued an exchange of diplomatic notes between the Guyana and Venezuela during October over the Venezuelan incursion on the Guyanese part of Ankoko Island. A suggestion by Guyana that in preference to the matter being raised at the United Nations, representatives of both Governments should carry out a joint examination of the boundary map, prepared in 1905 by a joint team of British and Venezuelan surveyors, for the purpose of determining the position of Ankoko in relation to the existing boundary, was rejected by Venezuela. Venezuela reiterated that if Guyana wished to discuss the matter it must be done through the Mixed Commission.

In a booklet entitled The Ankoko Affair, (published by the Ministry of External Affairs of Guyana in 1967), the Guyana Government carefully analysed its protest over the incursion on its part of Ankoko Island. It stated that in protesting against the Venezuelan incursion on the territory given to Guyana by the Arbitral Award, it was upholding the Geneva Agreement while at the same time complaining of its unilateral abrogation. The object of the Geneva Agreement was clearly to keep matters in the pre-existing state until it should be otherwise decided under the procedure laid down by the Agreement. A party which was asserting rights larger than those assigned to it under the map was, therefore, asserting a claim, and if it did so otherwise than through the Mixed Commission, it was in breach of the Geneva Agreement. The Mixed Commission was entrusted with certain tasks under the Agreement, but these tasks did not include jurisdiction to consider breaches of the Agreement itself. Any such breaches should be pursued by the parties by the diplomatic processes normally available, for example, negotiation, arbitration, or reference to the United Nations.

The Guyana protest, therefore, indicated that Venezuela, acting outside the Mixed Commission, was asserting by military means certain rights larger than those accorded to it and was, thus, in breach of the Geneva Agreement. The Venezuelan suggestion that Guyana's protest amounted to an assertion of claim, which could only be done through the Mixed Commission, was fallacious and misleading. Its absurdity was demonstrated by the possible situation in which Venezuela might have encroached by force of arms on the area of more than half of Guyana which it was claiming. It would have been a strange answer to Guyana's protest in that case to say that Guyana should pursue the matter through the Mixed Commission while its territorial integrity remained despoiled.

The Guyana protest sounded a warning of the expansionist nature of Venezuela's ambitions and its unwillingness to be deterred either by the general principles of international law or by specific terms of bilateral or multilateral international agreements that it had solemnly concluded.


The Arbitral Award of 1899 had provided that the boundary should run "along the midstream of the Acaribisi to the Cuyuni, and thence along the northern bank of the River Cuyuni westward to its junction with the Wenamu to its westernmost source..." At the junction referred to can be found the island of Ankoko.

In connecting the boundary from the north bank of the Cuyuni to the midstream of the Wenamu, the Mixed Venezuelan-British Boundary Commissioners drew a line passing through the island and dividing it from north to south in roughly equal parts -- the eastern part falling on the British Guiana (Guyana) side of the boundary and the western part falling on the Venezuelan side. A boundary map showing these details was signed on the 7 January 1905 by the Boundary Commissioners, Harry Innis Perkins and Charles Wilgress Anderson of Great Britain and Abraham Tirado and Elias Zoro of Venezuela.

In addition to the authenticity of the boundary as shown on that boundary map, the Commissioners also wrote an account of the manner in which they established and marked on the ground the boundary line across the island. In the official report of the work of the Boundary Commission submitted on the 9 January 1905 to the Government Secretary of British Guiana by Harry Perkins, the Senior British Boundary Commissioner and published in the public records of British Guiana for that year, this statement was made:

...At the Wenamu mouth we verified our astronomical work of the previous May, and fixed the course of the boundary line from a point on a large island called Anacoco opposite the midstream of the Wenamu to a point on the other side of the same island, and from thence to a point on the mainland on the left bank of the Cuyuni where the Colony's boundary continues to the Akarabisi, etc. We marked the points by driving posts of bullet tree some six feet in length into the ground, and surrounding each with a pyramid of stone collected from the river bed, and carefully packed around them. These should last for many years if not for ever. A line had previously been cut and surveyed across the island by me during our work on the Cuyuni earlier in the year, and this was made use of to determine the boundaries of the boundary marks.

Ever since the completion of the work of the Boundary Commission, the eastern part of Ankoko was recognised as juridically and administratively part of Guyana and totally within its boundaries. The Venezuelan Government had never before challenged the validity or accuracy of the map produced by the Boundary Commissioners and had at no time asserted sovereignty over the entire island of Ankoko. The Geneva Agreement and the discussions which led up to it concerned the sole issue whether the Arbitral Award of 1899 was null and void; they involved no challenge to the accuracy with which the boundary line as shown on the 1905 map reflected the terms of the Award.

The boundary of Ankoko as shown on the 1905 map was indeed reproduced on Venezuelan maps published in 1911 and 1917, the former having been issued under the express authority of the administration of General Gomez, then President of Venezuela, and signed by F. Alicantara, the Venezuelan Minister of Internal Affairs.

But the most convincing demonstration of the degree to which the 1905 delimitation had to all times before been accepted by Venezuela was shown on the 13 December 1965 when the Legislative Assembly of the State of Bolivar formally acknowledged that the eastern part of Ankoko Island was in fact Guyanese territory.

The State of Bolivar, a constituent State of the Republic of Venezuela, forms part of the that country's boundary with Guyana in the vicinity of Ankoko Island. An Extraordinary Gazette of the State of Bolivar on the 3 January 1966 published the relevant portion of the law passed by the Legislative Assembly which declared the boundary with Guyana to be. . .

. . .down the River Acarabisi to its mouth with the Cuyuni and from this point upstream along the River Cuyuni on its left bank as far as the Island of Anacoco, where running from north to south it divides it into two portions, the western portion belonging to the State of Bolivar and the eastern to British Guiana; from the southern terminal of this line on the above mentioned Island of Anacoco it follows the left bank of the River Wenamo...


However, despite the wealth of historical and legal evidence to prove that eastern Ankoko was Guyanese territory, the Venezuelan Government continued to maintain that eastern Ankoko was its territory. And even though Guyanese soldiers were rushed to the border area to establish a military post at Eteringbang on the south bank of the Cuyuni River in the vicinity of Ankoko Island, the Venezuelans refused to withdraw its personnel from the eastern part of the island. Shortly after the incursion, the Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Dr. Iribarren Borges, at a press conference in Caracas insisted that the entire island "has always been Venezuelan and the presence of Venezuelans there is permanent".

In addition, while the Guyana protest was being considered in Caracas, the semi-official newspaper, La Republica, on the 17 October 1966, said that Venezuelan national Guardsmen had been installed in eastern Ankoko six weeks before the incursion was discovered by Guyana and that Burnham's protest "completely lacks foundation". The paper also questioned the motives of Burnham in "provoking an incident like that which caused the burning of the Venezuelan flag in Georgetown". La Republica added:

The action against the Venezuelan Consulate and against our flag by a small group of youths of the parties of Mr. Burnham and Dr. Jagan constitutes a grave provocation which has already prompted a protest from our Consulate and also one which our energetic Foreign Minister will send today to the Guyanese Prime Minister.

Noting that Guyana's protest should have been directed through the Mixed Commission, the paper stated that Burnham preferred to make a prior "demagogic posture" in addressing the Guyanese people on the radio. The paper further claimed that the Guyanese Prime Minister made a political blunder when he sought the support of Dr. Cheddi Jagan in the "unfounded protest against Venezuela. . . One does not know to what point the demagoguery which Jagan is putting into practice against our country might lead, as deduced from his recent speeches".

No doubt, the Venezuelan newspaper was referring to speeches made at public meetings in Guyana in which Dr. Jagan severely castigated Venezuela for seizing Guyanese territory, and urged the Guyana Government to raise the matter in the UN Security Council.

La Republica concluded:

Venezuela desires to maintain the closest and friendliest relations with the Government of Guyana but naturally cannot take well incidents like the one provoked on Friday (14th October) by the Head of Government himself, founded on an unfounded claim, since we insist that the island of Ankoko has been and is Venezuelan territory.

We hope the Government of the neighbouring Guyanese nation admits it has committed a grave error which could affect profoundly the relations between Georgetown and Caracas. . .


At the beginning of 1967, Venezuela upgraded its Consulate General to that of an Embassy. On the 26 April 1967, the Guyanese evening newspaper, Evening Post, featured on its front page the following article which was based on an interview with the Venezuelan Ambassador to Guyana, Walter Brandt:

Venezuela does not consider any part of the island of Ankoko to be part of Guyana and does not intend to yield any section of it to Guyana. As a matter of fact, the island is now one of Venezuela's border outposts, Senor Walter Brandt, Venezuela's Ambassador in Guyana told the Evening Post yesterday.

He said that he was not aware that any negotiations were going on between the Venezuelan Government and the Guyana Government over Ankoko.

In explaining his Government's stand on the Ankoko dispute, Senor Brandt said that the Venezuelans had always considered the island theirs. He said that when the Guyana Government had objected to Venezuela's occupying the eastern sections of the island, the impression was gained that the Venezuelans had just invaded the island. But the Venezuelans had been living on the island years and years ago. As a matter of fact, the island became known as ANAKOKO because a Venezuelan woman named Ana used to sell coconuts on the island, Senor Brandt said.

After the Guyana Government had protested to the Venezuelan Government, his Government suggested that the matter be referred to the Mixed Boundary Commission (sic) that had been set up to investigate the Venezuelan claim to 50,000 square miles of Guyanese territory.

But the Guyana Government did not agree and suggested Government to Government discussions, a proposal that Venezuela rejected. Senor Brandt went on to say that his Government was moving ahead with its plans to develop the island for the inhabitants and to use it as one of the country's many border outposts. The island, he said, was not being used as a military base, and he claimed that the airstrip on the island was built to allow for an air service to be operated between the island and the more civilized sections of Venezuela so that the islanders could get provisions and medicine.

Senor Brandt said that the whole island is being cleared and roads and other communal amenities were being built for the inhabitants. He said that the people on the island do farming and coconuts and cassava were the two main crops. The relations between Guyanese on the Cuyuni River and the Venezuelans on the island were very friendly. Guyanese and Venezuelan soldiers mix freely, he added. They visit each other and play dominoes and other games, exchange food and gifts and they seem to like each other, Senor Brandt said.

He said that no Guyanese soldiers were stationed on Ankoko and the flag of Venezuela is the only one flying on the island.


In the light of criticisms from the PPP over the manner in which the PNC-UF coalition Government was handling the border issue, and the allegation that US imperialism was deeply involved behind the scenes in encouraging Venezuela, the United Force (UF), the junior partner in the coalition Government, made the following statement on the 22 October 1966 in an editorial in its weekly newspaper, the Sun:

With the political agitation over Rhodesia and talk about leaving the Commonwealth if the Smith regime is not ended now faded into the background, a new problem has now arisen in international relations. The Prime Minister reported last week that Venezuelans have intruded into the island of Ankoko in the river that forms the boundary between Guyana and Venezuela.

Since the boundary line runs through the river, and the river flows around the island, it is to be assumed that the boundary line runs in the centre of the island, and part of this should be Venezuelan and part Guyanese. But according to reports, this island has been used by the Venezuelans for a long time and is perhaps a lucrative gold bearing region.

Within recent times, according to other reports, the Venezuelans built a runway and are developing an airport on the island, while national guards have been stationed in the area. Because of this the Guyana Government has now taken official notice and the Prime Minister made his dramatic broadcast on Friday last.

But a number of lessons are to be learnt in this latest test of survival as a nation. The first is that Guyana cannot become a nation with its people only concentrated on the coastland leaving the vast underdeveloped interior an empty area. It will soon be taken over by our neighbours. Next, the overemphasis even at the UN of that outmoded concept which keeps stressing that because of imperialism our ancestors were brought to these parts against their will, and thus by implication the country does not belong to us, and that our home is far away, should give place to a new concept. We cannot complain about imperialism while at the same time claiming all the rights and treaties left behind by the same imperialists.

If a claim to be Guyanese is made, it must include all persons of all ethnic groups, in particular the Amerindians and not just persons who claim they were brought here by "imperialism". In which case what would the Amerindians in the area think of the question, and what would the world think for that matter.

The next lesson to be learnt is who will be our friends if there is a showdown over the Venezuelan crisis? Will it be the Afro-Asian block with whom we have allied ourselves to pass a number of resolutions that cannot be put into effect? Will it be the British for whom we showed so much anxiety to be rid of? The opposition PPP was only too glad to use the issue to declare that this latest Venezuelan move must not be used as a ruse to let the British troops stay on in Guyana. At the same time they have begun a rumour campaign that the Americans are behind the Venezuelans to push the claims for Guyana lands. Behind this is the move to alienate American sympathy for the Guyanese people in the huge problem facing us with the development of the interior, and they plan to denounce America in next week's Assembly debate.

It is likely sooner or later some elements might use the Americans as the scapegoat in the Ankoko dispute and there have been allegations that the American Government must have known about this before. As afar as is known the Venezuelans were supposed to have occupied Ankoko Island for a very long time now, even during the regime of the PPP. Nobody took notice of it until now. Is it that the American Government or the American people knew of the existence of Venezuelan occupation of Ankoko before the Guyana Government? Even if they did know, what were they to do about it? Suppose they told the Venezuelans to leave and they refused, what should be done? Should they send GI's to Guyana to help defeat the invading Venezuelans, when we have never expressed any sympathy over the American action in Vietnam or even in the Dominican Republic? On these things we must think deeply and how we conduct international affairs.


On the 25 October, about two weeks after the incursion was announced to Guyanese, the National Assembly (Parliament) of Guyana met to hear a statement from Prime Minister Burnham. The statement set out the background to the drawing of the boundary line through the island of Ankoko and gave details of the border controversy up to that time. A motion by Dr. Jagan, the Leader of the Opposition, to debate the issue was refused by the Speaker of the Assembly who said that the time was not opportune. As a form of protest over this action of the Speaker and the refusal of the Government to agree to a debate, the PPP representatives staged a walk-out from that sitting of the Assembly.

Jocelyn Hubbard, in his booklet, Venezuelan Border Issue and Occupation of Ankoko, summed up the situation:

It is appropriate here to point out that with Venezuela in occupation of Ankoko Island, any dispute over the occupation would have to take the form of a claim to possession of the territory by Guyana which is in fact what happened. The Venezuelans appear to have acted as they did to ensure that Article V (2) of the Geneva Agreement should apply. At the very least, Venezuela had created a genuine border dispute with Guyana.

top of pageTop of Page  

Back to table of contents



Matters surrounding the seizure by Venezuela of Guyana's half of Ankoko Island reached a stalemate after October 1966. The Guyana Government refused to raise the issue in the UN Security Council, and Guyana's representatives on the Mixed Commission (established by the Geneva Agreement earlier in the year) refused to raise the issue at the third meeting of the Commission held in Caracas in December of that year.


Relations between the two countries simmered down for a while. But on 14 April 1967 the Guyana government announced that a meeting of Amerindian chiefs held at Kabakaburi on the Pomeroon River (in the western Essequibo area claimed by Venezuela), a Venezuelan diplomat and the British husband of a Guyanese Amerindian participated and carried out subversive activities relating to the border controversy with Venezuela. The government claimed that the chiefs were influenced by these persons to move a resolution in favour of "joint development" by Guyana and Venezuela of the western Essequibo region.

One week later, the chiefs were summoned to Georgetown for a meeting with the Minister responsible for local government and Amerindian affairs. At the end of this meeting, they issued a statement denying that they had advocated joint development, and insisted that they were always loyal to the Guyana government. But the fact remained that the chiefs indeed passed the resolution as was indicated in the Government's announcement of 14 April, and it was widely believed that they were pressured to issue the denial at the meeting with the minister.

The Amerindian Association, whose Chairman was Stephen Campbell, a United Force Member of Parliament and a member of the coalition Government, was alleged to have organised the meeting of Amerindian Chiefs at Kabakaburi, but this was later denied by the Association.


There was much mystery surrounding the Kabakaburi meeting, and all that Guyanese were told was that the police authorities were carrying out investigations. Eventually, an Englishman, Michael Wilson, was arrested and while he was in detention, amendments to the Expulsion of Undesirables Ordinance were rushed through a specially summoned meeting of the National Assembly. These amendments gave the government additional powers to deport any non-Guyanese in the interest of "good order" by removing the conditions that persons facing deportation should first be placed before the courts.

On 27 April 1967, Wilson was deported to the United Kingdom where the British police gave him a rigorous searching and questioning. In a comment on Wilson's involvement of what the Guyana authorities considered to be undesirable political activities among the Amerindians, the Sun, the newspaper of the United Force, described Wilson on 29 April as a "European well known for his far-left tendencies".

Then on Sunday, 1 May 1967, Leopoldo Talyhardat, Vice-Consul for Venezuela in Guyana, returned to Venezuela after the Guyana Government declared that he was "unacceptable". Here again, there was mystery surrounding his departure, but newspaper reports indicated that he was linked with the Kabakaburi conference.

The Guyana Government closed the incident with the following statement to the press on 1 May:

". . .The Government of Guyana regards the Government of Venezuela as its friend. This was stated this morning by the Principal Assistant Secretary to the Ministry of Information. He said that Guyana wishes at all times to maintain friendly relations with neighbouring Venezuela and the question of Señor Leopoldo Talyhardat being unacceptable to the Government should not be regarded as an indication of any new policy on the part of Guyana towards Venezuela."

The government carefully avoided stating directly that Talyhardat had interfered in Guyanese affairs. However, there was no doubt that his expulsion was due to his involvement in the Kabakaburi affair which was regarded by the Guyana government as a clandestine attempt by Venezuelan diplomatic personnel to interfere in the internal affairs of Guyana through the subversion of members of Guyana's indigenous Amerindian community.


It must be noted that throughout the "Kabakaburi Affair", the Prime Minister had no consultations with the Leader of the Opposition, a situation which was heavily criticised by the PPP.

It was about this time that the Guyana Minister of Finance and Leader of the United Force, Peter D'Aguiar, announced that he would be visiting Venezuela with a party of Guyanese to engage in mountain-climbing. The PPP was sharply critical of D'Aguiar's plans, especially since he was a leading member of the Government. The Party in a statement on 19 May 1967 suggested that with the recent exposure of the Kabakaburi affair and the expulsion of a Venezuelan diplomat, D'Aguiar's visit to Venezuela was an impropriety which was likely to embarrass the Government of which he was a member. The United Force's newspaper, the Sun, expressed annoyance with the PPP statement with this revealing comment:

". . .It is no secret that the Venezuelan claim to this country is made out of fear of Jagan and his friends in Cuba with their terrorist bombs, and their friends in the Soviet Union with their rockets, plus addition to the vast army of socialist "scholarship winners" training in the Soviet Union, and awaiting their chance to come home and take over. Jagan is a perpetual embarrassment to the people of Guyana."

The PNC newspaper, the New Nation, on the same day took a different view when it stated:

. . . Any neighbour who claims half of our household is no friend of ours. We must respect the forms of international comity but we must never go out of our way to accommodate those who seek to despoil us. This is the advice to every citizen whether he is a member of the Cabinet or trade union. . .

In a comment on the statements of the UF and the PNC newspapers, the PPP-supportive Mirror on 23 May 1967 had this to say:

"All these facts suggest that Venezuela is not merely playing a cat and mouse game with the People's Progressive Party as the United Force suggests. After all, one of Mr. Burnham's first tasks as Prime Minister was to visit Venezuela and hold talks with the top leaders of the Government of that country. Whatever may be the reality underlying Venezuela's claim to Guyanese territory there can be little doubt that the coalition parties do not see eye to eye on the matter."


Meanwhile, Guyana was attempting to gain greater access in international organisations, but was finding that such access was not always very easy due to opposition from Venezuela. On 23 May, three days before Guyana's first independence anniversary, Guyana's Ambassador to the USA and the UN, John Carter, asked the Venezuelan Government to withdraw its claim to Guyana's territory so that Guyana could join the Organisation of American States (OAS). (The OAS Charter at that time precluded any country having a territorial dispute with a member-state from being accepted as a new member). However, Venezuela refused this request and maintained that its claim to the western Essequibo was just, and that Guyana's entry to the OAS could not be considered because of the existing territorial "dispute".

In relation to this matter, the Trinidad Guardian on 23 May made this editorial comment: ". . .This must be discouraging if not unexpected news for Guyana's Prime Minister, Mr. Burnham, and for other countries in the region. Further, it would appear that the Amerindians in the disputed areas are not wholly in support of the Guyana Government.

"This is a conclusion which can be drawn from the need to deport an alien, to exclude a Guyanese from the area, from the ousting of a foreign diplomat. All are accused of tampering with the Amerindians."

Throughout 1967, the Guyana Government's refrained from stating that the expelled Venezuelan diplomat was asked to leave Guyana because of his subversive activities among Guyanese Amerindians during that year. However, this was finally admitted by the Ministry of External Affairs in its information publication, Guyana Journal, Volume 1, Number 2 (published in December 1968) which wrote about the "pattern of hostility" of the Venezuelan Government and mentioned a number of previously unpublicised "hostile" actions against Guyana. The publication also implied that more than one Venezuelan diplomat was involved in the subversive activities. The Guyana Journal wrote:

". . . . This studied programme of treaty violation is only part of the pattern of hostility and aggression mounted by Venezuela against Guyana. Thus Venezuela has asserted her claim to stop Guyana from becoming a Member of the Organisation of American States. She has used her claim to bar Guyana from signing the Latin American Treaty of Denuclearisation. Despite repeated requests to the depository government that the date be set for Guyana to sign the treaty in conformity with General Assembly resolution 2286 and the express understanding of many delegations who spoke during the debate on that resolution, Guyana has not yet been permitted to sign.

"Venezuela has similarly used her claim to enter reservations against Guyana's participation at FAO Conferences, at the Pan American Conference on Roads, and on Guyana's accession to the International Telecommunication Convention, Montreaux, (Switzerland) in 1965.

"More recently, but less successfully, Venezuela in furtherance of her territorial ambitions attempted at the Vienna Conference on the Law of Treaties in April of this year (1968) to dilute the provisions of the International Law Commission's draft Convention dealing with the sanctity of treaties.

"Nor has this campaign been limited to external action. In 1966 Venezuelan diplomatic personnel in Guyana were engaged in a clandestine attempt to interfere in the internal affairs of Guyana through the subversion of members of Guyana's indigenous Amerindian community. As a result a second Secretary of the Venezuelan Embassy in Georgetown, Sñr. Talyhardat was expelled."

top of pageTop of Page  

Back to table of contents



No doubt, the Kabakaburi affair and the expulsion of the Venezuelan diplomat caused a deterioration in relations between Guyana and Venezuela. This later (in early 1968) led to the Guyana Government's refusal to continue to grant the Venezuelan Embassy radio time to broadcast a weekly 15 minute cultural and information programme which it had been doing on a Guyanese radio station for the past two years.

However, meetings at official level continued. But whatever caused a meeting of the Mixed Commission which commenced in Georgetown on the 30 October 1967 to be abruptly adjourned on the 6 November, when the Venezuelan delegation withdrew from the meeting, was not made known to the public. The Venezuelans eventually returned to continue discussions on the 28 November and the session ended on the 1 December.

Another session was held during December in Caracas with the main purpose to draft an Interim Report to be presented to the Venezuelan, Guyanese and British Governments, in keeping with the terms of the Geneva Agreement.

At the end of another meeting of the Mixed Commission held from the 1 to 4 July 1968 in the Venezuelan capital, Venezuela announced that it was withdrawing from the Sub Commission of experts established by the Mixed Commission, and claimed that by this action the Sub Commission was dissolved. At the time of this announcement, the Sub Commission had held only two meetings - the first from the 30 January to the 5 February 1968 and the other from the 5 June to the 17 June the same year. Both meetings were held in Georgetown.


In a statement on the Venezuelan withdrawal from the Sub Commission, the Guyana Ministry of External Affairs pointed out that Venezuela wished to raise territorial issues straight away in the Mixed Commission. However, Guyana took the view that the correctness of the existing boundary could not be discussed unless Venezuela first make good in the Mixed Commission its contention that the Arbitral Award of 1899, under which that boundary had been established, was null and void. This Venezuela had persistently refused to do and, as further progress could not be made on this issue, at the request of Venezuela, the parties agreed, without prejudice to their stand on it, to consider proposals for cooperation in development between the two countries. Guyana made it clear that such development should relate to its territory as a whole and not to any particular part of it. On this clear understanding the Mixed Commission set up the Sub Commission "to study possible areas of cooperation between Venezuela and Guyana".

At the second meeting of the Sub Commission which was held in June 1968, Guyana submitted proposals relating to three specific projects. Venezuela recognized the priority of these projects on technical grounds but rejected all of them because in its view, priority should be given to projects relating to territory it was claiming. In fact, Venezuela was demanding that cooperation in development should be limited to the western Essequibo region and, further, that it should be given extensive rights to joint administration over the joint development of the area. Such demands clearly threatened to impair Guyana's sovereignty over the area. They were inconsistent with the basis on which the Sub Commission was established.

In the circumstances, Guyana refused to accede to the Venezuelan demands and, because of this, Venezuela withdrew from the Sub Commission and claimed that in consequence the Sub Commission was dissolved. In the Guyana view, Venezuela's unilateral decision could only take effect as a withdrawal and could not dissolve the Sub Commission since this body was created by a decision of the whole of the Mixed Commission.


On Saturday 15 June 1968, the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs placed an advertisement in the London Times stating that the Essequibo region of Guyana belonged to Venezuela, and that the Venezuelan Government would not in consequence recognise concessions granted in the region by the Guyana Government. The advertisement was in the following terms:


The Venezuelan Government, through an official statement issued by the Department of Geology and Mines (Ministry of Forestry, Lands and Mines) of the Guyana Government has learnt that with the help, in equipment and personnel of the United Nations and the United States of America, mine operations have recently been intensified in various parts of Esequivo Guiana.

In view of the fact that the Esequivo Guiana is claimed by our country, as by rights belong to it, the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs publicly and categorically once more state that they do not recognise any type of such supposed concessions either granted or to be granted by the Guyana Government over the territory stretching to the west of the Esequivo River, from its source to its mouth, and this respect, they reiterate the Communiqué issued by the said Ministry and published in the press on the 25th May, 1966, as well as the statement given by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Ignacio Iribarren Borges, on the 16 September of that same year. These and other reservations which derive from the unwavering Venezuelan right over the Esequivo Guiana were upheld by the Geneva Agreement (Article V) of the 17th February, 1966. Caracas, 14 May, 1968.


On the 28 June 1968, the Guyana Government sent a Note of Protest to the Venezuelan Government. It stated:

...In seeking through the medium of an advertisement in space bought from the publishers of the Times newspaper to assert a claim to the region of Guyana west of the Essequibo River, the Government of Venezuela has again acted in violation. . . of the Geneva Agreement. . .

Further, the Government of Guyana views the aforementioned advertisement as a deliberate attempt by the Government of Venezuela to retard the economic development of Guyana through the intimidation of persons, organisations or Governments genuinely prepared to contribute to the development of Guyana and to the advancement of the economic well being of its people. The Government of Guyana cannot but view this attempt as being entirely inconsistent with the professed desire of the Government of Venezuela to assist in the development of Guyana and to contribute to the advancement of the welfare of its people. The Government of Guyana is under solemn obligation to the people of Guyana and is pledged to the development of all the resources of the country for the benefit of its people. As a Government of one of the newly independent States of the Western Hemisphere and of one of the small developing countries of the world, the Government of Guyana places on record to the Government of Venezuela its protest against this new violation of the Geneva Agreement and this act of economic aggression.

The region of Guyana west of the Essequibo River is an area whose boundary with Venezuela has been established under an international arbitral award by which the Government of Venezuela is bound. That area has been consistently under the sovereignty and under the active administrative and juridical possession and control of the Government of Guyana, and before Guyana's independence on the 26th May, 1966, of the Government of the United Kingdom for over 150 years and, more specifically, ever since the determination of the boundary with Venezuela under international procedures in 1899. The Government of Guyana and the Government of the United Kingdom have at all material times granted concessions over this territory west of the Essequibo River and until Guyana's independence such concessions have never been questioned by the Government of Venezuela.

The Government of Guyana wishes to state unequivocally that nothing in the Geneva Agreement prohibits or restrains the Government of Guyana from continuing to grant concessions over any part of the territory within its existing boundaries and that nothing in the Geneva Agreement upholds or sustains what are alleged in the aforementioned advertisement to be "reservations which derive from the unwavering Venezuelan right over the Esequivo Guiana". The Government of Guyana rejects all assertions, whether contained in the said advertisement or otherwise, which suggest either expressly or by implication that the Geneva Agreement in any way curtails or restricts the sovereignty of the Government of Guyana over any part of its territory.

Despite the Guyana statement, two North American oil companies, Continental and Globe, which had been granted mining concessions in the Essequibo region of Guyana, gave up these mining rights and closed down their exploration operations. It was clear that these companies which held business connections with oil companies operating in Venezuela succumbed to intimidation following the publication of the Venezuelan advertisement.


Venezuelan economic aggression increased tremendously on the 9 July 1968 when Dr. Raul Leoni, President of Venezuela, issued a Decree which purported to annex as part of the territorial waters and contiguous zone of Venezuela, a twelve mile belt of sea lying along the coast of Guyana between the mouth of the Essequibo River and Waini Point, and requiring the Venezuelan armed forces to impose domination over that belt of sea.

It must be noted that this belt of sea became since 1954 internationally recognized as owned by Guyana when by the British Guiana (Alteration of Boundaries) Order in Council made by the Queen in Council of the United Kingdom, Guyana's territory was extended seawards to cover the entire continental shelf.

The Venezuelan Decree, which was published in the Official Gazette of Venezuela, proclaimed the following:

RAUL LEONI, President of the Republic by virtue of the power conferred on him by the National Constitution, and in conformity with the Law of the Territorial Sea, Continental Shelf, Protection of Fishing and Air Space and with the approbative Law of the Convention on the Continental Shelf:

CONSIDERING: That Article 2 of the Law on the Territorial Sea, Continental Shelf, Protection of Fishing and Air Space, and Article 4 and subsequent articles of the Ratifying Law of the Convention of the Continental Shelf, provide that in places where the conditions of the Continental seaboard and islands require it, straight line bases should be drawn by which the extent of the Territorial Sea should be measured:

CONSIDERING: That in many areas along the Venezuelan coastline there exist geographical conditions which require the fixing of such lines along sections of the Republic. It is decreed:

ARTICLE 1. - The following straight baseline shall be drawn on that part of the Venezuelan coast between the dividing line of the Essequibo River and Punta Araguapiche in the Federal District Delta Amacuro from a point with the coordinates 9 degrees 27 minutes 30 seconds North latitude and 60 degrees 52 minutes West longitude to another point with the coordinates 8 degrees 26 minutes North latitude and 59 degrees 34 minutes 30 seconds West longitude.

ARTICLE 2. - The Territorial Sea and Contiguous Zone corresponding to Venezuela in the sector is measured from the straight baseline where it has been drawn and from the low water mark along the remainder of its length with the exception contained in Article 4.

ARTICLE 3. - The rights of sovereignty of Venezuela over the territorial waters, the restitution of which is claimed from Guyana are expressly reserved, that is to say, that 3 mile wide strip along the coastline of the territory between the mouth of the Essequibo River and the mouth of the Guainia River as well as over the internal waters of the said zone delimited by the straight baseline fixed by the present decree.

ARTICLE 4. - The straight baseline corresponding to the mouth of the Essequibo River will be that which shall be agreed upon in due course with the neighbouring state.

ARTICLE 5. - The Official Notes that are published hereafter will make clear the measures adopted by the present decree,

ARTICLE 6. - The Ministers of External Affairs, Defence, Public Works, Agriculture and Communications shall be charged with the execution of the present decree.

EXPLANATORY NOTE. - This decree by the National Executive, according to official information, has the following significance: The territorial sea of Venezuela is 12 miles wide, in accordance with Venezuelan law, and Guyana's is only three miles. In other words, the three mile area measuring from the coast of the territory under dispute presently pertains to Guyana, the remaining nine miles are considered by Guyana as "high seas". For Venezuela, as a natural consequence of her claim, this very strip is Venezuelan territory in which her sovereignty must be exercised, but before taking any material act of possession, Venezuela has to make public her title to dominion over the waters in question. And she can do so on the basis of the treatise of the straight baseline in the zone and in accordance with Venezuelan law and international conventions. In this way the Venezuelan State should exercise concrete acts of sovereignty in relation, for example, to the petroleum oil concessions which Guyana has granted in the area.


Shortly after the Decree was published, a Reuter report on the 9 July quoted Miguel Zuniaga Cisneros, a member of the Guyana Recuperation Committee in Caracas, as saying that the Venezuelan armed forces should seize the western Essequibo and the offshore waters to prevent a "Communist takeover" which he expected following the up coming general elections at year end. Zuniaga felt sure that the Marxist oriented PPP of Cheddi Jagan would win the elections and warned that Venezuela might lose the territory altogether with the "United States taking over the land if a Communist Government takes command of Guyana".


On the day after the Decree was published, Guyana's Prime Minister, Forbes Burnham, made a brief press statement condemning the Venezuelan action. On the morning of the 12 July he conferred with the Deputy Leader of the PPP, Ashton Chase, on the new situation, and in the afternoon, he addressed the National Assembly (Parliament) on the issue.

After reviewing the history of the Venezuelan claim to Guyana's territory, Burnham showed how Venezuela frustrated the work of the Mixed Commission and the Sub Commission and violated the Geneva Agreement. He revealed that Venezuela had on several occasions made territorial reservations in relation to Guyana's participation in various international meetings. One of the most serious instances of this, he said, was the major effort undertaken by Venezuela to prevent Guyana from signing the Latin American Denuclearisation Treaty. In addition, in April 1968, Venezuela attempted at the Vienna Conference of Treaties to dilute the provisions of the International Law Commission's draft Convention dealing with the sanctity of treaties.

Burnham continued:

...Now comes the preposterous Decree signed on the 9th instant by the President of Venezuela. The Decree is, we contend, a nullity and will be exposed for the unprecedented absurdity that it is. Whatever positions individual countries may take in relation to the breadth of territorial sea, it is palpably clear that only one state may possess sovereignty over the territorial sea relating to the same coast.

If this needed demonstration, it is shown by Article 1 of the 1958 Geneva Convention of the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone, which provides that "the sovereignty of a State extends beyond its land territory and its internal waters, to a belt adjacent to its coast, described as the territorial sea". Venezuela signed the Convention on the 30th October, 1958, and ratified it on the 15 August, 1961, without any reservations relating to that Article. Indeed such reservations as there were related to Trinidad, Aruba and Curacao. The Convention itself came into force on the 10th September, 1964. Unless and until a decision in favour of Venezuela is forthcoming under the procedure of the Geneva Agreement, Guyana's sovereignty over the generally recognised continental shelf and territorial seas cannot be disturbed. Indeed, Venezuela has at all material times heretofore recognised Guyana's sovereignty over the territorial waters in relation to the coastline in question, and she cannot claim sovereignty over territorial waters relating to the same coastline.

In fact, by the same Convention all signatories to it specifically accept that where states are adjacent to each other the territorial sea of each cannot extend laterally beyond a line projecting seawards from the common land boundary. There are differences of opinion as to how the line should be defined but there is no dispute as to the general principle involved that two States may not both have sovereignty at the same time over the territorial sea (whatever the limit) relating to the same coast. The reason for this is apparent when it is recognised that the doctrine relating to the territorial sea finds its origin in the requirements of security of the coastal State, in the furthering of its commercial, fiscal and political interests and the right of its people to the exclusive exploitation and enjoyment of the products of the sea within its territorial waters.

There is yet another fundamental question which the Venezuelan Decree entirely ignores or callously disregards. It is indisputable that Guyana's territory extends seawards to cover the entire continental shelf and Guyana has consistently exercised sovereignty over it. Since the ownership of the territorial sea includes ownership of the sea bed, the Venezuelan Decree purports to relate to part of the continental shelf which is within the dominion of Guyana. Insofar, therefore, as the Venezuelan Decree was based, as it is expressed to be based, on the assumption that Guyana's sovereignty extends only three miles seawards, the Decree was founded on a false premise.

If further evidence be needed of the degree to which the Venezuelan Decree outrages the established tenets of international law and practice it is to be found in the terms of the Geneva Convention on the Territorial Sea and Contiguous Zone which, as I have said, Venezuela has both signed and ratified. Under Article 24 (1) of the Convention, Guyana has specified rights relating to police, customs, sanitation and other matters in the contiguous zone, that is, the belt of sea within 12 miles from the coast, and the existence of these rights excludes the competence of Venezuela or any other State to extend her sovereignty or jurisdiction over any part of that belt of waters.

The Venezuelan Decree is an unmistakable attempt to assert a claim to the Essequibo region of Guyana outside of the Mixed Commission and is, therefore, yet another calculated breach of Article V (2) of the Geneva Agreement which expressly provides that no claim whatsoever shall "be asserted otherwise than in the Mixed Commission while that Commission is in being".

It is serious enough on this account as one of a number of similar breaches; but what gives cause for particular concern about Venezuela's maturity and sense of responsibility as a member of international society is her threat, for such it is, to use armed force in support of the purported decree, since it must be obvious that any interference with Guyana's shipping, fishing or other rights would be an act of aggression violating the Charter of the United Nations and disturbing the peace of the Hemisphere. The conclusion is inescapable that Venezuela is prepared to renounce or ignore any international agreement, whether bilateral or multilateral, and to defy the Charter of the United Nations at any time that it suits her whims or seems to promote some particular interest that she may for the moment be pursuing.

In the present circumstances I have asked our Ambassador in Caracas to return to Georgetown for immediate consultations. Yesterday, at the request of our Permanent Representation in New York, the United Nations Secretary General circulated to all Member States of the United Nations a report of the Venezuelan decree together with the statement I issued on learning of it. In like manner I am arranging for this present statement to be communicated to Member States as well as to be specifically circulated to Commonwealth Governments through the Commonwealth Secretary General in London.

I have conveyed directly this morning to the British High Commissioner in Georgetown, whose Government is a party to the controversy with Venezuela and a signatory to the Geneva Agreement, the serious views which my Government takes of this recent development and the responsibilities which in our view devolve on the British Government as a result. I have also held discussions with the accredited representatives of other friendly Governments in Georgetown who are members of the United Nations, namely, Canada, the Republic of India, Trinidad and Tobago and the United States of America, informing them of the development and inviting their support for Guyana in the face of the Venezuelan acts of aggression. We are taking every step available to us to protect our interests and secure our territorial integrity. I also held lengthy discussions this morning with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Leader's unavoidable absence from Georgetown. This is a matter which transcends domestic political differences.

I cannot tell with any certainty where this ill advised course of action on which the Government of Venezuela has embarked will lead us. We must be prepared, however, for even more aggressive demonstrations of international lawlessness from the Government of Venezuela. We will need all our courage and strength to withstand these efforts to break our will and despoil our land. Venezuela has now made clear her intention to seek relentlessly to re-impose the yoke of colonialism on a young and small nation that has only recently succeeded in freeing itself from the tutelage of another imperial power. We have no quarrel with the Venezuelan people but we will not lack courage or resolve in resisting aggressive demands of a Venezuelan Government that is prepared to defile the traditions of Bolivar and to flout precepts of Hemispheric and world order and security.

In our stand for survival we shall call upon the conscience of all peace loving people to speak out in our cause and we shall need all our unity as a people so that our voice may be heard in all corners of the world and in all the Councils of the world's institutions for peace.

By agreement with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, I propose . . . during next week to offer this House an opportunity to discuss and debate fully the subject of Venezuela's latest move of aggression against Guyana.


The United States government was concerned over this new situation and expressed it opposition to this decree. On Saturday 13 July, the Under Secretary of State, Nicholas Katzenbach, called in Venezuelan Ambassador Tejera Paris to discuss the developments. He told the Ambassador that the meaning of the decree was unclear to the American government and would appreciate an explanation since it was potentially serious both from the point of view of international law and also of internal Guyanese politics. He said that if the intent of the decree was merely to put the world on notice that "when and if Venezuela attained sovereignty over territory it claimed", the United States would have no problem with it although it was difficult to see what advantage there was to Venezuela in issuing this decree at that time. However, he added that the US did not accept decree's validity if it implied actual exercise of sovereignty and, if the matter came up in any international forum, the US could not support Venezuela.

The United States also viewed the decree as serious in terms of the Guyanese electoral situation. The American government felt that it was of more immediate interest to Venezuela and hemisphere if Forbes Burnham - whom the Americans were supporting - would win the forthcoming elections in December 1968 in order to prevent Cheddi Jagan from re-gaining power. Katzenbach believed that moves such as this claim made by the Venezuelan decree were not helpful because they eroded Burnham electoral strength and diverted his attention during the critical remaining six month campaign period. Accordingly, it also made it difficult for the American government to counsel Burnham to use moderation whenever he felt obligated to defend his position.

The details of this meeting were set out in the following telegram sent by the Secretary of State Dean Rusk to the US Embassy in Caracas. Copies were also sent to the American Embassies in Georgetown and London. (The telegram was published in 2003 by the US State Department in Foreign Relations, 1964-1968, Volume XXXI, South and Central America; Mexico).

544. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in Venezuela

Caracas, July 13, 1968, 2159Z.

202053. Following is uncleared memcon:

Under Secretary Katzenbach called in Venezuelan Ambassador Tejera Paris to discuss July 9 Venezuelan decree asserting sovereignty over territorial seas from 3 to 12 miles off of part of Guyana claimed by Venezuela. In cordial but serious discussion, Under Secretary made following points:

(1) Meaning of decree was unclear to us and we would appreciate explanation, as it was potentially serious both from point of view international law and point of view internal Guyanese politics.

(2) If intent decree were merely to put world on notice that when and if Venezuela attained sovereignty over territory it claimed, Venezuelan law with respect territorial waters would obtain, we would have no problem with it although it was difficult to see what advantage there was to Venezuela in issuing it at this time.

(3) If, however, as accompanying explanatory note seemed to suggest, Venezuela intended immediately to exercise rights of sovereignty in 3-12 mile zone we would take "most serious" view of situation. As international lawyer, he himself could not see how such claim could be asserted and doubted that Ambassador Tejera would, in his capacity as lawyer, defend it. International law was clear that maritime rights and rights to continental shelf (which Guyana always claimed) attached to coastal state and at present Guyana was clearly the coastal state. The U.S., therefore, did not accept decree's validity if it implied actual exercise of sovereignty and, if matter came up in international forum, we could not support Venezuela. While we would not make public statement unless we had to, we would have to advise U.S. shipping and other private interests if they asked that we did not accept validity of decree.

(4) We also viewed decree as serious in terms Guyanese electoral situation. It was, we thought, of more immediate interest to Venezuela than to us and hemisphere that Burnham win elections which would probably take place in December and that Jagan be excluded. Moves such as this claim were not helpful as they eroded Burnham electoral strength in difficult elections and diverted his attention during critical remaining six month campaign period. It also made it difficult for us to counsel Burnham to use moderation as he felt obligated to defend his position.

(5) We viewed explanatory note, with allusions such as "physical act of possession", as more disturbing than decree itself and wondered what intent of Venezuela was in light of assurances President of Venezuela and country's highest officials had given that Venezuela would not resort to force. Under Secretary again emphasized seriousness of our concern if Venezuela intended exercise sovereignty.

Tejera replied that he knew nothing of decree and explanatory note, having only received their texts, but he would immediately report to Caracas and ask for instructions. Speaking personally, he at first attributed decree to Guyanese intransigence in Mixed Commission and especially their refusal to accept Venezuelan proposals for joint development. He recited history of Venezuela's frustrations in attempt to get Guyana to discuss settlement of issue in Mixed Commission and claimed Venezuela, which desired settlement by peaceful means had used great restraint in contrast to Burnham's inflammatory actions such as his recent speech in Birmingham, U.K. With regard to claim to territorial sea, he was certain that disputed territory would someday return to Venezuela and it was only natural and right Venezuela should have territorial waters which she would have under her Constitution and which are not claimed by party which wrongfully occupied disputed territory through inheritance from U.K. He would, however, query Caracas and let Under Secretary know as soon as he received reply.

For Caracas: You should convey above to President Leoni as soon as possible after clearance of memcon, hopefully early Monday.

For London: You should convey substance to ForOff.

For Georgetown: You may convey general line of conversation to Burnham in strictest confidence but should avoid giving him any encouragement to take matter to international organizations.



In a response, the US Embassy in Caracas in a telegram to the State Department on 16 July reported that Venezuelan officials were "piqued over US position on decree as stated Saturday by Katzenbach." In a meeting on 16 July 1968 with the American ambassador in Caracas, Maurice Bernbaum, the Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Iribarren Borges, declared that Venezuela's "territorial claims must take precedence over any consideration their effect on Guyana's domestic political situation." The telegram also stated that on the same day Minister of Interior Leandro Mora told an Embassy officer that the State Department did not appreciate "Venezuela's 'feelings" on this matter."


The debate on the Venezuelan decree took place on Wednesday 17 July in the Guyana National Assembly and the leading members of the three political parties - PPP, PNC and UF - were unanimous in condemning Venezuela. However, Dr. Jagan was the only leader who urged that all matters relating to Venezuelan aggression should be raised in the Security Council of the United Nations. At the end of the debate the following motion condemning the Venezuelan aggression, including the occupation of Guyanese territory on Ankoko Island, was unanimously passed by the National Assembly:

WHEREAS the Government of the Republic of Venezuela by a Decree of Dr. Raul Leoni, President of the said Republic, being Decree No. 1552 published in the Official Gazette of Venezuela (No. 28,672) of 9th July, 1968, has purported to annex as part of the territorial waters and contiguous zone of Venezuela a belt of sea lying along the coast of Guyana between the mouth of the Essequibo River and Waini Point;

AND WHEREAS the said Decree purports to require the armed forces of Venezuela to impose the dominion of Venezuela over the said belt of sea:

AND WHEREAS the said belt of sea forms part of the territorial sea and contiguous zone of Guyana and is situate over the continental shelf forming part of the territory of Guyana;

AND WHEREAS the said Decree is repugnant to the territorial sovereignty and the established rights of Guyana and is in violation of international law and the accepted practice of nations and is contrary to the provisions of the Geneva Agreement 1966 concluded between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of Venezuela;

AND WHEREAS in violation of the Geneva Agreement Venezuela continues to occupy territory of Guyana in Ankoko Island;

RESOLVED, That this Assembly -

(i) declare the said Decree to be a nullity and approve of it being so treated by the Government of Guyana insofar as it purports to relate to any part of the sea, including the territorial sea and the contiguous zone, adjacent to any part of the coast of Guyana and to any part of the continental shelf forming part of the territory of Guyana;

(ii) condemn the said Decree as constituting a threat of aggression against Guyana and a situation likely to endanger peace and security;

(iii) denounce as an act of aggression against Guyana done contrary to the Charter of the United Nations any attempt by the Government of Venezuela to implement the said Decree over any part of the sea, including the territorial sea and the contiguous zone, adjacent to any part of the coast of Guyana or any part of the continental shelf forming part of the territory of Guyana;

(iv) approve of the Government of Guyana taking all necessary steps to secure the territorial integrity of Guyana, including the rights under international law to and over the sea adjacent to its coast, including the territorial sea and contiguous zone, and the continental shelf forming part of the territory of Guyana.


A copy of the resolution passed by the Guyana National Assembly was sent on the 19 July by the Guyana Government to the Venezuelan of Foreign Affairs Minister. On the day before through its Embassy in Caracas, the Guyana Government also sent to Venezuela a Note of Protest strongly condemning the Decree as a form of aggression against Guyana. The Note stated, in part:

...The Government of Guyana has noted that Venezuela has ratified, without any reservations that are material in the present context, the Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone, 1958, the Convention on the Continental Shelf, 1958, the Convention on the High Seas, 1958, and the Convention on Fishing and Conservation of the Living Resources of the High Seas, 1958. The said Conventions recognise that sovereignty over the territorial sea and the continental shelf and jurisdiction over the contiguous zone belong to the coastal State and determine and regulate the rights, including fishing rights, that may be exercised in areas forming part of the high seas. Guyana is and has been at all material times the only State exercising sovereignty over the coastal territory lying between the mouth of the Essequibo River and Waini Point, and, accordingly, sovereignty over the territorial sea and the continental shelf and jurisdiction over the contiguous zone adjacent to the said region of Guyana can and do belong only to the State of Guyana and cannot and do not belong to any other State.

Having regard to the relevant principles of international law and to the matters hereinbefore mentioned, the Government of Guyana wishes that it be conveyed to the Government of Venezuela as follows:

(i) that the Government of Guyana considers the said decree to be repugnant to the territorial sovereignty and the established rights of Guyana, to be in violation of international law and the accepted practice of nations, and to be contrary to the provisions of the Geneva Conventions on the Law of the Sea;

(ii) that the Government of Guyana considers the said Decree to be a nullity and will ignore it insofar as it purports to relate to any part of the sea, including the territorial sea and the contiguous zone, adjacent to any part of the coast of Guyana and to any part of the continental shelf forming part of the territory of Guyana;

(iii) that the Government of Guyana considers the said Decree as constituting a threat of Aggression against Guyana and a situation likely to endanger international peace and security;

(iv) that the Government of Guyana will consider as an act of aggression contrary to the Charter of the United Nations any attempt by the Government of Venezuela to implement the said Decree over any part of the sea, including the territorial sea and the contiguous zone, adjacent to any part of the continental shelf forming part of the territory of Guyana. . .

At the same time this Protest Note was sent to the Venezuelan Government, Guyana's Permanent Representative at the United Nations, John Carter, issued a statement to the Latin American Group at the United Nations in which he described the Decree as an act of "international lawlessness". Four days later Carter, in a letter to the UN Secretary General, U Thant, asked that copies of the Geneva Agreement, Burnham's statement to the Guyana National Assembly on the 12 July, and the resolution of the Guyana National Assembly condemning the Decree (all of which had been sent to the Secretary General) should be circulated to all Member States of the United Nations.

top of pageTop of Page  

Back to table of contents




On the 19 July, Venezuelan Foreign Affairs Minister, Iribarren Borges, in a reaction to Dr. Jagan's statement during the debate in the Guyana National Assembly that Guyana should raise the border issue in the UN Security Council, told Reuter that his country would "almost certainly lose its case before the world body", in which case Venezuela was prepared to quit the United Nations.

Just the day before the debate in the Guyana National Assembly, the US Ambassador to Caracas, Maurice Bernbaum, declared in the Venezuelan capital that the United States would take a neutral position on the border issue. The United States reaction to the existing state of the border issue was highlighted in the Guyana Graphic of the 20 July:


The American Government is not anxious for Guyana to take its territorial controversy with Venezuela to the United Nations Security Council at this time.

The Graphic was reliably informed yesterday that the reasons for the American anxiety was clearly stated to the Guyana Government by the US Ambassador in Georgetown, Mr. Delmar Carlson.

To quote authoritative sources, "the intricacies and ramifications" that would be involved if the border row with Venezuela went before the Security Council at this stage, was impressed upon the Government.

The same sources also confirmed that the US Government was seeking to influence both Venezuela and Suriname against pressing their border claims on Guyana at this stage since this may add to the problems of Prime Minister Burnham's Government and militate against him at the forthcoming elections.

The American Government has made it clear that while it was friendly disposed to the Burnham Government - which it was committed to support - it was also mindful of America's responsibility towards Venezuela, and the Hemisphere as a whole.

The newspaper also reported that the American Embassy in Georgetown was in contact with the British High Commissioner in Georgetown and with the Venezuelan Government to "ease the tensions".

On the 20 July, Burnham left Guyana for a visit to the United States where, among other duties, he was engaged for an address to an Overseas Press Club on "political conditions and the communist threat" in Guyana.

On his arrival in New York he said that his Government was considering taking the border issue before the UN Security Council in order to appeal for protection. His Government would also appeal to "friendly nations" such as Canada, Britain and the USA for such protection.

Later, in the US capital, Burnham brought US Acting Secretary of State, Nicolas Katzenbach, up to date with the border developments. On the 27 July, he conferred with President Lyndon Johnson, and on the same day departed for Canada where he later held discussions with Canadian Government leaders.

Meanwhile, on the 28 July, a Brazilian declaration of support for Guyana on the border issue was announced. Reuter reported a Brazilian Government spokesman as saying that if Brazil did not help, it would force Guyana out of desperation to turn to Cuba "whose aid would strengthen the position of leftist leader Cheddi Jagan against the Government of Forbes Burnham". Brazil was described by the spokesman as a "big brother" to Guyana.


With the expectation of military aggression from Venezuela, the Guyana Defence Force and the Security Branch of the Police Force began to implement certain vital security measures from the end of July 1968 aimed at repelling any Venezuelan invasion of the western Essequibo. Widespread activities took place in the interior areas of the western Essequibo particularly among the Amerindian population whose loyalty Venezuelans were trying to subvert.

On the 31 August 1968, the New Nation, the weekly newspaper of the PNC, claimed that the Venezuelans had a two-phase plan underway to seize the western Essequibo. The first phase was to win over the support of the Amerindian community, particularly those who lived near to the Venezuelan border; and secondly, to enforce a rapid invasion involving the army and the navy. The newspaper claimed that under the guise of offering friendship, "Venezuelan spies and agents provocateurs are infiltrating the communities of Guyanese Amerindians, promising them a better life under Venezuelan rule, more education, more dignity, social and medical services".

The New Nation also reported that the Venezuelans, cunningly exploiting the religious convictions of the Amerindians, were giving them the assurances that the Roman Catholic Church "fully supported Venezuela's territorial claims. They pointed out that Archbishop Quintero is Chairman of the National Committee for the Recovery of Venezuelan Essequibo, and that a team of Jesuit priests is retained by the Venezuelan Government to advise on the historical and legal aspects of the territorial claim".

According to the PNC newspaper, the second phase of the Venezuelan plan would involve the actual invasion along the western bank of the Essequibo River and the seizure of five-eights of Guyana's total land area. With the operations completed, the Venezuelans, accordingly, would fly compliant Amerindian leaders to the United Nations where, as indigenous people of the annexed land, they would welcome the Venezuelan invaders.


On the same day the New Nation article was published, the Roman Catholic Church in Guyana in a public statement emphasised that whatever may be the involvement of Catholics in Venezuela in the border controversy with Guyana, the Catholic community in Guyana was firmly opposed to the Venezuelan claim. The statement added that Bishop Guilly, the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Guyana, had signed a letter put out by thirteen religious denominations comprising the Guyana Council of Churches, vigorously protesting against the Venezuelan Decree of the Sea. The position of the Roman Catholic Church was well known by the predominantly Catholic Amerindians, the statement added.

Significantly, at the same time the statement of the Roman Catholic Church of Guyana was made, Bishop Guilly, attending a general conference of Latin American Bishops in Medellin, Colombia, circulated a document denouncing the Venezuelan claim to Guyanese territory.


The first meeting of the Mixed Commission after the issuing of the Venezuelan Decree of the Sea opened at the City Hall in Georgetown on the 26 September 1968. The delegates were greeted with a massive picketing demonstration organised by the PPP and its youth arm, the Progressive Youth Organisation (PYO). At the same time the demonstration was going on, the PPP issued a statement which said:

The PPP has again picketed the Mixed Boundary Commission in protest against the continued meetings which are considered absolutely useless in the light of Venezuela's hostile acts of aggression.

The PPP believes that continued collaboration with the Venezuelans at this period makes a mockery of Government's protestations concerning the occupation of Ankoko and the Decree issued by the Venezuelan President in relation to our territorial waters.


Despite Burnham's threat to raise the border issue in the UN Security Council, the Guyana Government never actually did so. Nevertheless, Guyana's Minister of State and Attorney General, Shridath Ramphal, did bring it to the attention of the international community during his address on behalf of Guyana on the 3 October 1968 during the general debate of the 23rd Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations. In the course of his speech, Ramphal detailed the history of the territorial issue and listed a number of "aggressive acts" by Venezuela against Guyana. He said, inter alia:

. . .What Venezuela seeks in this attempt to break a Treaty of seventy years standing is no minor border adjustment, but the absorption of over two-thirds of my country and one-sixth of our people - people who represent all the several racial strains of our multi-racial society, who differ in origin, culture and tradition from the people of Venezuela, a people newly freed from a century and a half of colonial imposition and who will not submit to a new colonialism in whatever guise it comes.

This has been the experience of Guyana's first years of independence. It is not a heartening commentary on the emergence of an ethos of international legality, and it is a depressing reflection on how readily some of the most important traditions by which countries lived - including in this case principles of national self-determination and resistance to imperial domination - can become tarnished by power and frenzied ambition.

But it is an experience which could be the experience of any small State anywhere in the world. Indeed, it could be the experience of any State at the hands of some powerful neighbour, once boundary settlements lose their sanctity and become forever arbitrable in response to the dictates of power. My Government invites this Assembly to consider the chaos and confusion into which most of the world's frontiers would be thrown if all that one party to a boundary settlement need to do to secure that boundary's revision is to constitute itself a judge in its own cause; to assert that the settlement is not valid; to proclaim a new boundary consonant with its own ideas; and to assume the right, once it has the strength and power, to extend its frontiers into the territory of a neighbouring State. It is preposterous and unthinkable that such a situation can be tolerable twenty-three years after the signing of the Charter, and yet this is the course upon which the Government of Venezuela has embarked. . .


After September 1968, the PNC ditched the UF as a coalition partner after the UF Leader, Peter D'Aguiar resigned from his post as Minister of Finance after expressing political differences with the Government. The ending of the alliance with the UF was made possible by the fact that a few PPP and UF Parliamentarians defected from their respective parties to join the PNC. As a result, the PNC was able to control a slim majority on its own in the National Assembly.

Shortly after this occurrence, the Government, now under full PNC control, announced that general elections would be held in December of that year.

The PNC used the border issue as part of its political campaign for the December elections. It vigorously claimed that should the PPP be victorious in the elections, the Venezuelans would be faced with a communist threat and would be forced to invade Guyana and seize the western Essequibo. The PNC reminded Guyanese that even at that very time the Venezuelan Government was fighting against "communist guerrillas" in the eastern provinces of that country. A PPP Government, the PNC claimed, would give support to the Venezuelan guerrillas and, thus, the Venezuelan Government would be given an excuse to attack Guyana.

Actually, the PNC attacks were strongly directed against socialism and communism in the campaign against the PPP. Cuba also received scathing attacks for, what the PNC alleged, its "export of communism". Indeed, thousands of shirts printed with the slogan, "VOTERITE PNC AGAINST COMMUNISM" and bearing the bust portrait of Burnham, the PNC Leader, were distributed by the PNC to its supporters as part of its propaganda campaign. Of great interest was that these shirts were manufactured and supplied free of charge to the PNC by anti-communist organisations in Venezuela - organisations which themselves were openly championing the Venezuelan claim to Guyanese territory.

At this time, a heated campaign was also underway in Venezuela where elections were fixed for the 1 December. However, that campaign was by no means peaceful since leftist guerrillas of the Movement of the Revolutionary Left (MIR) were waging an armed struggle particularly in the eastern provinces against the Leoni Government.


In Guyana, on the 30 November, the eve of the Venezuelan elections, Burnham hurriedly summoned a press conference at which he made a sensational statement that the PPP had established links with the MIR of Venezuela with the possibility of the latter supplying Cuban arms from across the border to the PPP for use in overthrowing the Government of Guyana. Burnham alleged that this action of the PPP and the MIR was the result of a decision of a meeting of the Latin American Solidarity Organisation, which included communist and other leftist parties, held in Cuba in July and August 1967. He claimed that these parties were "communist and extremist movements" and that their primary purpose was to establish an organisation throughout the Hemisphere that would promote and carry out the overthrow by violence of all non-communist governments in Latin America whether legally elected or not.

Burnham insisted that direct contacts between the MIR and the PPP were carried out by a Cuban-trained MIR guerrilla, Pedro Beria, who, after legally crossing the border on a number of occasions in the North West District (in western Essequibo) and journeying to Georgetown, held meetings with certain PPP leaders.

The PNC Leader explained that he was not making his revelation at that time to give his party an advantage in the campaign for the December elections. (However, at subsequent public meetings, PNC spokesmen urged Guyanese to decide whether they were going to vote for" peace as pursued by the PNC" or for the PPP which supported the Cuban Government and "the activities of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro").

The sensational press conference was broadcast on radio to the nation later in the day, and within a matter of days, a booklet of the statement by Burnham entitled The Pedro Beria Plot was printed by the Guyana Ministry of Information and widely distributed as elections campaign material for the PNC.

However, the so-called Pedro Beria Plot - which was severely denounced by the PPP as a fictitious story invented by Burnham as elections campaign propaganda - generally failed to win sympathy from the Guyanese people for the PNC, and it was dismissed as totally untrue. Indeed, following the December elections, PNC spokesmen were sorely embarrassed when questioned about it.


The possibility of a PPP victory posing a "communist threat" to Venezuela drew comments from the US Government. Cal Mc Crystal, a correspondent stationed in Jamaica reported for the London Sunday Times of the 8 December 1968:

Telephone inquiries from here (Kingston, Jamaica) to the State Department in Washington evoked the response (concerning the possible win by the PPP) that "while we are a little cautious today than we were five years ago (concerning direct action against undesirable regimes), the chances are that Venezuela, which has territorial claims with Guyana, would probably jump at the chance to march in, in the name of anti-communism.

The Guyana elections were held on the 16 December, and amidst local and international condemnation of wholesale rigging including the padding of the voters' list, multiple voting by PNC supporters, and the switching of ballot boxes, the PNC obtained a majority of seats in the National Assembly (Parliament). For the first time, Guyanese living abroad were allowed to vote, but the "overseas" voters list, which was prepared by PNC officials, was packed with a majority of fictitious names, all of which "voted" by postal votes or proxies for the PNC and provided the amount of seats the PNC wanted to get its majority. Representatives of Opposition political parties were not allowed to witness the count of these ballots. The election machinery itself was totally under the control of the PNC whose officials and activists were employed as members of the elections personnel.

Meanwhile, in Venezuela, Raul Leoni's Accion Democratica (AD) had been defeated at the Venezuelan elections on the 1 December and Rafael Caldera of COPEI was elected as the new President. It was his Government, which was sworn in during March 1969, that continued negotiations with the PNC Government of Guyana over the border issue.

top of pageTop of Page  

Back to table of contents



During the debate on the issue of the Venezuelan Decree of the Sea in the Guyana National Assembly on the 17 July 1968 (Chapter 22), both the PPP and the ruling PNC-UF coalition stated their positions on the border issue in very clear terms. Their leaders were unanimous in denouncing the Venezuelan claim, but the PPP and the PNC-UF coalition expressed differences on how the matter should have been (and should in the future be) handled. For the PPP, the main speakers were Dr. Cheddi Jagan, the Leader of the Opposition, and Ashton Chase, Deputy Leader of the PPP.


In the debate, Dr. Jagan gave a full analysis of the entire Venezuelan claim and placed it in "its correct historical perspective". He said:

In moving the motion, the Minister of State, (Shridath Ramphal), entreated the House with the request that we should speak out as a people with one voice. I do not think that there can be any doubt as to the position which we on this side of the House take on this issue. Our stand on this question has been made clear not only in words but in deeds where all may see. Even the Prime Minister in his statement has referred to the effort made by the previous Government to bring an end to this question.

On the resolution we would like to state that we agree that the Venezuelan Decree should be considered a nullity, that the Decree is a threat of aggression, and that the implementation of the Decree should be considered an act of aggression. As I have said before, our position on this question is quite clear. We made the point years ago; we put it in a nut-shell when we said, "Not an inch of territory." The Prime Minister said in the same vein, "Not a blade of grass." But although the words are similar, how different was the treatment! Therefore, when we are called upon to approve the Government "taking all necessary steps to secure the territorial integrity of Guyana" we wonder what is in store, whether it be more words and no action.

You will recall -- and this has been put very clearly in the statement by the Prime Minister -- that the Government of Venezuela was given every opportunity to look at all the documents. Venezuelan officials went to the Foreign Office; they searched there, but in the end they came out with nothing. What was then our position? We said, "The issue is closed;" to use the Minister's words -- the old award was a full and perfect settlement. The matter was closed.

The question is, why was there the need to reopen this issue on the eve of Independence? Can we put all our trust in the Government to take the steps necessary to defend our territory when we see that a conspiracy was entered upon and has led us into this impasse?

Mr. Ramphal regaled us just now with all the events which disclose that Venezuela is a great enemy of Guyana, a great denier of liberties and a trespasser on international law. But, to put the record straight, I should like to inform the Minister and his colleagues that this was not always so. The Prime Minister will recall that at a Conference which we attended together in Venezuela in February 1960, all the Venezuelan parties without exception mentioned not a word about this claim on Guyana's territory.

I led the first official delegation to Venezuela in 1958. I held official discussions with all the Venezuelan parties and they all said individually and jointly that they would not either renounce or resurrect the claim on Guyanese territory.

Not renounce because they felt that this was a political question and no party wanted to put itself in a position where it could be attacked for being unpatriotic, and not renewed because they regarded Guyana then as a friendly country with a friendly Government.

Incidentally, in those days the PPP Government and the Government of Venezuela shared the same aspirations.

At this Conference, to which I referred, the Americans tried unsuccessfully to get a resolution passed which would condemn Cuba, but all the Venezuelan parties, without exception, voted against it and the manoeuvre failed. The whole Conference rejected the American manoeuvre to brand Cuba as an aggressor in this hemisphere and a danger to peace and security.

This brings us up to February 1960.

A few months later at San Jose', Costa Rica, the American Government got all its puppets in Latin America to agree to a declaration which branded Cuba as an aggressor, or as a nation to be eliminated, and thus the blockade and everything else were mounted. The Foreign Minister of Venezuela, Senor Arcaya, refused to sign this declaration in August 1960 and, because of this, his party, the UDR, came out of the Coalition and from then the Accion Democratica began toeing the American line.

It is important to note this because the Minister tries to point to Venezuela as the enemy; but the Number One enemy is the United States of America. Let us not fool the people of this country by shouting how wicked the Venezuelan people are, because the Venezuelan Government today is the puppet of the Government of the United States of America. Let us put them together so that the Guyanese people know where they stand.

The question of Guyana's independence came up, particularly after the 1961 elections which we won. The 1960 Constitution Conference in London stated clearly that whoever won the elections in 1961 would lead the country to independence. The Americans became hysterical about developments in Cuba and began to tie Guyana with Cuba. To them a planned economy, according to the Truman Doctrine, is a denial of democracy and freedom regardless of whether power was obtained by violence or by constitutional, peaceful means. A planned economy to the Americans is synonymous with a denial of freedom under the Truman Doctrine which is still honoured and still motivates United States policy.

After our victory, it was not the Venezuelan who were concerned primarily about Guyana's leftism; it was the United States of America. And we see how the pressure began to be directed. There was a three-pronged attack against independence of the people of Guyana.

One prong of the attack was pressure on the United Kingdom. President Kennedy made a special trip, in the summer of 1963, to have talks with Macmillan. In an article headed, "How the CIA got rid of Jagan", the London Sunday Times disclosed that Macmillan, Sandys, two top security men in Britain and a number of officials in Guyana backed the CIA plot. That was one prong of the attack.

But lest the pressure should have no results, unrest had to be created at home, because the British Government had been committed, by the 1960 Conference, to grant independence to the victors. So the CIA came here. And now it is also disclosed that Howard Mc Cabe, who posed as a trade unionist, was a chief CIA agent who not only financed but instigated and kept going the eighty-day strike and blockade in this country.

But the third prong of the attack and the pressure was on the Venezuelan Government. Just in case the pressure failed in London, then the Venezuelans must enter the scene. Thus the resurrection of this long dormant claim. Thus the raising of something which, up to February 1960, was dead and buried.

I say this not because I want to resurrect a lot of issues which have passed, but so that the Guyanese people, the Guyanese nation, would recognise the realities and not be led astray by the legalism, the legalities. We must deal with the realities.

The Minister of State wants us to be diverted into channels of international law, of legalism -- who is breaking what international law and so on -- but clearly he knows that behind all this legalism, since the days of the Munroe Doctrine, there has been piracy in these parts by the United States Government and open intervention in the affairs of sovereign nations. Unfortunately, the Prime Minister now sees the necessity for the US intervention in the Dominican Republic. No doubt, he will be persuaded by the Americans to see the necessity for the Venezuelan intervention into Guyana!

This is no prattle about law. This is time to recognise the realities of international politics where force and big stick are the key factors operating in this Hemisphere. Mere talk is not going to get us anywhere.

To come back to this conspiracy. . . The United States, the United Kingdom and Venezuela were involved. We must not, of course, leave out our friends in the Government for, according to Schlesinger in his book, A Thousand Days, in May 1962 Mr. Burnham visited Washington and there the deal was consummated. Mr. Schlesinger advised President Kennedy that Mr. Burnham and not Jagan must be backed in Guyana. So we have today what started as a plot becoming a Frankenstein monster which has got out of control.

Why was in necessary for the Government to sign the Geneva Agreement? Why did the British Government which, in our time, said that the matter was closed, agreed to the re-opening of the question at Geneva? Was it not to allow the Venezuelans to keep this question going, to be examined by a Mixed Commission until perhaps another election comes along which the PPP might win, fraud or no fraud?

Fortunately, the records come out very quickly nowadays, not like in the "good old days" of the British when they kept them buried for a hundred years. The experts write memoirs the next day they are out of their seats. I should like to read a section of the Guyana Graphic to show how people are seeing the affairs of Guyana -- this conspiracy which was plotted years ago. I quote from Page 1:

The sources said Washington was evidently interested in avoiding problems to Guyanese Prime Minister Forbes Burnham who will once again be called to test his popularity in forthcoming general elections.

The Dutch, the Suriname and the Venezuelan Governments were asked to "ease demands against the Guyanese Government at least for some time", the sources said.

As far as Washington was concerned, there were only two tactical approaches to the internal Guyanese problem in order to facilitate Burnham's second consecutive victory.

The first was that countries with border claims against Guyana -- Venezuela and Suriname -- create as few problems as possible to the Burnham administration.

The second was for Venezuela to contribute its pressure, making sure the Guyanese realise the danger they would incur if leftist leader Cheddi Jagan triumphed in the elections.

In the latter case, Guyana would be the only communist regime in South America.

Now we see why Britain signed the Geneva Agreement.

Now we see why our Government, despite advice to the contrary from the Opposition, signed the Geneva Agreement. What more was there to examine?

Quite clearly this is what should have been done at the time of Independence. When transfer of power took place, the territory's geographical boundaries which comprise Guyana should have been lodged with the United Nations. This is what should have been done by Britain. But now it would seem that our boundaries are still in a fluid state and the Venezuelans are interpreting this fluidity as they choose by occupying Ankoko and now moving into our territorial waters.

Now we are told that this country is in a grave predicament. A small nation, with no navy, no air force, no battle-ship, beset by a bully. We want to ask why is it that the bully has now raised up the question. Perhaps, the Prime Minister will tell us when he speaks about his talks with Leoni soon after he assumed power there. What understanding did Leoni give? How did he view the question, and so on, so that we can know more about these discussions. Unfortunately, there are too many things secret in this country, like the deal with Reynolds Metals Company and others which we never know about.

In my view, the Venezuelans have raised this question at this particular time for two reasons:

Number One. . . jingoistic reasons, so as to whip up internal fervour in Venezuela in support of the Government. The governing party today is in complete disarray. In 1958, Accion Democratica won 47 percent of the votes. Because in 1960 it toed the American line, the URD came out of the coalition. A section of its party broke away and called itself the Movement of the Left. At the last election, the support of the leading party dropped from 47 percent to 33 percent. Now the Chairman of the party has come out of the party and is leading a new party which is threatening the Government and which is likely to win the forthcoming election. And so, Leoni and company, who now have very little support among the masses of the people, are using this issue to generate hostility to Guyana and also to generate support for themselves.

The other reason is clearly intimidatory -- to intimidate the Guyanese people that they must not get rid of the puppets here. This is the other reason. That is why it is raised at this time. It is clear that we have landed ourselves in a big boat. Unfortunately, the boat is not big enough.

Carl Blackman, in an editorial, asked, "Where are our friends?" He not only asked where are our friends; he also said that someday we will have friends with rockets willing to use them. I did not know people believed me when I said long ago that we have friends with rockets. Maybe we need them now.

What about the British? They have Colonel Pope, the muscle of the British Government and the Army, but what of the British support for us? The Prime Minister in his statement said that Britain has a responsibility to Guyana. By what standard of international morality has the Prime Minister come to this conclusion? Has he noted the failure of the British Government to honour international commitments? Take Rhodesia, take the question of immigration from East Africa, take the question of Vietnam and other international questions whether legal or moral -- has the British Government taken a stand in favour of justice and humanity?

The plain fact of the matter is that Britain is a country moving by self-interest only, and her self-interest today with a balance of payment crisis and other crises indicates that the Queen must visit Latin America so that they can do more trade there. In this contest, Guyana versus Venezuela, it is clear where the British will stand and it is clear, considering the orders which Britain took from the United States on the question of our independence, that Britain will always consult the United States of America before she makes any move on the question of Guyana.

What about our friends, the United States? We saw Uncle Johnson and Uncle Odo riding horses together. Now is the time to call on our friends. Yesterday, in the Evening Post, we read a story date-lined "Caracas, Venezuela (Associated Press)", that Maurice Bernbaum, US Ambassador to Caracas, said the United States will assume a posture of strict neutrality in the border dispute between Venezuela and Guyana. Why is it that the United States all of a sudden -- our great "protector", this nation that has put this Government in office, the nation that sponsors this Government, that helps it, that aids it -- in this zero hour says it will be neutral?

The United States has indicated that she, from the time of the Munroe Doctrine, will be boss of this area. She has assured all the nations which constitute the Organisation of American States (OAS) that questions of self-determination, questions of territorial integrity, etc., will be solved in a peaceful manner through the OAS. Why then have not the Americans invoked OAS? Why have they not referred this question to the OAS and come out openly? Is there any doubt that this is an aggression? I am sure that the Prime Minister and the Minister of State could not have failed to urge the Ambassador who is here that this is an aggression. They have done this convincingly so to this House and to the nation.

Are the Americans so illogical that they cannot sense logic from two brilliant lawyers, two Queen's Counsels of Guyana? No, it is not that they are deprived of the sense of logic; it is a question of self-interest. The United States of America has in Venezuela a big share of self-interest. Approximately 60 percent of its Latin American investments are in Venezuela in oil, ore, steel, etc. And, therefore, the United States does not want to take sides less anti-American feelings should develop in Venezuela. In August 1960 the Vice-President of the United States, Richard Nixon, visited Venezuela and he was mocked, mobbed and spat upon by the people. This represented the feeling of the Venezuelan people until the Betancourt regime betrayed them. The Americans do not want a similar feeling to develop again in Venezuela; nor do they want anti-Americanism to develop here more than it is.

We would like to qualify these words. There are two types of Americans. . . the Americans like Stokley Carmichael and Dr. Spock, the famous child expert who is celebrated all over the world. Of course, all mothers know him. The United States has just sentenced him to three years' imprisonment for mobilising the young people to oppose the draft and go and die in Vietnam.

When we speak of anti-Americanism we do not speak of that kind of American. We speak of Johnson, and all the others, who from the days of Truman serve big business in America. Clearly, these people do not want the PPP and its supporters to be opposed to them; nor do they want the supporters of the supporters of the UF and the Government to take up an anti-American position.

This is why the Americans decide to stand aloof on this issue. To whom are we to turn? America has taken upon itself the mantle of guardian of this hemisphere. Of course, the guardian of imperialist interests! America supplies to all its puppets in these countries military arms and weapons so that they can maintain themselves in power. The United States of America helped them with military aid between the years 1952 to 1962 amounting to $800 million (US). The puppet regime of Venezuela also was helped -- some of it is now coming to patrol our territorial waters. These are our friends!

There is the question of Ankoko. Even if we assume that they blundered in the Geneva Agreement, that the talks were getting nowhere, what did they do when the Venezuelans invaded and occupied Ankoko? This was a clear case of aggression. By that act they virtually nullified the Agreement. It is no use telling us now that the Decree is a nullity. Venezuela breached the Agreement which was blundered into then. What did the Government do? In other cases we have seen when there was an attempted aggression in 1950, when it was alleged -- I say alleged, but it was not even proved -- that North Korea invaded the South, the United Nations Security Council instigated by the USA passed a resolution, in the absence of the USSR, sending United Nations forces made up of US troops to deter the aggression. Why did we not go to the Security Council? That is what we are there for. Do we have our illustrious Mr. Braithwaithe and now Mr. Carter as window pieces there? This is the time when the matter should have been brought up immediately. But before this Government can take the matter to the Security Council it has to go through a certain set of reasoning; who will support it and who will not.

Where will the communist bloc be? Where will the Afro-Asian bloc be? How will it be split -- the Latin American group. Where will the United States and England be? It is clear from what we see now, the neutrality of the United States and the virtual toeing of the US line by Britain, that these countries would not have liked the question to go to the United Nations. Perhaps the Prime Minister will tell this House why. I would have preferred the Minister of State, instead of regaling this House with what everybody knows, to tell us what concrete steps have been taken -- what they have done. Has the Government spoken to the Americans? (Interruptions) The United States Ambassador, Mr. Delamar Carson, made a statement in the Guyana Graphic. It states: "Last night the US Ambassador, Mr. Delamar Carson, said that in regard the Venezuelan Government Decree of July 9, "it is a question of International Law and we have made clear to the Government of Venezuela the US position on that matter."

Has the American Government told the Prime Minister what they will do? Should the matter be taken to the United Nations what will be their stand? Have they urged or advised that the matter should be taken to the UN? We would like to know this, because we know that nothing in this country is done without the consultation of the Ambassador.

Let us know what is the position, because mere talk is not going to get us anywhere; mere arguing about international law is not going to get us anywhere either. While they quibble, as they say, Rome burns. The Venezuelan fleet will be taking over the shores. Clearly, we are naked. As Mr. Blackman said in one of his Sunday editorials, we have no friends. We have no friends because of the bankrupt policy that our Government has embarked upon since Independence.

Who are our friends? Chiang Kai-Shek, Pak? The ex-Minister of Economic Development made a trip to Taiwan. Doctors have come from South Korea and we understand from the press that it has been agreed that the South Koreans will establish an Embassy here. We have recognised the status of another puppet regime, which cannot stand on its own feet without US bayonets.

Who are our friends? On Independence, when the puppet Chinese Government was invited here, People's China was not invited. The Russians who were here requested of the Government that the two countries should establish diplomatic relations. Nothing has been done. We are establishing diplomatic relations with South Korea. Clearly, if the Russians were here, the Prime Minister could have called them in and said, "How about it? Where do you stand?"

The Evening Post, one of the apologists of the Government, suggested that the friends of the Government had better do something otherwise the Government may be forced to turn to some other quarter. It says in this editorial of July 14:

The reaction of Britain and America to this latest threat from Venezuela remains to be seen. But both countries must be reminded that if pushed too far, the Government of Guyana may feel called upon to seek assistance wherever it can be found.

How? Not by this Government. This Government is too committed; its hands are in the pockets of Uncle Sam and Uncle Sam has handcuffs there.

We should like to join in the Motion. I repeat: We are patriots. We will fight to the last man; we will fight not only like the Vietnamese people, but we will fight with friends. We must get international friends. Why is it the Vietnamese are ripping hell out of the Americans? Because they have friends with rockets who have given them military equipment, and because they have friends who are demonstrating on their behalf in America and all over the world. What friends do we have? Where? Nowhere, lest it affronts the United States of America who does not want to be put on the spot to take sides.

So, while we give every support to the Government and unite against the territorial aggression, we want to put the blame squarely where it really lies, not only on the Venezuelan Government but on the American Government and on this Government for joining in the conspiracy, for signing the Geneva Agreement, for failing to lodge, in conjunction with the British, at the United Nations, the boundaries of Guyana at the time of Independence, for failure to negotiate a treaty of guarantee of our territorial integrity with the Great Powers, East and West.

Any politician would have known that this was a threat to our sovereignty. Perhaps, it is a wrong conclusion -- not any politician would have known, because the politicians over there were part of the conspiracy and therefore they could not sign such a treaty. Austria was able to sign a treaty recently with the East and the West. Russia, France, Britain, America guaranteed her territorial integrity.

When we were in the Government we said that even if it may appear that we were surrendering part of our sovereignty, we are prepared to sign such a treaty with the Great Powers, who will not only see that Guyana remains neutral, but who will guarantee our territorial integrity. Perhaps, it would have been a surrender of a bit of sovereignty in that we were saying they would supervise our neutrality. They (the PNC) did not like this; but then we were facing reality knowing the predatory nature, not of Venezuela, but of the United States sitting behind Venezuela, who will want to use Venezuela to jump on our shoulders. And so, such a treaty was necessary. Let the Government tell us whether they tried. Or is it because the United States was not only its protector but the country which brought it to power that there could be no question of having any country from the East guaranteeing our territorial integrity.

That is why, no doubt, we have not had the request of the Soviet Union for diplomatic representation in this country granted. I have already referred to the failure of the Government to take to the Security Council the Venezuelan occupation of Ankoko. We would like to hear from the Government what it proposes to do now. All we are hearing of so far is about circulating documents and seeing the Latin American group.

Is that all we are going to do now? Perhaps the Minister who will speak next will tell us why we have not yet gone to the Security Council and whether we intend to go on this question now.

Early this year when the budget crisis was on we saw the Surinamese beating the war drums. Now that the civil servants and Government workers are talking about going on strike, the Venezuelans are beating their war drums. This headline appeared in the Evening Post: "Because of Border Issue Hold Over Interim pay Claim -- GEU Urges FUGE". So that now we have another border crisis, some people will have an excuse to say, "Let us all unite. Let us sink our differences. Let us not have any strike. Let us have no wage demands;" and, no doubt, sooner or later, we will hear, "Let us have no elections."

As I have already pointed out, the Venezuelan aggression is an act of intimidation. Another point which must not be forgotten is that it is creating the atmosphere in Guyana for the militarisation of our politics. Why do I say this? We hear that the Prime Minister is going to the USA. No doubt, he will include in his itinerary a visit to Mr. Johnson or Mr. Ball at the United Nations, or some other United States representative. "Restrain your boys over there," but not only that... "Look, they have warships, aeroplanes, military planes; we do not have any. Will you please give us some?"

I warn against taking this road. Militarisation of the politics of Latin America has been one of the reasons why the people are so poverty-stricken today, why Latin America is on the brink of revolution. Over two thousand million dollars is spent by the Governments of these poor starving countries for military purposes. Militarisation has become necessary because the puppets who are in office can no longer win free and fair elections. They have to resort to fraud, as we are seeing here already.

The next step is a military coup. Aside from the danger to democracy which these military regimes pose, it means further impoverishment of the people for more money has to be found in the budget to keep the military regime going. I understand that last week we had to vote thousands of dollars for the Peace Corps. This is another part of the military apparatus.

To conclude, I wish to say that the time has come for action, not just talk; and we want to assure this House and the nation that the PPP will be backing whatever action is taken one hundred percent as long as it is in the interest of the nation. We, therefore, suggest that the Government should not only talk but embark on some of the following steps:

Number One: Scrap the Geneva Agreement and break off the Mixed Commission discussions. The Venezuelans have already broken off the Sub-Commission of the Mixed Commission. Here again we do not understand the Government. Some time ago, as was disclosed in the Guyana Graphic of the 25th May, 1967 the Prime Minister said that he was opposed to any joint development of this disputed territory -- so-called disputed -- but yet later on we saw that a Mixed Commission was appointed. We saw where the Venezuelans have walked out and made a fool, a football, of this Government and we seem to be impotent and helpless. Therefore, let us dispense with all these frivolities and waste of time and taxpayers' money. Scrap the Geneva Agreement and break off the Mixed Commission discussions.

Number Two: Sever diplomatic relations with Venezuela. We saw where on the question of Rhodesia, several African states like Tanzania and Malawi broke off diplomatic relations with Britain. They were not directly involved, but they did it as a matter of solidarity. Here our territory has been occupied, other incursions are taking place, and we are still having cocktail parties with these people and sending them goodwill messages and all kinds of nonsense. The time has come to act. Sever diplomatic relations.

Number Three: Refuse radio time to the Venezuelans. The Opposition here does not have time on the radio, but the Venezuelans have time to brainwash the people of this country. We must not only deny them radio time, but also restrict them in their activities in other places. Let them go home.

I have already said that the question should be taken to the Security Council, if necessary to the Hague Court. I know that these things may not bring us the result that we want, but you are using international forum to expose not only the Venezuelans but also the United States which is backing the Venezuelans and which has started this whole thing. We have friends in the West Indies. Trinidad and Barbados are in the OAS. Again I do not regard the OAS as an instrument of progress, but ask your friends in Trinidad and Barbados to raise the matter in the OAS. Let us see if they have some courage.

Next, the Opposition must be involved in all future negotiations. If the Opposition had been truly involved from the very beginning, I am sure that we would not have been in this predicament today. I understand that when the Venezuelans were at Geneva they had the Opposition and all kinds of institutions there so as to have a national consensus. Why are you afraid to carry us? You do not have to act on our advice, but at least you would know what half of the people of Guyana think.

I would also suggest that, at this time of crisis, it seems improper for the Prime Minister to depart for the USA. Who will make all these decisions on important questions of the day? Surely, it will be beneath the dignity of the Prime Minister to go knocking about at the United Nations trying to lobby people.

If the matter was going to the United Nations Security Council, yes, we would welcome our Prime Minister speaking there, standing up for the integrity of our country, but at this time I urge the Prime Minister not to leave Guyana.

I urge the Government to depart from the path it has so far pursued. What is needed in Guyana today is the adoption of new domestic and foreign policies. Domestic policies today are leading the country form one crisis to another; even cassava is being sold at 16 and 18 cents a pound. This is the extent of the crisis -- the cost of living is mounting. This is not the time to think of partisan interests. Now is the time to think of the nation. And so in order that new policies can be pursued in this country, domestic and foreign, we call on the Government to resign and to form a broad national government of anti-imperialist unity. I repeat, of anti-imperialist unity, for this can be the only basis of any Government and people which can be strong.

We must not only talk that we must sink our differences. What is the use talking that we are threatened and that we must all come together. It is wishful thinking. It is like some of the churches telling the people: Love thy neighbour and everything will come right. It is not coming right; it is getting worse. Mere pleadings are not enough. The time has come, as I said, for action and we recommend to the Government the steps which should be taken. As a start, I am sure that if there is genuine consultation and the Opposition is brought into the confidence of the Government, then perhaps more fruitful avenues could be explored so that Guyana is taken out of this difficulty not only for now, but for ever.


The Deputy Leader of the PPP, Ashton Chase, made the following statement during the debate:

I think it should be very clear by now that we on this side fully support all efforts which are designed to maintain the territorial sovereignty and integrity of our country of Guyana. All the supporters of our party will stand foursquare with the supporters of the other parties in a loyal defence of our country and of our territory. We on this side say that our loyalty is first, last and foremost to Guyana. Therefore, there is no question or doubt at all where we stand on the issue of territorial ambitions of Venezuela against our country.

In stating this, however, it must be clearly understood that though we rally behind the Government on this issue, we ourselves are not at all enamoured with the manner in which the Government has handled this matter. Indeed, we say that the signing of the Geneva Agreement in 1966 was a grave error; we are annoyed, nay angry, at the Government for having executed that Agreement in 1966, but lest our position be in any way misunderstood we would wish all concerned, and in particular the Venezuelans, to understand that though we take issue with our Government in this country on having signed that Agreement we are nevertheless at one with it in the defence of our territorial rights and integrity. We wish that there should be no illusions about this: no matter how critical we are of the present Government in its dealing with this matter locally and overseas our position is that when it comes to the territorial integrity of this country we are at one with it in that.

Our point of view is -- and I state these things not for the purpose of recrimination, but because I think in a debate of this nature it is necessary we should have the record set straight -- our contention is that when Independence was in the immediate offing to this country after the election in 1964, there and then the Government of this country ought to have insisted on an accession of Independence, without the burden of a border dispute with Venezuela, and it was for the Government to insist on the British Government, once and for all, terminating the pretensions to any claim by Venezuela in respect of our territory; and we say that if it did not succeed in doing that, then, at least, it ought to have insisted that the British Government should have entered into an Agreement to guarantee the boundaries of this country or, alternatively, that certain powers ought jointly to have signed a declaration guaranteeing the boundaries of Guyana.

We say, therefore, that there was on the Government side perhaps an undue haste to sign the instruments and to have Independence without fully reflecting on the consequences that the Geneva Agreement would have for this country. What we are debating today is one of those consequences, a most serious consequence indeed.

It is quite clear to my mind that the claims by the Venezuelans have absolutely no basis in law. Their claims are devoid of any legal foundation and, in the absence of any legal basis, it must also follow that the only basis for their claims is one that is purely political.

We need no historians to tell us that the basis for rebirth of this claim by Venezuela was the United States of America's threat that if Guyana and the people of Guyana were to opt for a radical change in their social system, it wanted to narrow as much as possible the area over which a socialist regime would have been in operation. Because of this, the Americans stirred up a claim which had long been dead buried in order to lay the basis for intervention in the affairs of this country.

Because that is really the fons of this matter, it must be clear that to take a purely legalistic approach in this matter is not really to see the matter in its correct perspective. I am sure that all jurists will agree with my learned and Honourable friend, the Attorney General, when he postulates a certain thesis for example, that the Award has the sanction of international law and that it is not for this country to prove the validity of the Award. I am sure that jurists everywhere will agree with him that the decree which has just been signed is a monstrosity; I am sure that impartial people everywhere will agree with him when he says that the Venezuelans have flouted the customary norm of international behaviour and that they have disregarded the sanctity of a treaty and breached the Geneva Agreement.

We have no quarrel whatever with the Government side on those matters. But what we do say is that the Government must not think that this issue is going to be settled on the basis of a purely legalistic approach, however much law may not be our side. We have got to face the realities of modern day international politics. We have got to recognise that in modern day international politics it is not right that always triumphs; many times might triumphs over right. It is not justice that always rules the day; many a time self-interest triumphs over justice. It is not right that always wins in international disputes these days; power sometimes has a greater place than justice.

We therefore say that in as much as we are with the Government in the correctness of the legalistic approach to this matter, I hope that neither my Honourable and learned friend, the Attorney General, nor the Government is of the view that this issue is going to be settled by a purely legalistic approach. True enough, all his legal arguments can be advanced in other fora, including this, and we must not deceive our people nor should we seek to deceive ourselves that we are going to win in the long run by a purely legalistic approach to this matter. . .

Our Government must not be deluded by the Venezuelans' assertion that they want peace, or their talks about peace. Their talks about a peaceful settlement is only a smoke-screen behind which to hide their aggressive intention. We must take certain positive steps in this matter. I was very disappointed at the conclusion of the Attorney General's speech that nothing further of a concrete nature has been put forward by the Government to change the position of Guyana in this matter. Merely to talk about pursuing through the United Nations, briefing representatives from regional groups on this matter and informing the Secretary-General and our Permanent Representatives about the position is not enough.

It is clear that they have moved away from the Agreement. My proposition is that our Government has also got to move away from the Agreement. Because in the end, if there is to be a sort of bringing of the sides together, if Guyana's position is still with the 1966 Agreement when the two sides have been brought together we would be pushed even further than 1966 Agreement. So from a tactical point of view, we ought to invoke or initiate a movement away as the Venezuelans have done from the 1966 Agreement so that in the end there can be had a minimum of discussion for bringing us back to a position of talks.

Clearly, the Agreement as I read it has no sanctions but when one side breaks an Agreement the obvious sanction flows from the normal consequences of an agreement and I would like to say . . . that our Government in making its plans must not rule out armed invasion by the Venezuelans. I have already discussed with the Honourable Prime Minister and we on this side of the House are quite prepared to discuss with him the question of, in such an event, what ought to be our tactics. This is not a matter for debate in this public forum.

Secondly, . . . I suggest that the discussion which are now taking place on the Mixed Border Commission be brought to an end by our considering the Venezuelans have abrogated the Agreement and are therefore (bringing) the Geneva Agreement at an end.

Thirdly, I suggest there should be full collaboration between the Government and the Opposition in all future handling of this most important matter.

Fourthly, I suggest that we should keep this matter as a matter above party politics. If there is to be an election campaign later this year, or early next year, then the parties must be agreed that we must not use this situation for secular or party advantage. . .

top of pageTop of Page  

Back to table of contents



The People's National Congress (PNC), led by Forbes Burnham, took office as the senior partner in the coalition Government with the United Force (UF), led by Peter D'Aguiar, in December 1964. The coalition did not last for the entire four-year period prior to the next general elections, but it existed at the time when the Venezuelan Decree of the Sea was proclaimed in July 1968. However, even before the proclamation of the Decree, the UF, a strong pro-American and anti-communist party, had lost political influence in the coalition since a number of its Parliamentarians and a few from the PPP had defected to join the PNC, thus giving that party a voting majority in the National Assembly. For the general elections which were subsequently held in December 1968, the PNC majority instituted a number of changes in the electoral system and was able to collect a majority in the National Assembly in the light of local and international accusations that the elections were fraudulent conducted.

The PNC itself did not take the strong anti-imperialist position on the border issue as did the PPP. From time to time, the PNC-UF Government made statements through the Prime Minister, Forbes Burnham and the Attorney General and Minister of State, Shridath Ramphal, and occasionally by other Ministers. Leading policy statements by the Government were again made in the National Assembly by Burnham and Ramphal during the debate on the motion condemning the Venezuelan Decree of the Sea on the 17 July 1968.


In opening the debate, Ramphal said, inter alia:

Our present boundary with Venezuela is not in doubt. The Venezuelans say that it ought to be different; but they recognise that there is no uncertainty as to what it is at present. The boundary was settled 70 years ago. It was settled in a formal way, under a treaty -- a treaty which the Government of Venezuela had freely signed and for which the United States on behalf of Venezuela had threatened to go to war with Britain. It was a treaty for which the Government of Venezuela had laboured over many years and for which her paid lobbyist, William L. Scruggs, finally won the support of the American Congress and the American people in 1895. That treaty which the American Government demanded and secured from Britain in the name of the Monroe Doctrine in l897 was the treaty which established the Court of Arbitration that settled the boundary two years later. It was a court composed of jurists of great eminence -- of two justices of the United States Supreme Court, of the Lord Chief Justice of England and a Judge of the High Court of England and of an eminent Russian jurist selected by the four of them.

The treaty signed by Venezuela laid down the criteria for determining the boundary and the procedure to be adopted by the Tribunal in its deliberations. It was a treaty to settle for all time the boundary between British Guiana and Venezuela which had led to so much disputation up till then, and each side, Venezuela and Britain, undertook in solemn and specific terms "to consider the result of the proceeds of the Tribunal of arbitration as a full, perfect, and final settlement of all the questions referred to the Arbitrators". We all know the result. The Tribunal went into the most elaborate examination of the history of the occupation of the territory; the verbatim records of hearings occupy fifty-four printed volumes, with elaborate printed cases and counter cases along with additional documents, correspondence and evidence. The Government of Venezuela was represented by a plethora of jurists led by an ex-President of the United States, General Harrison. At the end of it all, the boundary was determined substantially on the line that had been demarcated by Schomburgk in 1840 but with an important modification which assigned to Venezuela possession of the south bank of the Orinoco at its mouth and another portion of territory further to the south.

The highlights of the entire episode -- from Venezuela's clamant demand for a settlement of the boundary, the espousal of her cause by the United States, the call to arms in the name of the Munroe Doctrine, the eventual agreement of Britain to settle the matter by arbitration, the elaborate and painstaking enquiries of the arbitral Tribunal and the eventual award, were all hailed as a great victory for Venezuela and for the solidarity of the Hemisphere. The boundary map was drawn, a new entente between Britain and the United States ensued and Venezuela, well satisfied with her achievements, proceeded towards the fulfilment of her destiny on the basis of the vast mineral wealth which her land yielded.

Where were we on whom today is turned the wrath of her leaders and the might of her arms? Of all who played a part in those events of the 1890's we, the people of Guyana, were the only ones who had not a part to play. Our destiny lay not even in our hands while Venezuela grew rich and powerful and, alas, it seems, with wealth and power grew expansionist and ambitious. We who had been brought from the four corners of the world to till the land struggled, under all the adversities that a colonial situation imposed, towards self-expression and ultimately, but ever so painfully and tardily, to self-determination. Through the greater part of those years, Venezuela found no quarrel with the boundary and when in the 1940s she chose to open the book on the boundary that had been closed at her instance nearly 50 years earlier, she conducted her dialogue with Britain with restraint and circumspection in the manner of equals constrained to argue but resolved never to force the issue to a trial of strength.

But time was on the side of the Government of Venezuela, for a wind of change had begun to blow across the post-war world that would sweep the metropolitan power from its last niche in South America and leave in its place an infant state whose early years must be spent in building the foundations of the nation and who would be left destitute of the wealth and strength and power that required caution and restraint when the argument was with Britain. Venezuela prepared the ground well. At the first sign of Guyana's movement to independence she agitated a boundary controversy on the most tenuous of grounds at the level of the United Nations and secured Britain's agreement to an examination of the records of the Tribunal with a view to removing her doubts about the propriety of the proceedings. The then Government of British Guiana concurred in these arrangements. As the Prime Minister said on Friday, from then on, as Guyana' s independence drew nearer Venezuela's agitation grew fiercer, so that at the birth of the new State she was fully poised to pursue, on the withdrawal of the metropolitan-power, the territorial claims that had been rejected by the procedures she had herself devised 70 years ago and which she had scrupulously refrained from pressing while Britain was her adversary. . .

The Geneva Agreement is clear in its language and unambiguous in its intent. The controversy with which the Mixed Commission is concerned is whether or not the 1899 Award is valid. We say that it is valid, and that it is the "full, perfect and final" settlement of the boundary that Venezuela had agreed in 1897 that it would be. Venezuela says that it is not -- because she says it was affected by fraud and by pressure. The first task of the Mixed Commission, therefore, indeed, the essential task of the Commission, is to consider this issue -- for it should need no advocacy to demonstrate that there can be no question of any revisions of the frontier unless Venezuela first establishes to the satisfaction of the Commission that their contention is sound. It is preposterous and unthinkable that it can be otherwise. Most of the world's frontiers would be thrown into chaos and confusion if all that a party to a boundary settlement needs to do to secure its revision is to allege that the settlement is not valid without being required to prove its allegation to be true.

I emphasise this aspect of the matter, . . . because it is a regrettable fact that the Geneva Agreement has been persistently misrepresented in Venezuela to the Venezuelan public. It seems that the Venezuelan Government, having wrought itself into a frenzy of self-deception over the validity of the Award, has implied, if indeed not expressly asserted, to the people of Venezuela that the Mixed Commission has been established to revise the frontier forthwith without any need for examining that basic Venezuelan complaint that the Award is imperfect. . .

. . . It is time that the people of Venezuela were allowed to understand the nature of the Agreement that their leaders concluded at Geneva. No amount of semantics will alter the basic situation or the nature of the Agreement. Guyana does not have to prove the validity of the Award. The Award has the sanction of an international treaty and its validity the backing of international law.

It is sad to reflect, . . . how easily some of the most important. traditions of the Hemisphere can become tarnished by power and a vaulting ambition. That present-day Venezuela with its own vast areas of undeveloped land and resources, with the rich inheritance of the principles of resistance to imperial domination and of national self-determination -- that this same Venezuela should now be assuming all the postures of an imperial power down to the very mechanics of gun-boat diplomacy, shames the entire Hemisphere. There was a time in our own history when resistance was quelled by British frigates anchoring in the Demerara. Within two years of Independence our neighbour who spoke in terms of welcome then, are threatening now to send their warships into our coastal waters unless we capitulate to their unjust and baseless demands. Is it not strange that they could so easily have forgotten the lessons of their own history -- that a people who believe their cause to be just are never quelled or subdued by intimidation and a parade of power?

There is much . . . for which the Government of Venezuela must account to future generations of the people of both our countries. There is much that they have done and are still doing that can only serve to make more intractable the problems that confront us. When they talk of Guyana's intransigence and obstructionism in the Mixed Commission, do they ever pause to measure the extent to which their shamelessly illegal occupation of Ankoko Island has polluted the atmosphere in which the Commission must pursue its tasks? When they pursue their vendetta against Guyana at the level of international agreements and institutions as they have done, to the embarrassment of Latin America, over the Denuclearisation Treaty and with less success at the recent Vienna Conference on Treaties, do they expect us to welcome them when they invite us to admit their Trojan horse of joint development? Do they believe that they can bend us to submission by their campaign of economic aggression -- the campaign which recently reached new dimensions of ugliness with a paid advertisement in the British press, the Times, to coincide with the Prime Minister's visit to London and designed to undermine his efforts to attract investment for Guyana's development.

Could there be . . . a more despicable tactic for one State of this hemisphere to pursue against another; moreso when the one is amongst the richest and most developed countries of Latin America and the other one of the smallest and newest of the developing countries of the world.

Above all . . . are the Government of Venezuela really proud of their record of interference in the internal affairs of Guyana -- activities undertaken in the mistaken belief that they can through those devious measures advance their territorial ambitions? Do they expect us to ignore the purposes that lay behind the irregular activities of Senor Taylhardat, who, as a Second Secretary at the Venezuelan Embassy in Guyana, was responsible for organising and financing a clandestine meeting of Amerindian tribes in Guyana and attempting to induce them to express support for the Venezuelan claim. Nor is this -- and the Venezuelan Government knows it -- any mere speculation. This Government that has stirred the Hemisphere -- we do not say without good reason -- over the interference of other Governments in the internal political life of Venezuela; this Government has been deeply involved in activities which constitute a gross interference in the political life of Guyana. It is time . . . that some of these things were spoken out aloud, for only if they are known can it be appreciated how much damage is being done to the cause of good relations between the people of our two countries by this mistaken policy of pressure and intimidation and clandestine interference.

I say . . . in all seriousness to the Government of Venezuela that the policies upon which they have now embarked will generate such hostility and bitterness in the hearts of our people that they may have set back for many years the development of that goodwill and trust and mutual respect without which there can never be true co-operation or real friendship. . .

We must assume . . . that the Government of Venezuela will not be any more deterred by its obligations under the Charter of the United Nations than it has been so far by its obligations under a miscellany of treaties. We must be prepared, therefore, for aggression from our neighbour and we must let the world know the peril with which we are confronted and the danger to the peace of the Hemisphere which now exists. As the 118th Member State of the United Nations we are one of the states that this world body has helped to bring to freedom. That freedom is now threatened for it cannot exist if our territorial integrity is impeached and it cannot be real if threats and intimidation of this kind cannot evoke a collective condemnation of the peace-loving states of the world which accept the obligations contained in the Charter of the United Nations and are able and willing to carry them out...


Prime Minister Forbes Burnham, who concluded the debate, also spoke in his capacity as Leader of the PNC. He used the occasion to rebut some of the arguments raised by Dr. Jagan and Ashton Chase. He said, inter alia:

. . .It is of interest to note that Venezuela, in the tradition of an even older imperialism, that of Greece, sought to introduce the Trojan Horse of joint development of the Essequibo region. At no time was there any possibility of acceptance of joint development of the Essequibo by the Guyana Government. At no time did the Guyana Government even give the impression -- and I can only speak for the Guyana Government post-Monday, 14th December, 1964 -- at no time did the Guyana Government give the slightest indication that it would accept joint development of western Essequibo. In fact, much to the contrary, the Guyana Government contended that it was not interested in any way whatsoever in joint development.

If Venezuela which is rich, if Venezuela which claims to be inspired by a feeling for its brothers and to be motivated by a deep feeling of generosity, wanted to make any contribution to our economic development programme, she was free to do so on the same basis as any other Nation or Agency has been free to do so. She cannot, so far as the Government was, and is, concerned, choose the area of development. She cannot superintend any project to which she may contribute finance or capital and at all times must the sovereignty of Guyana be protected. We were admitting no Trojan Horse. And then, the Mixed Commission appointed a Sub-Commission and it is clear... that nowhere in the terms of reference of the Sub-Commission was it proposed that there should be joint development or that development should be limited to any particular piece of territory. The childish and petulant behaviour of this soi-disant democratic nation Venezuela -- this torch bearer of Simon Bolivar, so they say, is now history.

Let us advert to Article V (2). I am not quite familiar with the intricacies of the Spanish language but I have more than a passing knowledge, I believe, of the English language, and no one but the dishonest or palpably ignorant would suggest anything else but that Article V (2) of the Geneva Agreement protects the status quo. Obviously, therefore, the statement issued by the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry in May and the advertisement in the London Times of Saturday 15th June of this year are intended (a) to frighten Guyana, and (b) I would contend, as a politician, for such I am in this House, as aggressive acts against Guyana; and the history of Venezuelan expansionist attitudes is here on the record for us to see. For indeed, when ratifying the Treaty of the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone, Venezuela entered a reservation with respect to the Gulf of Paria and the area between the coast of Venezuela and the island of Aruba and the Gulf of Venezuela. She was reserving her position with respect to Trinidad and Tobago. She was reserving her position with respect to Aruba and Curacao. She did not reserve her position with respect to British Guiana as it was then, because the Treaty was with respect to the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone. The tortuous mind which inspired the Decree on Tuesday 9th July was obviously not of the service of those who were ratifying the Treaty to which I referred.

Ankoko is a sore, and the second half of Ankoko which is Guyanese territory was occupied in October 1966 in the teeth of a resolution of December 1965 by the Venezuelan State of Bolivar which immediately abuts Guyana to the west, setting out the eastern boundary of the State of Bolivar as running through the island of Ankoko following the map of 1905 which was signed by Venezuelan and British plenipotentiaries.

We hear today that those who trace their freedom, their liberty and independence back to Simon Bolivar, who was once succoured by the Jamaicans, never carried their arms across their borders on warlike exploits except once and that in the cause of freedom. But one must understand the semantics, one must understand the peculiar mentality of these descendants of Simon Bolivar. Venezuela may be saying that she has never indulged in warlike acts outside of her territory. She has never taken any army outside of her territory to raise war against anyone. She believes in peace forsooth, but what is to prevent the Venezuelan mind from convincing itself that to occupy western Essequibo is not to take arms outside of Venezuela on warlike exploits but merely to re-occupy that which, under their Constitution, no Government, they state, can give to anyone or any power outside of Venezuela.

We have no doubt that the situation is fraught with danger. We have no illusions. We are not prepared at this stage to accept passively and with childlike credulity the asseverations of the Venezuelan Foreign Minister and the esteemed President of the Republic of Venezuela that their nation is a peaceful nation. All terms are relative. "Peace" is relative; "war" is relative and can only be justified depending on what interest the particular act or activity may serve.

Who are our friends? Let us look at it realistically, we are told. A realistic look at the world in the second half of the twentieth century would lead one to subscribe to a remark made by a certain Russian diplomat, namely, that the world is so strange and moving so fast that no one can speak of one's friends, but can merely speak of one's friends of today. Friendship is a concept, I am afraid, which is chameleon in its connotation in the context of international politics. As the French say, "C'est ca." That's that and you cannot change it. It depends on the particular circumstance of the particular time.

One would have thought, for instance, that certain Great Powers would be the friends of the Africans in South-West Africa, but the loudest proponent of the Africans in the world among the Big Powers -- and every schoolboy knows to whom I refer -- refuses to sit on the South-West Africa Council but says, "No, let some smaller country like Poland go."

Therefore, the Government of Guyana, since it does not count among the virtues a puerile naivete, never imagined the support and friendship in the context of a row would be dependent on the mere emotion of "liking" or "supporting". It depends on the interests that are involved. We hear, "Find new friends."

. . .I am aware that the United States of America has substantial investments in Venezuela. I am aware that the income from those investments, no doubt, in any one year, are greater than our gross domestic product. I am aware that the favourable balance of trade that Britain has with Venezuela in any given year is also greater than our gross domestic product. "Love" and "liking" are not for international politics.

Who are these new friends? Who are these friends that we must seek? I think my learned and Honourable friend, Mr. Ashton Chase, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, indeed showed a certain realism when he said that this is no doubt a matter that has to go to the United Nations, which is a forum in which we may hope to get support.

Of course, Britain was a signatory to the Geneva Agreement. Of course, a signatory is supposed to have a real and vested interest in the execution of the contractor in the upholding of the Agreement. It has been reported that I said in Britain that the British Government has an interest in the upholding of the Geneva Agreement; that I said, in my statement on Friday last [12 July], that I have communicated on behalf of the Government of Guyana to the Government of the United Kingdom through the United Kingdom High Commissioner in Georgetown.

May I at this stage say that this House certainly understand that exchanges between Governments, especially at this time when the situation is developing, and conversations between representatives of Governments cannot be discussed without inhibition or with impunity in the Parliament.

There was a press release of yesterday's date coming from the British Foreign Office to the effect that Mr. Beith, Assistant Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office, today asked the Charge d'Affaires of the Venezuelan Embassy to call at the Foreign Office to convey to him Her Majesty's Government's concern at certain recent developments in the dispute over her frontier with Guyana. This may appear to be not a great deal, but it has to be read carefully to be understood and appreciated fully. . .

Now, may I say this: There has been a great deal of talk in the press and perhaps there have been some unfortunate statements -- unfortunately misconstrued in this House by one of the speakers today -- as to what motivates Venezuela. May I as leader of a party of not insignificant size and social and political power and influence say this: so far as I am concerned, the Venezuelans have absolutely no right, either divine or by concession, to make any decision with respect to the politics of this country, who should run this country, or what social system we should have in this country.

Wherefore, let the Venezuelans understand this. I am prepared to take the word of my Honourable and learned friend, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Chase) that his party feels the same way. Well, let us not beat the drums. There may be argument as to which is the most powerful political party, but there is no argument too that if on an issue the Opposition and the PNC agree on a position ex mero motu, that is the voice of the majority, the overwhelming majority, so let us not follow red herrings in this context. Let us not entertain ourselves and our friends with castigation, which castigation can only be justified on the basis of misinterpretation of what was said. Let us get this flotsam and jetsam out of the way when we are looking at a serious matter like this.

The Opposition, I would say, has quite rightly stated that armed invasion must not be ruled out and, therefore, when we are planning our moves, when we are having our discussions, it must be with an eye not only to what has already taken place, but the plethora of possible eventualities and I can see that armed invasion is one of those possibilities, and a strong possibility. . .

What is the purpose of sending two officials to brief, advise, and be at the side of our Permanent Representative today at a meeting of the Latin American group? I do not want to go into this matter in great detail but may I state this. The Security Council is a political body. You do not run to the Security Council by penning a letter. The Security Council is a political organization. Is anyone here so purblind as not to recognise that the purpose of meeting with the regional groupings is to enlist support on whatever action may be decided on?

May I say immediately, since some of these matters cannot be discussed in extenso, in this forum, I plan to be always in consultation with the Opposition on what steps we take and what steps we propose, for not only have they today given evidence that we are all ad idem on this question. But in any case this is a national matter, and it is significant that the first consultation which took place on this matter did not take place as a result of any suggestion, but it took place on the initiative of the Government and I undertake that there will be further consultations because we have all got to face the music.

There are some who may say that we should not have signed the Agreement. Maybe, a confrontation may have taken place earlier but let us not worry with that. The Government and people of Guyana in the present circumstances have got to think in terms of support not merely of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and the USSR. It has got to think in terms of the support of the United Nations from the large range of members who are in groups. It is proposed also to hold discussions with all the groupings in the United Nations and each of these groupings there are members of the Security Council. This is a matter which I shall discuss at greater length and in greater detail with the Honourable Leader of the Opposition.

Up to this point the Government has made no decision about setting aside the Agreement. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition as a lawyer can understand . . . that not every time a party to a contract is in breach does the other party indulge his right to consider the contract at an end. There are at least three remedies left and the good lawyer that I know he is, the advice he would give to a client would vary with the circumstances, and until all the circumstances are known let us not rush to the conclusion that since there is a breach by one party to the Agreement the only course is to set aside the Agreement. When I meet with the Leader of the Opposition I will be able to discuss what sort of navy there is in Venezuela. This is not a frivolous matter.

We are told, "Sever diplomatic relations." That, too, is not a matter that can be lightly decided on and in any case, the severing of diplomatic relations is the last resort. In all cases, diplomatic relations are severed almost at the moment, very frequently the moment after, there has been an outbreak of hostilities.

Refuse radio time to the Venezuelans -- I agree; only I did that two months ago. That shows we are ad idem. We received a letter of protest which we treated with the courtesy and firmness which it deserved.

Have Barbados and Trinidad raise the question in the Organisation of American States -- Barbados and Trinidad are sovereign nations. We cannot tell them: "You must raise it." We have communicated with all the Commonwealth nations and more specifically and directly with the Commonwealth Caribbean nations. I can discuss with the Leader of the Opposition what is happening on this score. Certainly, he does not expect me to discuss this matter in extenso on this floor.

Involve the Opposition, we are told. That undertaking I have given and I need not say anything more about that. Today, in this House, the Opposition have moved certain amendments, all of which were settled, accepted and agreed, in consultation before they were moved.

We are agreed that Venezuela, notwithstanding whatever friendships may be at the social and personal levels, is an imperialist aggressor. We are agreed on that. Our collaboration on this question is indeed an anti-imperialist exercise. . .

In the final analysis, even if we have no friends with weapons, or prepared to supply us with weapons, or assist us with weapons, we the Guyanese people have faith in ourselves, and come the Venezuelans, for every thousand blows, we shall be prepared to deal one death blow, and even if we have to die, we shall die, not like hogs, but like men.


The only representative of the United Force who spoke during the debate was its Deputy Leader, Randolph Cheeks, who was also Minister of Local Government and Third Deputy Prime Minister of the PNC-UF Government. His speech was centred mainly on attacking Venezuela's claim to Guyana's territory, and its content was almost similar to that made by Burnham. He said, inter alia:

. . .Venezuela appears to be interfering in our domestic affairs at another level. They are at present seeking to subvert the people who live in the interior on our border. I am just from there. At present there are Guyanese Amerindians who are being encouraged to go across to Venezuela to enjoy benefits which are not enjoyed by the Venezuelan Amerindians themselves. They are induced to cross the border and are being given free books, free food, free lodging, in fact, free everything. The Venezuelans are doing this thing clandestinely.

The Venezuelan Amerindians are not even enjoying these benefits. They are living in abject poverty. What is the reason? Of course, I am quite sure that the Honourable Leader of the Opposition knows of the existence of certain old regulations whereby Venezuelan Amerindians can come here and enjoy the same benefits as the Guyanese Amerindians and vice-versa. This is a situation that existed for decades. The Amerindians themselves do not recognise national borders, and they continue commuting between the two countries. But since we have got independence this has acquired a new meaning and undoubtedly the action which is being taken by Venezuela has a certain definite purpose. . .

I would like the Venezuelans and the world to know that we in Guyana here are not prepared to expose our freedom and will not be the ones to expose our continent to any danger from the outside. The eyes of the world are on us and Venezuela must appear like the bullies that they are. They behaved with circumspection while the imperial power ruled here. As soon as we got our sovereignty they have begun to rattle their war drums and apparently wish to move in on us.

The behaviour of the Venezuelans in claiming the zone outside our territorial sea while we own the continental shelf beneath resembles that of a comedian in its irrationality and absurdity. Therefore, this resolution whereby the Government of Guyana regards the Decree as a nullity, must stand.

top of pageTop of Page  

Back to table of contents




Just two weeks before the Guyanese general elections in December 1968, elections had also taken place in Venezuela. President Leoni had been defeated along with his party, Acción Democrática, in the Presidential and Congressional elections. The elections had been won by the Comité de Organización Política Electoral Independiente (COPEI), and the new President, Rafael Caldera, and his cabinet were due to be sworn in to office in late January 1969. However, before this inauguration date, matters of critical importance involving the Venezuelan authorities were developing in the Rupununi District on the south-west border of Guyana.


At the beginning of January 1969, just three weeks after the December 1968 rigged elections in Guyana, a group of large ranch owners in the Rupununi region, supported by a number of Amerindians, broke out in open rebellion against the Guyana Government in the savannah area near the border with Brazil. The Amerindians involved in the uprising were mainly employees of the rebel ranchers who were Guyanese of European ancestry.

In determining the causes of this insurrection, various factors were evident. These included frustrations over the recent rigged elections which returned the PNC to power, and opposition to the proposed demarcation of Amerindian lands as set out by the Amerindian Lands Commission. The lands issue clearly had a role in influencing some Amerindians to support the rebel ranchers.

Whatever role these factors played cannot be fully determined, but it was clear that the rebels expressed their non-allegiance to the state and sought the assistance of a foreign government to promote the secession of part of the territory of Guyana.

In the course of this revolt, the ranchers declared that the Rupununi District had seceded from Guyana and that they would set up a Government of the "Republic of the Rupununi". Valerie Hart, a 27-year-old UF candidate in the December 1968 elections in Guyana, and the wife of one of the rebel ranchers, shortly after declared herself as President of the "Republic". However, she and the ring leaders, on 2 January, fled to Venezuela and Brazil after the rebellion was crushed by the Guyana Defence Force (GDF).

Apparently, the Guyana government, through its investigations, was able to prove that Venezuela helped to organise, equip and support the revolt. The rebel ranchers from the North Rupununi savannahs were transported in late December 1968 by Venezuelan aircraft to Venezuela where they were trained by the Venezuelan army and supplied with weapons. Shortly after their return to Guyana on the 1 January 1969, they attacked the administrative town of Lethem and its outlying Amerindian villages, killing five policemen and two civilians and destroying a number of Government buildings. However, the revolt was quickly crushed by the Guyana Defence Force, but most of the rebels who managed to escape, were given refuge by the Venezuelan Government who resettled them in two villages, San Martin de Turumbo and Yuruani, close to the Guyana border.

A group of about thirty men, mostly Amerindians, were arrested by the Guyana security forces, but some were released a few weeks later after their detention in Georgetown. However, ten of them were later charged with the murder of the five policemen and the two civilians. Those charged were: Ignatius Charlie, 23; Anaclito Alicio, 20; Handel Singh, 28; Francis James, 20; Charles Davis, 20; Damian Phillips, 21; Brenton Singh, 43, Colin Melville, 22; Aldwyn Singh, 41; and Patrick Melville, 17.

Meanwhile, in Venezuela, the newspapers and radio stations on 3 January 1969 reported that there was an armed uprising of Amerindians seeking to secede the Rupununi district from Guyana and place it under annexation with Brazil or Venezuela. Interestingly, the Guyanese ambassador in Caracas, Eustace R. Braithwaite, (the author of To Sir With Love), later that day informed the international media, based in instructions he received from the Minister of State Sridath Ramphal, that there was "absolutely no truth" of an armed rebellion among the Amerindians but that "some trouble" had arisen among a few ranchers in the Rupununi and that the Government found it necessary to send security forces to the area to restore order.


However, on the afternoon of the same day, Prime Minister Forbes Burnham admitted that there was indeed an armed rebellion when he made the following statement in the National Assembly:

There have been considerable disorders in the Rupununi over the past two days and from information available to the government, these disorders have been instigated and propelled by certain sections of the ranchers, some of whom hold foreign citizenship, who have not scrupled those under duress the services of some of the native Amerindian inhabitants.

One of the persons principally involved in the disorders has since surrendered to the security forces, cum machine gun. There has been loss of life though it is not possible at this moment to give an authentic and accurate figure.

Detachments of the Guyana Defence Force and Police, well armed and supplied, have been deployed in the area which centres around Lethem and the northern savannahs. As soon as further and more definite information is available, I propose to communicate to the nation as much as security considerations permit.

In the meantime, I have been keeping in close touch with the Honourable Mr. Ram Karran who has been deputed by the Leader of the Opposition to act and speak on his behalf during the latter's absence from the country.

The evidence so far suggests that the disorders were not spontaneous but masterminded and planned by hostile elements in and outside Guyana.


Then in a nation-wide radio broadcast on the 4 January 1969, Burnham narrated his government's version of the events that occurred in the Rupununi:

The picture of the recent disorders in the northern Rupununi savannahs has now become sufficiently clear for me to place before the public the facts of these tragic and sinister events as they have so far unfolded.

On Thursday, 2nd January, 1969, at about eleven o'clock in the morning, the township of Lethem-which is the principal centre of Government administration in the Rupununi District- came under heavy gun fire attack.

The main target of the attack was the police station which was manned by twelve members of the Guyana Police Force and a number of civilian employees and which had radio communication with Police Headquarters in Georgetown.

It is now known that the attack was made by a band of heavily armed ranchers of the Rupununi District, drawn mainly, but not exclusively, from the Hart and Melville families.

The Hart ranch is at Pirara, 15 miles from Lethem- and the control centre of the operation. It was from Pirara that the terrorists had set out earlier in the morning for Lethem.

On arriving at Lethem they opened fire on the police station with a missile throwing bazooka and with bursts from automatic weapons. Policemen rushing out of the building were fired at, and at least one was killed in this way. The attackers then entered the station and, in the struggle that ensued, shot and killed three other policemen and one civilian employee, Victor Hernandez, an Amerindian, who was at that time a member of the Board of Governors of the School of Agriculture. The senior police officer at Lethem who was at the District Commissioner's Office at the time of the attack was shot and killed there.

Nor were the security forces the only object of the attack. The Government dispenser, who came down to the police station when the firing began, was shot at and wounded as he sought to take cover by his car.

The terrorists then rounded up the residents-including the District Commissioner, Mr. Motilall Persaud, and his wife-and held them prisoners and hostages in the abattoir. Other persons were locked into their homes. At least ten thousand dollars of Government funds were taken.

One of the early acts of the terrorists immediately after their attack on the police station was to block the airstrip at Lethem with seven ton trucks and other obstructions, thus completely isolating Lethem except by a ground approach from some other point in the area. To make this isolation more effective, the terrorists simultaneously with the move in Lethem blocked the other airstrips in the area at Good Hope, Karasabai, Koranambo and Annai.

This left only the grass strip at Manari, five miles from Lethem, and it seems that the intention of the terrorists was to use this strip themselves with light aircraft. In fact, certain missionary priests who were at Lethem when the attack occurred were allowed to leave by road for Manari later on Thursday.

Contrary, however, to the expectation of the terrorists, news of the attack at Lethem had reached Georgetown by lunch time on Thursday and the same afternoon a number of policemen and the GDF personnel were flown into Manari by two Guyana Airways aircraft. Both planes were fired at from the approaches to the Manari strip, but neither was hit.

Within the next eighteen hours, a fully equipped and supplied contingent of the security forces was assembled at Manari and yesterday morning (Friday) they began to move on to Lethem. With the security forces advancing, the terrorists fled Lethem, probably for Pirara. On arrival at Lethem, therefore, armed forces were able to re assert lawful authority without any resistance.

Their arrival confirmed the casualties earlier reported, and the wounded persons were immediately flown to Georgetown. The District Commissioner is now engaged in assessing the damage, both of a public and private nature, and the security forces have been assisting in the return to normalcy.

Meanwhile the terrorist groups that had closed down the airstrips at Good Hope and Annai on the morning of January 2, had also overrun the small police contingents there and closed radio communication between these outposts and Police Headquarters in Georgetown. So far, as we know, there was no loss of life at either Good Hope or Annai, but at both places, the policemen were tied up, placed in trucks and driven off towards Lethem.

By then, of course, Lethem was under the control of the security forces and, on discovering this, on their return journey, the terrorists dumped the bound policemen and fled.

Today, the security forces have continued their operations to restore all points in the area to normal governmental control and to pursue and capture these criminal elements that are already responsible for the loss of nine lives. The police posts at Annai and Good Hope have been relieved and the centres of terrorist activity at Pirara, Good Hope and Sunnyside have been razed to ground by our forces.

A number of persons have been arrested in the area, and this afternoon word was received from the police authorities at Boa Vista (Brazil) that seven of the terrorists have been taken into custody there in the flight from Guyana. Steps are being taken to bring these fugitives to face trial under the criminal law of the land they have defiled and betrayed.

On the basis of what I have already said, the acts of insurrection and murder that I have narrated are of the most serious nature; but they are, in fact, even more serious and sinister than would appear on the surface. One of the terrorists [Colin Melville] who surrendered to the security forces yesterday has given an account of the entire operation-an account which places it in a different category from that of mere criminal terrorism. From this account it is now known that there was a gathering of Rupununi ranchers on the 23rd December [1968] at the home of Harry Hart at Moreru in the northern savannahs. At this meeting a plan was unfolded for capturing the main Government outposts in the Rupununi with assistance from the Venezuelan authorities and declaring the establishment of a separatist state in cessation from the rest of Guyana.

On the 24th December, a group of ranchers and ranch hands numbering approximately forty were flown from the Hart ranch at Pirara to Santa Theresa in Venezuela where the party spent the night. On Christmas Day, 25th December, the group were driven to an airstrip at Santa Helena and airlifted in a Venezuelan military aircraft to a Venezuelan army training camp at a point approximately two hours flying time away. They spent seven days receiving intensive training in the use of weapons with which they were supplied, including automatic weapons and bazookas. On New Year's Day, 1st January, 1969, the group were flown back to Santa Helena, again by Venezuelan military aircraft. The following morning, at dawn, they were flown to the Hart ranch at Pirara, and set out immediately for Lethem and the acts of terrorism and murder I have already related.

The insurrection as we know was planned, organised and carried out by ranchers of the Rupununi-the savannah aristocrats. Such Amerindian citizens as were involved were employed in a secondary capacity and appeared generally to have acted under duress and in response to the orders of their rancher employers. Nevertheless, within a few hours of the attack on Lethem, the Venezuelan press and radio were reporting an Amerindian uprising in the Rupununi and suggested that it arose out of the wish of these Guyanese citizens to come under the sovereignty of Venezuela.

In addition, Valerie Hart, the wife of one of the Hart brothers, and a candidate of the United Force at the recent election, was taken to Venezuela by the aircraft that brought the armed gang. In Venezuela, Valerie Hart has been provided with facilities for broadcasting appeals for assistance in support of what she describes as an uprising of the indigenous population. These appeals are beamed to the United States but call for assistance from all possible sources.

The pattern of this Venezuelan involvement is easy to discern. Going back to the Talyhardat incident, the Venezuelan authorities have sought to manipulate the Guyanese Amerindian community to promote the spurious claim to the Essequibo region of Guyana. This was followed more recently by the abortive attempt to establish and finance a Guyanese Amerindian Party and in a variety of ways to promote an Amerindian movement favourable to Venezuela's territorial ambitions.

At the twenty third session of the General Assembly in New York last October, Guyana warned of a massive effort being made by Venezuela "to subvert the loyalty of Guyana's indigenous Amerindian people". We pointed out that it was an effort that had no lack of financial resources and which functions through hand picked agents, working under the direction of the Venezuelan authorities from bases situated on the Venezuelan side of the border.

Into the campaign of subversion the Venezuelan authorities have now recruited this group of Rupununi ranchers who have traditionally resented the authority of the central Government, more especially since independence when the authority passed from British to Guyanese hands. The results of the recent general elections which have confirmed the process of decolonisation, was apparently the signal for insurrection among these people who have induced in themselves a conviction that the grasslands of the Rupununi are theirs and theirs alone to the exclusion of others, including the Amerindian people, and especially to the exclusion of the Government of Guyana. Not surprisingly, they have found common cause with the Government of Venezuela who have once more-and again with a traditional clumsiness and indifference to Guyanese opinion-embarked on overt interference in Guyana's internal affairs with the objective of advancing their traditional claims.

It is perhaps not without significance that at the same moment that Venezuelan representatives were sitting down with their Guyanese counterparts at a meeting of the Mixed Commission in Caracas between Christmas and New Year, Venezuelan army personnel were training and equipping saboteurs and terrorists and launching them in a campaign of insurrection in Guyana. Nor is it perhaps without significance that they chosed for the scene for their campaign a part of Guyana which has a frontier, not with Venezuela, but with the friendly State of Brazil.

I do not know where these events will lead us or what their excesses of armed interference Venezuela may be poised to embark upon. This may well be the beginning of a series of similar incursions launched by the Venezuelan government, and we must, therefore, expect further acts of aggression and intimidation from the new imperialism on our western doorstep. We must be ready as a nation to meet all eventualities and we must prepare ourselves for further attacks upon our national integrity from the combined forces of Venezuelan military authorities and disloyal and subversive elements in Guyana. . .

Burnham departed for London on the following day (5 December) to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference. He felt the situation in the Rupununi which was returning to "normalcy" should not impede his attendance at this "specially important conference".


During this period, a flurry of activities was taking place in Venezuela. On Saturday 4 January 1969, the Guyana Embassy in Caracas sent the following telegram to the Guyana Ministry of External Affairs:

Valerie Hart, (27), claiming to be a Member of Parliament elected on a UF ticket, arrived in Ciudad Bolivar on a plane owned by the Rupununi Producers' Association. From there she travelled by a private plane to Caracas for meetings with Iribarren Borges and Interior Minister Moro. Her intention was to solicit support for the armed resistance by ranchers and others in the Rupununi against the government. Hart claimed that the movement was headed by a person named Melville and had widespread support for the secession of the Rupununi to Venezuela. Hart stayed at the Hotel Conde near to the Foreign Ministry.

By Sunday 5 January, Ambassador Braithwaite received copies by cable of Burnham's statement to the National Assembly and his radio address on the situation in the Rupununi. That afternoon he was visited by Mr. Herron and Mr. Walters, two political advisers attached to the American Embassy in Caracas, to discuss the situation. The American diplomats showed him transcripts of messages sent by the American ambassador in Georgetown giving details of the Rupununi situation, including a statement to the Guyana police by Colin Melville on his participation in the events and of circumstances prior and during the events as were known to him.


On Monday 6 January, which was a public holiday in Venezuela, Braithwaite sought a joint audience with the Venezuelan Foreign Minister Iribarren Borges and the Interior Minister Dr. Leandro Mora. Subsequently a joint meeting was arranged for 11.00 a.m. at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. But on his arrival at the Ministry, he learned that Mora could not be located and Borges apologised for the Interior Minister's absence.

Braithwaite told Borges that his visit was routine and he was anxious to seek clarification from the Venezuelan Government regarding the situation in the Rupununi. Immediately Borges said that Venezuela was not involved and categorically denied any participation or identification with the uprising.

Braithwaite informed Borges that the Guyana Government had indisputable evidence volunteered by some of the major participants in the uprising that Venezuelan aircraft, personnel and weapons had been involved, and that planning for the operation and training in the use of weapons were carried out on Venezuelan territory.

However, Borges vehemently denied this.

Braithwaite pointed out that there was no direct air communication between Guyana and Venezuela, but nevertheless Mrs. Valerie Hart, a confessed leader of the rebellion, was able to fly from the Rupununi to Ciudad Bolivar and then to Caracas. Borges said that as far as he knew, Mrs. Hart had flown in a private plane from Rupununi to Venezuela, but she was not in any way assisted by the Venezuelan government.

Braithwaite reminded Borges that even though Mrs. Hart had entered Venezuela illegally, she was able, immediately on arrival in Caracas, to have meetings with him (Borges) and the Interior Minister. To this Borges replied that the woman had asked to see him, and as Foreign Minister he had no choice but to agree to meet her. In response, Braithwaite said that since the woman arrived in Caracas, she was in the care of the Venezuelan Government which was assisting her in arranging press conferences and radio and television interviews and in making appeals for arms and other support for the rebels. Borges replied that that the Government undertook to look after her purely on humanitarian grounds and again stated that his Government was in no way implicated in the uprising.

The Guyanese ambassador told Borges that on the one hand there were his repeated denials and on the other an accumulation of incontrovertible facts which placed his denials in very poor light. At this, Borges became quite agitated and ended the meeting after again insisting that he could do no more that assert his government's non-involvement in the uprising.

Later that afternoon, Borges at a press conference again denied Venezuela's complicity in the abortive rebellion, but stated that more than one hundred persons from the Rupununi were "given refuge" in Venezuela. He avoided mentioning if these persons were granted political asylum.

On the following day (7 January), according to a Reuter report, Braithwaite said that Guyana was absolutely certain Venezuela was involved in the uprising. He said his meeting with Broges "had no particular positive factor in favour of Guyana, but it left the impression that Borges was taken aback on learning of the rebels' confession." The ambassador admitted the Venezuelan Government might not have supported the uprising directly but felt sure that officials in Caracas were aware of military training to the Rupununi rebels and military airlifts to and through the Rupununi region.


Meanwhile, the Brazilian Government expressed its concern over the situation and its Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued the following communiqué on 7 January 1969:

The Brazilian Government is following since its first moments and with the utmost interest the recent occurrence in the Rupununi region, in areas close to the Guyanese and Roraima Territory borders, and immediately has taken measures in order to intensify the control of the border, and prevent any violation of Brazilian territory. The Brazilian government, in accordance with its principles of non-intervention in domestic affairs of other countries, has expressed to the Guyanese Government in this difficult moment its belief that this bordering and friendly nation will completely overcome the movement that disturbs its internal security and menaces its territorial integrity.


In Caracas, Valerie Hart continued to press the Venezuelan Government for military assistance and intervention in the Rupununi. But on 7 January, the Foreign Ministry turned down another of her appeals for Venezuela to invade Rupununi and take over the region. A Reuter report (of 8 January) of her meeting at the Foreign Ministry stated that the Venezuelan Government bluntly refused the request for any military intervention to aid the separatist movement which staged the uprising.

Speaking to the press shortly after her meeting at the Foreign Ministry, Hart insisted, "Venezuela must assert her rightful claim and not only the Rupununi but all the 50,000 square miles of territory of the disputed Essequibo region."

But Foreign Minister Ignacio Iribarren Borges crushed the rebel leader's slim final hopes with a flat and negative answer.

"We would never intervene directly in what is essentially a Guyanese problem," he affirmed.

Nevertheless, Hart continued in Caracas to urge the Venezuelan Government for open support. She held several press conferences and gave television interviews, and it was clear that she received assistance from official circles since interpreters were provided for her on account of her inability to speak Spanish. At one of her press conferences on 8 January-the day after the Venezuelan Foreign Minister refused her request for military intervention-she declared (according to a Reuter report): "If Venezuela does not intervene right now with troops they would have in their hands a situation similar to the Bay of Pigs." She, no doubt, was referring to the Cuban situation in which opponents of the Castro regime had been promised support when the initial attempt at invasion proved abortive.

This statement openly insinuated that the Rupununi rebels had received some kind of support and possibly military training and arms as alleged by Guyanese Prime Minister Forbes Burnham.


In Georgetown on 8 January, the Charge d'Affaires of the Venezuelan Embassy, Luis Martinez , was summoned to the Ministry of External Affairs and was handed the following Note of Protest:

The Ministry of External Affairs presents its compliments to the Embassy of the Republic of Venezuela and has the honour to request that the Embassy bring to the closer attention of the Government of the Republic of Venezuela certain incidents of a nature deeply disturbing to the Government of Guyana which have recently occurred in the Rupununi District of Guyana.

On January 2, 1969, a body of men armed with bazookas and automatic weapons attacked the administrative centres of the town of Lethem in the Rupununi and carried their attack to several outlying villages. These incidents were swiftly dealt with by Guyana's Security Forces, and those apprehended have shed further light upon the iniquitous involvement of authorities of the Republic of Venezuela in the internal affairs of Guyana.

The Government of Guyana is aware that a meeting of ranchers, some of them citizens of Guyana and other residents of the country, took place on December 23, 1968, at Moreru, in the Northern Rupununi Savannahs, at which plans were outlined for the seizure of the main administrative centres in the Rupununi, and, with the assistance of the Venezuelan authorities, for the establishment of a separate state in secession from the rest of Guyana.

The Government of Guyana is aware that on December 24, 1968, these men travelled by aircraft to Santa Elena, Venezuela, and on December 25, were conveyed to Santa Teresa, Venezuela, from where they were flown by Venezuelan army aircraft to a Venezuelan army training camp some two hours flying time from the point of departure.

The Government of Guyana is aware that for the next seven days, and under the supervision of Venezuela authorities, these men were trained in the use of the weapons with which they were ultimately supplied by those authorities, and which included automatic weapons and bazookas.

The Government of Guyana is aware that on January 1, 1969, these men were returned to Santa Teresa by Venezuelan army aircraft and thence on January 2, 1969 were flown to Pirara, Guyana, in a Dakota aircraft owned and operated by Venezuelan personnel. From Pirara, these men, having been trained and armed by authorities of the Republic of Venezuela, set out to attack the town of Lethem and its outlying villages. Buildings were destroyed by bazooka shells and police officers and men at Lethem were murdered with automatic weapons.

The Government of Guyana is aware that a Guyanese citizen named Valerie Hart left Guyana illegally on the Dakota aircraft which brought these men to Pirara on January 2, 1969, and is now in Caracas, Venezuela, where she has been provided with facilities for broadcasting appeals for assistance in support of what she described as an "uprising" of the indigenous population.

The Government of Venezuela, by the responsibility it bears for the training, arming and supplying of a group of wealthy, reactionary landholders, men who have resented the authority of the Central Government since the independence of Guyana was declared in 1966, stands indicted not only of the breach of every relevant principle of international law but of a consummate hypocrisy in the role it purports to play as part of the developing world which is a world of nations striving to better the lot, not of privileged groups, but of the great majority of their peoples.

The Government of Guyana denounces the Government of Venezuela for the invidious, divisive and self-serving support it has given to a wealthy, reactionary minority which sought to enrich itself by seizing lands which are the heritage of all Guyanese.

The Government of Guyana considers it worthy of note that the Mixed Commission of Guyanese and Venezuelan representatives, established under the Geneva Agreement of 1966, was meeting in Caracas, in good faith on the part of Guyana, during the very period in which Venezuelan armed personnel were training and equipping saboteurs and launching them on a campaign of terror inside Guyana. This most recent, and most iniquitous, of the long list of violations of the Geneva Agreement by the Government of Venezuela calls into question more gravely than ever before the professed desire of the Government of Venezuela to maintain peaceful relations with Guyana as a neighbouring state in Latin America, as one of the newly independent states in the Western Hemisphere and as one of the small developing countries of the world.

The Government of Guyana condemns in the strongest terms the hypocrisy of the Government of Venezuela which having stirred the Hemisphere with its protests at the interference of other Governments in its internal political life, and, which having invoked the great Latin American jurisprudential traditions of non-intervention, is and continues to be, deeply involved in activities which constitute the grossest interference in the internal political life of Guyana.

The Government of Guyana protests in the strongest terms this most recent act of intervention on the part of the Government of Venezuela in the internal affairs of Guyana. It represents the gravest act of interference in the internal political life of Guyana and is part of a pattern of such acts, one of which, as it will be recalled, led to the expulsion from Guyana as long ago as 1966, of a Second Secretary of the Venezuelan Embassy in Georgetown, who was responsible for organising and financing clandestine meetings of the indigenous tribes of Guyana in a futile effort to induce them to express support for the spurious Venezuelan territorial claims.

The Government of Guyana is constrained to express its disgust at this most recent attempt by the Government of Venezuela to advance its spurious territorial claims under cover of subversion and terrorism.

The Government of Guyana gives notice to the Government of Venezuela that it will avail itself of every opportunity to ensure that the recent actions of the Government of Venezuela are brought to the attention of the International Community.

The Ministry of External Affairs takes this opportunity to renew to the Embassy of the Republic of Venezuela the assurances of its highest consideration.


That same afternoon in Caracas Ambassador Braithwaite received by cable from the Guyana Ministry of External Affairs the Guyana Note of Protest to be delivered to the Venezuelan Foreign Minister. Just after 4.00 p.m., he went to the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry and handed the Note to Iribarren Borges who invited him to sit down and read it "aloud". At the end of the reading he informed the ambassador that he would contact him in a few days' time. But when Braithwaite returned to the Embassy half an hour later, he was informed by his staff that the Minister had called to invite him for a meeting at noon on the following day (9 January).

Braithwaite arrived promptly for the meeting and Minister handed him the Guyana Note of Protest explaining that his Government found the language "undiplomatic" and therefore it was unacceptable. Braithwaite departed and immediately after Borges told a gathering of media personnel that he had returned Guyana's Note both in Caracas and Georgetown because of its "undiplomatic language".

At the same time in Georgetown, the Charge d'Affaires of the Venezuelan Embassy in Guyana, (Martinez), met with Dr. Ptolemy Reid, the acting Prime Minister, for the purpose of returning the Note of Protest. Dr. Reid explained that so far as the Guyana Government was concerned the Note, having been received the day before by Martinez, was now the property of the Venezuelan government. Martinez then departed with the Note, but later he turned up at the Ministry of External Affairs where he sought to meet with the Permanent Secretary or the Chief of Protocol. However, his requests were denied and he subsequently departed.


Venezuela's activism moved to a new stage on 8 January when Interior Minister Reinaldo Leandro Mora announced the granting of Venezuelan documentation to refugees of the Rupununi region who fled Guyana following the abortive uprising. He said Venezuela considered the refugees as fellow citizens since they inhabited part of the territory being claimed by his country. He further claimed that as a member of the United Nations, Venezuela had a right to do so, and added that the "refugees" had come from "a zone that is considered Venezuelan and are being persecuted."

He explained that the refugees who sought political asylum in Venezuela "in the past two days" would be given jobs or land according to their profession. At Santa Elena, a border village near to the Brazilian and Guyanese frontiers, over one hundred refugees were granted asylum.

On making the announcement, the minister said Venezuela was offering help and documentation "in this painful moment in which the inhabitants of the Rupununi region are suffering." He reiterated Venezuela's conviction that the Guyanese Government carried out a bloody reprisal against Rupununi's inhabitants for taking up arms against the government.

Mora claimed this move to grant asylum did not mean that Venezuela was interfering in Guyana's internal affairs, and denied any implication in the uprising, saying that if it did, his country would have been controlling the region.. However, he admitted that Guyanese youths had received military training in Venezuela at the wish of their parents, but he did not specify the number and did not say whether they participated in the uprising.


In Georgetown, the Acting Prime Minister, Dr. Ptolemy Reid, responding to Mora's statement and other statements reported in the media by Venezuelan Government officials on Venezuela's involvement in the insurrection, said that Venezuela had now further admitted that Guyanese youths had received military training in Venezuela. He added that the youths had left Guyana illegally without proper travel documents while Venezuela had allowed improper entry. This action provided irrefutable evidence of Venezuela's inspiration and support of the uprising. He refuted reports in the Venezuelan print media that Amerindians were being massacred, saying that those who died were all victims of the conspirators and denounced the attempted comparison (by the Venezuelan media) of the Rupununi situation with Biafra.

On the statement by Mora that Venezuela considered the refugees as Venezuelans since they inhabited part of the territory claimed by Venezuela, Reid said Venezuela "stands indicted of the breach of every relevant principle of international law" and the statement by the Interior Minister was consistent with Venezuela's behaviour in the past.

Here, note must be made of the fact that just six months before, during the debate in the Guyana National Assembly on the Venezuelan Decree of the Sea, the Third Deputy Prime Minister of the then PNC UF coalition Government, Randolph Cheeks, had stated that the Amerindians who were commuting between Venezuela and Guyana for decades ". . . do not recognise national boundaries or national borders", and that according to existing regulations, "Venezuelan Amerindians can come here and enjoy the same benefits as the Guyanese Amerindians and vice versa". Therefore, if the youths, as mentioned in Reid's statement were Amerindians, then according to Cheeks, those particular youths had not left the country illegally.

Thus, there was some contradiction in the statements of two different high ranking members of the Government of Guyana, albeit at different periods separated by a mere six months.


On 9 January, Guyana's Ambassador to the United States and Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Sir John Carter, officially informed the Secretary General, U Thant, of the situation through the following letter:


I have the honour to bring the following to your most urgent attention.

On January 2, 1969, there took place in the Rupununi District in the south of Guyana a series of armed attacks on Government centres and peaceful farming villages which resulted in considerable loss of life and property.

The Government of Guyana is now in possession of irrefutable proof that the individuals who organised and carried out those crimes were trained for the purpose within the territory of the Republic of Venezuela, and supplied with arms by authorities of the Republic of Venezuela.

During the General Debate at the Twenty-third Session of the General Assembly my Minister of State for External Affairs drew attention to the massive effort which was being made by the Republic of Venezuela to subvert the loyalty of our people in order to advance its spurious territorial claims. He said, on October 3, 1968:

"It is an effort which has no lack of financial resources; which functions through hand-picked and trained agents working under the direction of the Venezuelan authorities from bases situated on the Venezuelan side of the border. . . A more flagrant premeditated course of interference in the internal political life of a neighbouring country directed from a governmental level it would be hard to find."

The extreme gravity of the consequences which may flow from this most recent calculated violation on the part of the Republic of Venezuela of generally accepted norms of international law and civilised behaviour compels my Government to request that you bring this matter, at your earliest possible convenience, to the attention of all States Members of the United Nations by way of a copy of this letter and of the attached Note which was issued from the Ministry of External Affairs in Georgetown to the Venezuelan Ambassador to Guyana.

Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest consideration. . .


It was apparent that the rebels managed to garner some international support from the Confederacion Latino Americana Syndical Cristiana (CLASC) [Christian Democratic Trade Union] which had consultative status in the International Labour Organisation (ILO) which had its headquarters in Europe and branches in the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Chile and Venezuela. In a letter to U Thant on 14 January, CLASC expressed support for the Rupununi rebels and urged the intervention of the United Nations. A copy was also sent to the UN Human Rights Commission. The letter, addressed from Caracas, and signed by its Secretary General, Emilio Maspero and Ernesto Molano of its "Organisation Division" stated:

As a result of the popular uprising in the Rupununi region of Guyana, the Government of that country led by Mr. Forbes Burnham has unleashed a bloody wave of retaliation against the entire Amerindian population.

The countryside has become a human hunting-ground for innocent peasants-villages and farms have been totally destroyed by incendiary bombs and those responsible have respected neither the civil population, women nor children. The Amerindians constitute the native population of Guyana and the great majority are peasants kept in misery and at the margin of survival, by successive Governments. Thousands of them are active members of the Guyana National Confederation at Workers and Peasants, a trade union movement affiliated to the Confederacion Latino Americana Sindica Cristiana (CLASC).

By means of this note we wish formally to denounce before the United Nations these acts which, by their unreasoning and repressive ferocity, threaten to transform Guyana into a second Biafra. Moreover, the incitement of this official violence is that of racial discrimination, the establishment at which is being attempted in the country, and which we wholeheartedly condemn and denounce.

In the name of all the workers of Guyana and in the name of the millions of workers of Latin America, CLASC demands intervention by the United Nations to restore peace in Guyana and to put an end to the official terrorism which the dictatorial Burnham Government has again launched against the Amerindian peasants of the Rupununi and other areas of the country. All workers must have equal opportunity and the fullest guarantees of their human at social rights. . .

A copy of this letter was handed by the UN Secretary General's office to the Guyana Permanent Mission at the UN for a response.


Meanwhile, in Venezuela, Valerie Hart continued to be active in trying to win support for her cause. On 20 January, she visited the eastern city of Ciudad Bolivar to meet with the other rebel refugees who apparently were now working in the area. She told them not to give up the struggle and that they must continue to strive for the recovery of the Rupununi.

On her return to Caracas, she gave her version of the background of the uprising during a television interview. She said the Rupununi ranchers had on several occasions made representations to the Guyana Government because they were not satisfied with the conditions in the area. She claimed that the Amerindians were treated in a sub-human manner and that Government officers in the Rupununi frequently mistreated and assaulted the Amerindian women. She added that the only action taken as a result of their representations was the transfer of the defaulting officers. As a result, the ranchers became disillusioned and decided to form a movement with the backing of the Amerindians.

She further claimed that they had not planned to kill anyone but merely to seize certain Government buildings, hold the officers as hostages and close down the airstrips. After that action, they planned to negotiate with the Government to get concessions.

Unfortunately for the rebels, a priest who was not held as a hostage, used his radio set to contact someone in Georgetown and other persons opened one of the airstrips to allow the Government planes to land.

When asked by the interviewer about the policemen who were killed, she said that they were killed in the ranchers' self defence, and emphasised that the rebels had only rifles and guns which they normally used for hunting, but no sophisticated weapons. She admitted that it was a great blow to them that the revolt failed, but they were making plans for another attempt to take over the Rupununi, details of which she could not divulge. She added that it was not the end of the struggle, and she considered it as only the first battle lost.


The failed uprising continued to hold the attention of the Venezuelan throughout January and February of 1969. In various commentaries in the Venezuelan newspapers, towards the end of January, there was speculation that the Rupununi uprising was one of a number of moves designed by the Acción Democratica (AD) [Democratic Action] party to prevent President-elect Caldera of Comité de Organización Política Electoral Independiente (COPEI)[Social Christian Party] from assuming office. About a month prior to the December 1968 presidential election, one of the first of these moves was put into effect. A number of top army personnel known to be favourable to COPEI were dismissed. Then soon after the election, it was alleged that some AD ministers together with the governor of Bolivar State got together to instigate the Rupununi uprising. President Leoni, who had not yet been inaugurated, was not apprised of these plans. Significantly, one of the planes used in the operation belonged to Bolivar State. It was impounded by the Brazilian Government after it landed on Brazilian territory, and the Brazilian Government declared that it would not release it until it knew the intentions of the new Venezuelan Government.

Thirty-six years later, on 13 March 2005, the Caracas daily, Ultimas Noticias, carried an article by Diaz Rangel who mentioned that the AD administration in 1968 gave support to the separatist movement in the Rupununi. The article revealed that "military troops and the police force, apparently commanded by General Yépez Daga, were ready to back the Amerindian separatist movement in the Essequibo which failed. Assault troops and paratroops were left waiting."


The CLASC letter to the UN Secretary General apparently raised some concerns within the Guyana Government since it urged the UN to investigate the situation in the Rupununi. With concerns that this could involve a visit by the UN Human Rights Commission, Guyana's Attorney General and Minister of State, in a letter of 13 February to the Ann Jardim, the Charge d'Affaires at the country's Permanent Mission to the UN, said that Guyana should be cautious of inviting the UN Human Rights Commission to visit Guyana. He explained that there were dangers in any such offer particularly since it would be difficult to resist a proposal from, for example, a Latin American country on the Commission to send an investigating committee in response to any such offer.

Ramphal insisted that he would be unhappy over such a visit because it was possible that Venezuela could ensure that rehearsed complaints were advanced by Amerindians. In addition, he believed that an investigating committed from the UN Human Rights Commission would attract unfavourable notice for Guyana and, whatever its final report, he was certain that Venezuela would make much mileage out of it. Further, according to Ramphal, matters could be made worse since the political opposition might make efforts to embarrass the Government during the proceedings.


On 13 February 1969, Jardim, (Charge d'Affaires at Guyana's Permanent Mission to the UN), responded to the CLASC letter of 14 January 14, 1969, in the following communication to Secretary General U Thant:


The letter of January 14, 1969, emanating from Caracas and signed on behalf of the Confederacion Latino Americana Syndical Cristiana (CLASC) forwarded with Your Excellency's note of 8th February, 1969, hereafter referred to as "the CLASC letter", is consistent with the efforts currently being made by the Government of Venezuela to conceal its most recent interference in the internal affairs of Guyana behind a facade of distortions and fabrications.

Venezuela's efforts at subversion within Guyana and aggression against Guyana are designed to advance her frenzied territorial ambitions and the false allegations already made by the Venezuelan authorities, and now repeated to Your Excellency for the attention of the Human Rights Commission, are intended to provide a pretext for further Venezuelan acts of subversion and aggression against Guyana. Presented in terms of humanitarian concern for the Amerindian people of Guyana the recital represents merely another stage in the shameful campaign by the wealthiest State in Latin America to plunder more than one-half of the territory of one of the newest and smallest States of the hemisphere, and to do so within the first years of the new State's independence while she is pre-occupied with the essential tasks of development and of social and economic change.

The events in the Rupununi region of Guyana to which the CLASC letter refers have already been the subject of a separate report by the Government of Guyana to Your Excellency, a report which at the request of the Government of Guyana was circulated to the Permanent Missions of all Member States of the United Nations in Your Excellency's Note No. PO 220 VENE(2) of January 10, 1969. A copy of that report is enclosed herewith and the Government of Guyana wishes its contents to be regarded as incorporated in this reply.

The incidents referred to were not, as stated in the CLASC letter, a "popular uprising". There were, as the report to Your Excellency indicated, a series of attacks on Government outposts by a group of wealthy ranchers trained, armed and supplied by the Government of Venezuela. The attacks resulted in the destruction of property and seven persons, including members of the Guyana Police Force and Amerindian citizens, were killed by the attackers. The principal insurgents have since fled Guyana and the majority of them have received both asylum and succour from the Venezuelan authorities.

Contrary also to the statement made in the CLASC letter there has been no retaliation by the Government or any agency of the Government of Guyana against the Amerindian people of the area most of whom had nothing to do with the violence, who fled in the wake of the attacks by the ranchers and who have returned to their peaceful pursuits in the region with the restoration of normal conditions. In fact, the only acts of violence involving either in injury to persons or in death have been those of the ranchers themselves perpetrated with the arms and equipment supplied to them by the Venezuelan Government.

The letter from CLASC alleges that thousands of the Amerindian people are members of the Guyana National Confederation of Workers and Peasants, which it claims as an affiliate, and in its final paragraph the organisation purports to speak "in the name of all the workers of Guyana". A trade union called "The Guyana National Confederation of Workers and Peasants" was registered in Guyana in 1964 but it has never become active, has no known membership and has never complied with the requirements of the law regarding filing of annual returns. The Guyana Trades Union Council, which is an affiliate of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), of its regional organisation the Inter-American Regional Organisation of Workers (ORIT) and its sub-regional group the Caribbean Congress of Labour (CCL), represents the great majority of the trade unions operating in Guyana and is the only organisation which can speak in the name of the workers of Guyana. The Guyana Trades Union Council has repeatedly condemned Venezuelan acts of hostility and aggression and of interference in Guyana's internal affairs.

Having regard to the current attempt by Venezuela to disguise her territorial ambitions by a feigned humanitarian concern for the people of Guyana, there is enclosed herewith a copy of a public statement made by the Roman Catholic Bishop of Georgetown, Revd. Richard Lester Guilly, S.J. on his return from the 39th International Eucharistic Congress in Bogota and the Conference of Bishops which followed it. The statement was made on September 10, 1968, and reveals some of the Venezuelan attempts at subversion among the Amerindian people of Guyana.

The Amerindian people of Guyana share in full and equal measure the constitutional guarantees enjoyed by all the citizens of Guyana. In addition, however, the Constitution of Guyana imposes and the Government acknowledges special responsibilities for Amerindian affairs designed to advance the welfare of Amerindian people. These responsibilities are discharged with serious regard by the Government of Guyana within the limits of the country's resources-resources, however, which must inevitably he diverted from development to defence as Venezuelan militarism and subversion become more threatening. In general, in terms of respect for their fundamental human rights Guyana's Amerindian people take second place to the Amerindian people of no other State of Latin America. In particular, they are subject to no discrimination in any area of Guyana's national life.

It is the view of the Government of Guyana that the Human Rights Commission should take no cognizance of the CLASC letter of January 14, 1969. If, however, this letter or any of the allegations it makes is to be discussed by the Commission, it is the wish of the Government of Guyana that it be invited to participate in such proceedings of the Commission and the Government of Guyana will be grateful for this wish to be communicated to the Commission. . .


After the uprising was crushed, claims were made by numerous Guyanese, including some Rupununi Amerindians, that particularly in the northern savannahs the security forces had harassed, and even killed, a large number of Amerindians in putting down the revolt and in their subsequent "mopping up" operations which continued weeks after the revolt ended. Actually, many Amerindians were so fearful of the security forces that they fled over the border to seek refuge in Brazil. The allegation of harassment and killings was subsequently denied by the Guyana Government and the administration of the Guyana Defence Force, both of which claimed that no one was killed in the suppression of the rebels.

The Roman Catholic Bishop of Georgetown, the Reverend R. Lester Guilly, was allowed by the Ministry of Home Affairs to make a four day observation tour of the southern Rupununi Savannahs to see the condition of the Amerindians, most of whom were Roman Catholics. However, he was not allowed to visit the northern Rupununi where the rebellion actually took place. On his return to Georgetown, he reported that at St. Ignatius and Macusi Village (both located near Lethem) the Amerindians were still nervous and that a number of them had fled across the border to Brazil. He said that the old school building was burned to the ground, but little damage was done to the newer school building.

Despite the fact that Bishop Guilly did not actually visit the areas where there were military activities, he concluded: "I am happy to say that I am quite satisfied that there have been no atrocities."

However, the Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Cheddi Jagan, who had applied to the Government to visit the Rupununi District, which was now designated a restricted area to non Amerindians, was refused permission by the Ministry of Home Affairs to visit the area to examine the situation. As a result of this refusal, the PPP sent two of its leading Amerindian members, Eugene Stoby, a Member of Parliament, and Basil James to the Rupununi by the Guyana Airways passenger flight to make on the spot observations. But on landing at the Lethem airfield, they were detained by the GDF authorities and sent back on the return flight to Georgetown where they were rigorously questioned by the police before being released.


Based on the refusal by the Government to allow Dr. Jagan and the two PPP Amerindian members from going to the Rupununi, the party expressed the view that the Government had something to hide and that, most likely, some Amerindians had been killed by the GDF in the suppression of the rebellion. The PPP felt that the Government's statement that no Amerindian was killed in the crushing of the rebellion was untrue since it was apparent that the army met resistance which caused it to burn down a number of buildings in which mainly Amerindian rebels had entrenched themselves. It would be unique, the PPP stated, for an army to crush an armed rebellion without inflicting any loss of life on the rebel forces.

In the July September 1969 issue of Thunder, the theoretical journal of the PPP, Dr. Jagan in an article entitled "What the future holds for Guyana", wrote:

. . . The Government, having ruthlessly crushed the rebellion . . . is moving to militarize our politics. Incessant calls are being made for greater sacrifices to build a bigger army and police so "that our nation can be protected".

The revolt had its origin in a combination of factors-resentment by the people of the Rupununi against the PNC Government for the electoral fraud and the eviction of the United Force from the coalition; dissatisfaction with the Government's high handed action in connection with their leased lands; subversion by Venezuela in its quest for a Guyanese "fifth column".

Venezuela's claim to nearly three fifths of our territory was part of the Anglo American conspiracy. It was resurrected in 1962 to be used as an aggressive weapon against the PPP or any future progressive regime in an independent Guyana. . .

During the past four years this claim was used for jingoistic and diversionary purposes in support of US puppet regimes in both Guyana and Venezuela. In the 1968 election, it served as an intimidatory weapon. The PNC, with its main electoral slogan, "peace not conflict", openly suggested the threat of Venezuelan aggression in case of a PPP victory.

These were the reasons for the failure of the PNC UF coalition to take to the UN Security Council Venezuela's aggression (occupation of the whole of Ankoko Island), threat of aggression (Venezuela's edict authorising its Navy to patrol Guyana's offshore waters), and subversion. The USA, while not wishing to be placed in a position of deciding between Guyana's "right" and Venezuela's "might", wants at the same time the Venezuelan claim to remain open indefinitely.

Indeed, there is every likelihood that the USA either backed or connived at Venezuelan support (military training and refuge) for the Rupununi rebels. This is just one way in which the United States not only expressed disapproval of the expulsion of the pro capitalist imperialist UF from the Government, but also intends to keep the PNC regime in line politically. . .


During early February 1969, the PNC Government rushed a National Security Act through the National Assembly in the face of strong opposition from the PPP. The Government claimed that the Act was aimed at curbing subversion in the country. In the October December 1969 issue of Thunder, under the article, "The Erosion of Civil Liberties", a leading Executive Member of the PPP, Ranji Chandisingh (who later defected to the PNC in 1976) commented on this Act and the aftermath of the Rupununi revolt:

During the debate in Parliament (on the National Security Act of 1969 to restrict the movement of persons within Guyana and to prevent Guyanese leaving the country), Opposition members pointed out that in the vast Rupununi area-following the short lived uprising-the Government imposed administratively a complete ban on persons entering the area. The charge was made that the Government had something to hide; it was not telling the whole truth about the situation in the Rupununi-particularly with respect to the treatment of the Amerindians. There was much speculation as to the number of deaths.

The PPP sent two of its Amerindian members-one an organiser, the other a Member of Parliament-to investigate. They bought airplane tickets from the Guyana Airways Corporation and duly boarded the plane. Shortly after they landed, however, they were rounded up by police and sent back to Georgetown. Even priests who had served in the area were hustled out and prevented from returning. The Government had actually sealed off the entire area, long after there could be any military justification for this. Only Government officials and certain PNC activists were allowed in.

At that time the Government was acting without any legal or constitutional authority. It was only subsequently that the Government-through this Act (National Security Act, 1969)-gave itself legal authority for such action.

Shortly after the National Security Act was passed, a Defence Levy tax of three percent on imported goods was imposed. The aim of this new tax, according to the Government, was to raise revenue to strengthen Guyana's defence capabilities.


Nearly two months after the Rupununi uprising, Prime Minister Burnham invited all Amerindian Touchaus (Chiefs) to Georgetown for a four day conference, from the 28 February to the 3 March 1969, ostensibly aimed at formulating a far reaching programme of Amerindian development. At the end of the conference, the Amerindian chiefs, in condemning the Rupununi revolt, passed the following resolution:

Acknowledging our duties to the State of Guyana and prepared to share also with our brothers in Guyana responsibilities for the development and the defence of Guyana;

Concerned over the claims of Venezuela to that part of Guyana in which many of us live in peace and harmony with the other people of Guyana-hereby declare that we

1. Pledge our whole hearted loyalty to the Government of Guyana which we consider our only Government;

2. Reject the unjust claims of Venezuela to any part of the territory of Guyana;

3. Deplore the action of those misguided persons who conspire with foreigners to the detriment of our State;

4. Condemn all persons who seek to overthrow by force the lawful authority of the Government of Guyana;

5. Call upon all Guyanese to resist by all means any attempt by Venezuela or any other State to take or gain control of any part of Guyana;

6. Inform all nations of the world that we will never agree to the destruction or division of our country or recognise the claim of Venezuela or any other nation to any of the territory of Guyana.


As part of its diplomatic offensive, Guyana used the forum of the 24th session of the UN General Assembly to highlight the failed insurrection. In the general debate on 6 October 1969, Guyana's Attorney General and Minister of External Affairs, Shridath Ramphal, informed the delegates of the Venezuelan involvement in the Rupununi revolt. Of special interest was his statement that the leaders of the revolt were ranchers, "many of whom were not even citizens of Guyana", and all of whom resented the authority of the PNC Government.

On the following day, the Permanent Representative of Venezuela, claiming the right to reply, accused Guyana of using the UN to propagate its internal policies by bringing charges of "invented aggression by Venezuela" before that body. He claimed that the Guyana Government was attempting to draw attention away from the troubled racial situation-left by British imperialism-and from the economic problems facing the country at home. He added that Venezuela was justified in warning foreign companies that their land rights granted by Guyana might not apply when the disputed territory should become "part of Venezuela".

Then on the 8 October, Guyana's Permanent Representative to the UN, Patterson Thompson, in a rebuttal, admitted that Guyana had its share of economic and social problems. But, he said, for Venezuela to attempt to present these matters as a reason for Guyana's justified complaints in the General Assembly against Venezuelan hostility, was to seek the flimsiest pretext for inhibiting discussion in the General Assembly and to divert attention from the real motives underlying that hostility.


Meanwhile, towards the end of the year, the trial of the ten men charged with the murder of the five policemen and two civilians during the uprising began in the Supreme Court in Georgetown. In its case, the prosecution alleged that the men conspired to take over the Rupununi from the administration of the Central Government. Evidence was also introduced to show Venezuela's implication in the rebellion in providing training and arms for the insurrectionists and giving direction to their activities.

On the other hand, the defence urged the jury to return a "not guilty" verdict since the men took part in the uprising under duress because they were afraid for their lives. Finally on 16 January 1970, after both sides had presented their concluding arguments, the jury retired to consider their verdict. After deliberating for over seven hours, they arrived at their verdict shortly before midnight. They acquitted Ignatius Charlie, Anaclito Alicio, Handel Singh, Francis James, Charles Davis, Damian Phillips, and Brenton Singh. However, they failed to agree on a verdict in respect of Colin Melville, Aldwyn Singh, and Patrick Melville. The judge ordered a retrial for these three, but shortly after, the Director of Public Prosecutions dropped all charges against them.


Ironically, a meeting of the Guyana-Venezuela Mixed Commission had just been completed in Caracas just a few days before the plans for the Rupununi uprising and the training of the rebels were finalised with the complicity of the Venezuelan authorities. Subsequently, other meetings of the Mixed Commission were held during 1969 in Barbados in April and in Antigua in June. The Antigua meeting was followed quickly by another in Mexico during the same month. The Commission met again at the end of September in Trinidad and Tobago.


Significantly, it was around this time that the manganese mining company in the North West District (in western Essequibo) closed down its operations. The company which operated at Matthews Ridge for many years was a subsidiary of the giant US corporation, Union Carbide. The company claimed that it closed its operations because it was incurring great financial losses. However, despite the fact that manganese prices on the world market were very favourable, the Guyana Government accepted the excuse from the company and allowed the closure.

The PPP in a statement insisted that the company closed operations because of pressure from Venezuela. The parent body in the USA had larger concessions in Venezuela in the mining of manganese and iron ore and, according to the PPP, it was politically more feasible to continue working there than in Guyana.

It was not until twelve years after, in 1981, when Venezuela renewed its agitation to press its claim to western Essequibo did the PNC Government finally agree with the statement by the PPP.

top of pageTop of Page  

Back to table of contents



Guyana constitutionally became a Republic on the 23 February 1970 and there was much pomp and ceremony to inaugurate and celebrate the occasion. However, the celebrations which commenced a few days before Republic Day were momentarily interrupted when it was revealed that the Venezuelan army had attacked a Guyana military outpost at Eteringbang near to Ankoko Island on the 21 February. Four days before this incident a report emanating from Caracas that shots were fired from the Guyana outpost on the Venezuelans on Ankoko Island was denied by the Guyana authorities.


On the 23 February the Guyana Ministry of Defence issued the following statement:

Commencing at 18:13 hours on Saturday February 21st, Venezuelan armed personnel on Ankoko Island carried out an attack on the Guyana outpost at Eteringbang. The attack, directed against the Guyana Defence Force and Police camps and against civilian property in the area, was carried out by mortar and machine-gun fire. Firing continued intermittently. At dawn on Sunday February 22nd, firing again commenced from the Venezuelan side and again took the form of heavy mortar shelling, supplemented by machine-gun fire. Firing continued throughout the morning. Later in the day mortar emplacements mounted along the Venezuelan bank of the Cuyuni River again shelled the Eteringbang outpost. At no stage in any of these attacks were there retaliation by Guyana personnel.

The first attack on the Guyana post at 18:13 hours on Saturday February 21st began as the official celebrations to mark the inauguration of the Republic of Guyana commenced in Georgetown, and the attacks on Sunday February 22nd came on the eve of the inauguration of the Republic.

At 00:45 hours on Sunday February 22nd, the Minister of State delivered a verbal protest on these incidents to the Venezuelan Ambassador in Georgetown, and late last night, the Ministry of External Affairs in Georgetown delivered a Note to the Venezuelan Embassy protesting in the strongest terms these recent attacks on Guyana's territorial integrity, and calling upon the Government of Venezuela to provide adequate compensation for the damage done.

Late last night there were further reports of increased Venezuelan activity in other border regions. These reports and developments were being carefully studied and watched by the Guyana authorities.

The incidents surrounding the attack on the Guyana outpost were shortly after brought to the attention of the UN Security Council following another Note of Protest delivered to the Venezuelan Government.

According to the Guyana Graphic of the 25 February, there were reports up to the day before of intermittent firing by the Venezuelans into Guyanese territory, but there could be no confirmation of casualties. In a statement the Guyana Ministry of Defence on the 24 February maintained that "at no stage in any of the attacks was there retaliation by Guyanese personnel".

A Reuter report from Caracas on the 24 February stated that while there was a Venezuelan troop build-up in the Ankoko area, and Venezuelan soldiers were evacuating civilians from all areas of Ankoko Island. The report added that more than 100 families were removed, while about 100 students of a Catholic school were also evacuated.

Another report by Reuter from Caracas four days later stated that President Rafael Caldera on the 27 February urged the people and Government of Guyana not to consider Venezuela as an enemy and to realize that his country was not interested in war. He insisted that the Note handed to the UN by Guyana charging Venezuela with acts of aggression lacked justification.


The Mixed Commission, meanwhile, had held a session in Buenos Aires, Argentina, during December 1969. It then held its final working session in Kingston, Jamaica, from the 13 to 16 February 1970. At this meeting it was agreed that the Commission would meet again to prepare its Final Report to be submitted to the Governments of Guyana, Venezuela and Great Britain. Two such meeting were held - one in April and the other in May. Finally on the 18 June 1970, the Final Report was signed and submitted to the respective Governments.

The Final Report admitted that the Mixed Commission had failed to find any satisfactory solutions for the practical settlement of the border issue. However, a number of press reports of that period indicated that while the Mixed Commission was mainly concerned with "seeking satisfactory solutions for the practical settlement" of the controversy arising from the Venezuelan contention that the Arbitral Award of 1899 was null and void, the Commission was caught up during many of its meetings with studying the question of "joint development". A Ministry of Foreign Affairs booklet, Memorandum on the Guyana/Venezuela Boundary, published in May 1981, explained the position taken by Venezuela in meetings of the Mixed Commission:

Surprisingly, Venezuela's reaction was that the issue of nullity, which she had raised, was not an issue with which the Mixed Commission should concern itself, and that the only issue before the Commission was how much land Guyana was prepared to make over to Venezuela. Guyana not unnaturally declined to proceed in that way. Venezuela then sought to circumvent argument about her contention of nullity by putting forward proposals for the "joint development" of the area claimed by her under arrangements which would effectively have transferred to her substantial elements of sovereignty over the area. These "joint development" proposals were consequently unacceptable to Guyana.


Venezuela came in for some scathing attacks by Prime Minister Burnham during his speech in the capacity of PNC Leader at the Thirteenth Annual Congress of the party held in Georgetown from the 2 to 8 April 1970. In the course of his main address he said:

When one considers the size of Venezuela, its wealth and its thousands of square miles of undeveloped land (more than the whole of Guyana), one finds it impossible to square its avarice with its oft repeated protestations of peaceful intentions and love for freedom. Can it be that the mineral wealth of Essequibo excites its avarice? Can it be that ours is the only non-white republic on the American continent explains it? Why do the Venezuelan leaders seek to subvert the Amerindian section of our population? Why do they, with their problems of guerrillas, university violence, assassination of the brother of a Foreign Minister, seek to suggest that we are seeking to create diversions to turn attention from our internal problems - problems which are minuscule as compared with theirs? We have no territorial ambitions; we want to rule no one but ourselves. All we ask is to be allowed to develop in peace and without interference from outside, our Guyana for ourselves.

During the life of the Mixed Commission which came to an end in February this year, we offered them an opportunity to establish that the Award of 1899 was void. This they did not or could not undertake but proceeded with irritations and provocative, the latest on the eve of the day of the Republic.

Meanwhile, we continue talks at the official level with respect to the new stage as provided by the Geneva Agreement. We have also informed the United Nations Security Council and our friends abroad, especially those who are members of the UN.

I cannot with certainty prophesy where it will all end. Even the alternatives I calculate cannot be discussed. But this I know: we have friends in the councils of the world who understand, appreciate and sympathise actively with our case, but in the final analysis, Guyana's defence, like Guyana's development, has to be undertaken by Guyana's people. It places a strain on our resources, but these are better strained than lost….

top of pageTop of Page  

Back to table of contents




Early in April 1970, Sir Humphrey Waldock and Sir Francis Vallat, the London-based legal advisers on the international law aspects of the border controversy with Venezuela, arrived in Georgetown for discussions with Prime Minister Burnham and the Minister of State Ramphal, as well as to gain a first hand knowledge of the geography of the border area. These legal advisers were recruited earlier in the year.

Between 6-8 April, an extensive tour was made of the border area including an aerial view of Ankoko and a brief stop at Eteringbang. The Party included the Solicitor General, the Chief Interior Development Officer, the Commissioner of Lands and Mines, and the Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of the border areas. The Legal Advisers were thus able on the tour to get not only a comprehensive picture of the geography of the area but also a fair idea of the degree of effective occupation and control exercised by Guyana over the last 50 years.

On their return to the United Kingdom the legal advisers submitted a preliminary report on their assessment of the question of whether it was in Guyana's interest to refer the territorial issue to the International Court of Justice. It was a source of great reassurance to the Guyana Government to find that their assessment supported the Government's view that the risks involved in a reference to the ICJ would be minimal


After the Eteringbang incidents and the end of the Mixed Commission, it was clear that some form of dialogue was necessary between the Governments of Guyana and Venezuela to explore all possibilities in order to bring about better relations between the two countries, and to provide a basis for effecting a final solution to the controversy arising out of Venezuela's claim to Guyanese territory.

At the Final Working Session of the Mixed Commission which was held in Jamaica in February 1970, it was agreed to postpone for three months, i.e. until May 16, 1970, the date on which the Final Report would be signed and submitted to the Governments of Guyana, Venezuela and Great Britain. It was also then agreed to have a preparatory meeting during the first week in April at which the format of the Report would be discussed. This intermediate meeting however never materialised as the Guyana delegation deferred to the plea of Dr. Gonsalo Garcia Bustillos, the head of the Venezuelan delegation, that the pressure of his commitments as Venezuela's Ambassador to the Organisation of American States made it inconvenient for him to be away from Washington on the actual dates subsequently proposed for the meeting.

The rationale of the agreement to postpone for three months the date of the submission of the Final Report was the wish of both Governments. The postponement was to allow for a longer period of time during which an agreement could be reached as regards the method to be pursued for finding a solution to the problem in accordance with Article IV of the Geneva Agreement.

The two Governments also agreed that at the proposed May 16 meeting of the Mixed Commission, the Final Report would be drafted to finality. It was further agreed that the actual signing and submission to the Governments would be delayed pending a possible fruitful outcome of the Official Level meetings, the conclusions of which could then be included in the Final Report as a positive recommendation of the Mixed Commission.

The Members of the Mixed Commission accordingly met in Caracas on May 14, 1970. From the very first day, however, it was apparent that the Venezuela delegation had no intention of working towards the production of a Final Report. The Guyana delegation had arrived prepared with its version of the draft Final Report, a brief document which, in sum, noted that the Commissioners had failed to agree on the precise interpretation of Article I of the Geneva Agreement, that discussion on proposals for economic cooperation and development had proved inconclusive, and that, accordingly, the Governments should proceed in accordance with Article IV of the Agreement.

The Venezuela delegation rejected the approach taken by Guyana holding to the view that the Final Report should reflect an "historical synthesis" of the four years work of the Commission including the parts played by the respective members in an effort to find a solution. The Venezuela Commissioners however made no attempt during the Meeting to do any constructive work on the preparation of their version although they confessed that in private sessions they had been experiencing difficulties in preparing a draft even acceptable to themselves. In the circumstances the best that the Guyana delegation could do was to exact a commitment from their counterparts to work on and submit within a week a draft for Guyana's consideration.

With the aim of bring about better relations between the two countries, and to provide a basis for effecting a final solution to the controversy, officials from both Governments met on a number of occasions between March and June 1970 to attempt to find a basis for settling within reasonable limits, all outstanding difficulties. The representatives of Guyana at these meetings were Solicitor General, Mohamed Shahabuddeen, Minister-Counsellor of the Guyana Embassy in Caracas, Rudolph Insanally, and Principal Assistant Secretary of the Ministry of External Affairs, Rudolph Collins. Dr. Ann Jardim joined the delegation in May shortly after she was appointed Ambassador to Venezuela.

The Venezuelan Government was represented by Dr. M. Perez Chiriboga, Director of International Policy of the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dr. L. Herrera Marcano, Special Adviser to the Foreign Ministry, and Dr. R. Rojas Cabot, Venezuela's Ambassador to Guyana.

Six Official Level Meetings were held between the two Governments, with the final one convening in Georgetown on June 3, 1970.

At the fourth meeting which was held in Caracas on May 18 immediately following the end of the Mixed Commission session, the question of the Final Report was raised by the Guyana Officials who recorded their dissatisfaction at the breach of understanding regarding the preparation of that Report. It was explained to the Guyana Officials that the Venezuela Commissioners were indeed experiencing difficulties in the preparation of the document. It was also stated that a new element had arisen in that the Government of Venezuela no longer felt that the Final Report should include conclusions reached at the Official Level Meetings.

The Guyana officials pointed out that there would be enormous difficulties in securing agreement on the text of the kind of document as contemplated by the Venezuela Commissioners and that negotiations in this regard would possibly drag on for an interminable period of time to the detriment of the Guyana Government's ability to conclude an agreement under Article IV of the Geneva Agreement.

This fact was appreciated and as a compromise it was proposed by the Venezuela officials that Guyana and Venezuela should submit a joint Final Report along the lines of the Guyana draft but that each delegation would submit a separate document outlining its own version of what took place. Guyana agreed with this proposal in view of the importance which she attached to the necessity of submitting a Final Report which act would then keep operative the extant Articles of the Geneva Agreement.

At the Official Level Meetings it was also decided to suspend the search for a solution under a moratorium arrangement during which programmes of economic cooperation would be discussed and implemented where possible. The events at Eteringbang of in February 1970 coupled with our unabated fears of possible Venezuelan military intervention had moved the Government of Guyana to insist that Venezuela's acceptance of a neutral observer presence was a sin qua non to its acceptance of any proposals for economic cooperation. The Guyana Officials were at pains to explain that Guyana's proposal for a neutral observer presence did not necessarily mean the existence of a permanent physical presence on the border but rather that there should be agreement on the need for such team which would visit the border area at agreed intervals and which would be on call should any incidents occur along the border. The added advantage of having such a team would be that any hostility on the frontier would be immediately investigated, such investigation serving to localize the area of conflict and prevent its escalation to the point of frustrating the moratorium and the programmes of economic cooperation. Despite these assurances Venezuela rejected out of hand Guyana's proposals for a neutral observer presence.

Subsequent to the deadlock that ensued the Government of Venezuela through their officials, proposed that the issue of Venezuela's claim to a portion of Guyana's territory be settled by Arbitration under the principle of ex aequo et bono, the Arbitrators being given full scope to determine their own terms of reference as is the practice under customary international law relating to arbitral proceedings. It was further contended that should the Government of Guyana agree to this proposal, Venezuela would regard the existence of the controversy with Guyana as having been settled and in this regard would formally undertake at the June 1970 Meeting of OAS Foreign Ministers to propose and support the entry of Guyana into the Inter-American System.

The Government of Guyana saw little merit in a recourse to a second Arbitral Tribunal having regard to the fact that Venezuela was discrediting the work of the previous Arbitral Tribunal of 1899. The Government of Guyana further indicated that the very objections which the Government of Venezuela was raising with respect to the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal might conceivably be equally raised with respect to any subsequent Arbitral Tribunal and that recourse to the International Court of Justice would be a more practical and definitive means of resolving the issue. A formal proposal for a reference to the International Court of Justice was therefore made by the Government of Guyana at a meeting of officials on May 10, 1970 in Georgetown on the basis that the Court should decide whether the existing boundary between Guyana and Venezuela as demarcated pursuant to the Arbitral Award of 1899 was binding on both parties. The Government of Venezuela rejected this counter proposal.

This further deadlock was broken by the Guyana proposal that the Government of Guyana was prepared to accept a straight moratorium arrangement without any programme of economic cooperation and without a neutral observer presence provided that the duration of the moratorium was a sufficiently long one to allow for the creation of a climate of improved relations between the two countries.

The Government of Venezuela accepted this proposal, and the last three meetings at official level were concerned with hammering out the details of this agreed arrangement. These discussions although frank, open and free from bitterness and hostility, were characterised by a great deal of tough hard bargaining on both sides and the effort appears to be producing significant rewards.


By June 1970, provisional agreement was reached on the terms of a Protocol to the Geneva Agreement. This proposed Protocol provided for a moratorium of twelve (12) years, renewable for successive periods of twelve years or, by subsequent agreement of the Governments, for periods of not less than five (5) years. It provided for unilateral termination at the end of the initial period (or at the end of any of the subsequent renewal periods) but stipulated that such termination automatically revived the operation of Article IV of the Geneva Agreement. It was also agreed that termination for any cause whatsoever - and this referred to a premature termination of the moratorium as opposed to the end of any agreed period - would also revive Article IV of the Geneva Agreement.

The terms of the agreed Protocol spelled out the fact that no claims shall be made by either Government on the territorial sovereignty of the other and recognised that the promotion of a constructive climate of friendship and goodwill was essential to the success of the moratorium.

This draft Protocol had been arrived at on the basis of a common understanding at official level as to the precise meaning of some of its more significant Articles with respect to the further prosecution of the claim by Venezuela during the period of the moratorium. It was jointly understood for example that Venezuela will not attempt to discourage investment in the Essequibo Region nor will she continue to publish and issue maps designed to show territory in Guyana as being under claim by or as a part of Venezuela unless such maps bore a date prior to the date of the Protocol.

With regard to the maps and other documents published by Venezuela showing western Essequibo as Venezuelan territory, the officials on both sides actually drafted a joint agreement relating to this issue. The draft agreement stated:

Note of Understandings reached during negotiations on the Protocol of Port-of-Spain as recorded in identical form by each Government.

The Minister of External Relations of Venezuela, in the name of the President of the Republic, stated to the Minister of State for External Affairs of Guyana the intention of the Government of Venezuela not to proceed, during the remainder of the current constitutional period, with the publication of official maps dated after the date of the Protocol or with the publication of postage stamps or other representations or writings which have reference to the claim, by way of demonstration of its good will in the execution of the provisions of the Protocol.

The Government of Venezuela would value the word of the President of the Republic being considered sufficient by the Government of Guyana.

The Minister of State of Guyana accepted the undertaking given in the name of the President of the Republic of Venezuela and expressed the hope that, in conformity with the spirit of the Protocol, the undertaking would be continued beyond the end of the current constitutional period by the then appropriate authorities of Venezuela.


Shridath Ramphal's strong advocacy for the proposed Protocol was clearly stated in the following letter he wrote to Rahman Gajraj, Guyana's Ambassador to the United States on 6 June 1970:

Ministry of External Affairs
Georgetown, Guyana.

6 June 1970.

His Excellency Rahman B. Gajraj
Guyana Embassy, WASHINGTON

Dear Ambassador,

This letter concerns current negotiations with Venezuela and the prospects of an early accord in the form of a Protocol to the Geneva Agreement.

2. My secret and personal letters of February 14 and April 3, 1970, brought you up to date on the initiatives we took earlier in the year and the progress we had made towards deciding on the next step consequent on the termination of the life of the Mixed Commission. In the third paragraph of my letter of April 3, I suggested that "in the last resort a moratorium without commitment to economic cooperation might be better than disagreement and a reference to the Secretary General". This in brief is what has resulted from the several discussions at Official level that are now culminating in substantial agreement.

3. It is to be a moratorium simpliciter for an initial period of 12 years. It is not related to any programme of development (whether multinational or otherwise) for the Essequibo region or for Guyana and Venezuela generally. It does not provide for an international observer presence. From our point of view, it is a straightforward agreement that, for the next 12 years at least, Venezuela will not assert her claim to the area.

4. I say the next 12 years at least because the arrangement is designed to encourage its perpetual renewal. At the end of the initial period (or of any period of renewal) the moratorium is automatically renewed for a further period of 12 years unless either party by six months prior notice takes steps to terminate it. This is subject only to a minor qualification to the effect that the parties may agree to its renewal from time to time for periods of shorter than 12 years, although not less than 5 years.

5. The discouragement of the exercise of the termination clause lies in what happens once this is done. In fact, Article IV of the Geneva Agreement which requires Guyana and Venezuela to agree on the next step for the peaceful settlement of the controversy and, failing agreement, to refer the matter to the Secretary General of the UN for his determination of what that next step should be is held in suspense during the life of the Protocol When the Protocol is terminated (whether by breach or by termination under its provisions) Article IV will revive and Venezuela will be under an obligation either to agree with us on the procedure to be followed or to let the matter go to the Secretary General for him to determine what course should be taken.

6. Coupled with the Protocol, although not spelled out in it, is an understanding for certain steps to be taken to ease tension and avoid incidents along the border. This is essentially the demilitarisation idea and we hope to implement it through a Joint Committee which will work out ways and means of reducing military personnel and equipment along the border line. It is also our hope that this Committee will be a standing bilateral observer team to deal with incidents as they arise and before they assume confrontation proportions.

7. For political reasons (particularly in Venezuela) it is preferable that this matter be dealt with through ad hoc machinery than on the basis of obligations undertaken in the Protocol. As the matter stands, we will announce the establishment of the Committee in a communiqué to be issued at the end of my meeting with Calvani and give a reasonably clear indication of its role and functions - without using the word "demilitarisation". The communiqué will emphasise that the Committee will work out steps to be taken by each Government in exercise of its sovereign powers - the language by which the Venezuelan Government will explain to their military that the Protocol does not impose restraints on national sovereignty particularly as affects the Army.

8. In the communiqué also will be a reference to agreement reached at the Ministerial meeting that no action will be taken by either Government to the detriment of development or economic growth and progress of the other's territory. This is the way in which we are seeking to undo the discouragement of investment produced by past Venezuela action and to prevent its recurrence.

9. In addition, the communiqué is likely to deal with a matter which has caused us much difficulty, namely, the publication by Venezuela of maps showing the Essequibo region shaded in as an area under claim from Guyana. It is arguable that the publication of such maps is an assertion of a claim contrary to Article II of the Protocol. It is also arguable contra that since the Protocol merely suspends the claim a map of this kind merely alludes to its existence and does not constitute its prosecution. In addition, however, the Venezuelans have said that it would be impossible for them politically to terminate the publication of maps so drawn since this will be taken as a factual abandonment of the claim and they will be hard put to answering their critics when their basic defence to the Protocol is that Venezuela is not abandoning the claim but merely freezing its prosecution in order better to explore all the possibilities of better relations with Guyana.

10. We have tried to meet them on this, but the matter is not yet finally settled. Our proposal is, however, (and this is almost our last position) that no such map will be issued unless it bears an endorsement to the effect that it is subject to the Protocol and to the communiqué issued at the end of the Ministerial meeting. The importance of the reference to the communiqué is that the communiqué will contain a statement that the publication of such a map could not be relied upon by the party publishing it in support of a claim to the shaded territory. The Venezuelans can probably live with the arrangement. What is bothering them at the moment is its inclusion in the communiqué. For our part, we must have it in a document which can be referred to. At the moment we see no alternative to the communiqué.

11. In addition to this formula of endorsement the Venezuelans will undertake (although they will not agree to this being recorded) that during Caldera's regime no new map of this kind will be produced although, of course, existing ones will continue to be issued with the endorsement.

I am enclosing for you -

(a) a copy of the Protocol, the text of which is now agreed;

(b) a copy of the communiqué, the text of which is still open especially as regards the second sentence of the first paragraph on page 2 dealing with maps; and

(c) a copy of a draft agenda for my meeting with Calvani.

12. I need to say a further word about Ankoko and Guyana's territorial sea. As regards the former our contention is that Venezuela's occupation of the eastern half of the Island is in violation of Article II of the Protocol. They will contend that it is not, their point being that their claim to the eastern half is based not on their contention that the Arbitral Award is null and void but on their occupation and use over the years - all of which is, of course, spurious. They make it clear to us that politically they cannot withdraw from the eastern half of the Island at this stage and the result is a live and let live arrangement. We have made it clear that we shall continue to demand their withdrawal and that the Protocol in no way inhibits us from doing so. They understand this. The reference to Ankoko in the words in square brackets under item 2 of the draft agenda refers to my reiteration of this to Calvani during our meeting.

13. The reference to the territorial sea touches on the Leoni Decree which likewise they say they cannot rescind at this stage. We have told them, however, that it is our intention to enlarge Guyana's territorial sea beyond 12 miles (I have in mind 50) and that we wish them to be aware of our intentions before signing the Protocol. They have acknowledged the reasonableness of doing so. Our understanding is that if and when we do so they will send us a note regarding the 9 miles which they claim under the Presidential Decree and to which we will respond suitably. I do not envisage other difficulties beyond this.

14. It is perhaps too early yet for rejoicing. We will not know until next week whether everything is buttoned up at the Caracas end. If we reach agreement substantially on the lines of the Protocol and the communiqué, I believe that we will have done well. We will have gained a minimum of 12 years of peace on the border or at least a reasonable expectation of it. We will have removed the bogey of restraint on investment and immeasurably enlarge our options on the development of the hinterland. Above all, we will have given ourselves a breather during these important years of social and economic change and adjustment when we shall need all our energies for the battles that are to be fought at home.

15. It means also that we need a new orientation on Guyana/Venezuela relations. As I see it, it must be our aim to make this Protocol last forever. If we are to achieve this we must so contrive our relations with Venezuela that it would be unthinkable at the end of 12 years or any period of renewal thereafter that Venezuela could terminate the truce and reopen the firing. This will take much effort, particularly since it will involve a mental adjustment no less than a change of posture. The irritant of Ankoko will make this more difficult still, but there is little doubt in my mind that if we pursue the right policies we can improve our position even in this area. In all these efforts you will, of course, have your own part to play. What that should be we can talk about at the Heads of Missions meeting.

16. A point on procedure. The Final Report of the Mixed Commission is still to be settled. Both sides are now engaged on drafting, and the programme is as follows for meetings in Port of Spain:

June 12, 13, 14 - Final meeting, Mixed Commission ending with signing of Final Report.

June 15, 16 - Ramphal/Calvani meeting beginning with receipt of Final Report and ending with signing of Protocol and issue of communiqué.

You should know that the United Kingdom will be a party to the Protocol. They are now fully in the picture and their High Commissioner in Trinidad is being authorised to sign. We hope that taking this final step in Trinidad will he acknowledged as a gesture to Dr. Williams for the helpful role he has played in promoting the discussions. I also hope it will help in the processes of rehabilitation at work in Trinidad and Tobago.

17. I must add finally that all of this is still highly confidential. With so many meetings taking place rumours are now around. I had to sit hard on the Evening Post for a story that we were on the point of agreeing to joint development. I daresay you will be pressed for information. Even at this late stage matters could still go sour through the wrong publicity.


(S. S. Ramphal)
Attorney General & Minister of State


The work of the officials, who had meetings in Tobago, Georgetown and Caracas, prepared the ground for a meeting between the Minister of State of Guyana, Shridath Ramphal, and the Venezuelan Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr. Aristides Calvani, on the 16 and 17 June 1970 in Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago. Eric Williams, the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, played an important role in arranging this meeting and in getting both Venezuela and Guyana to reach agreement on the final text of the Protocol (which was signed at the end of the meeting). The proposed agreement relating to the publication of maps and postage stamps by Venezuela was never signed. United States officials were very instrumental in encouraging Williams to act as mediator and, most likely, the US view on the border issue was made known to both countries by the Prime Minister. The British High Commissioner to Trinidad and Tobago also signed the Protocol. At the end of the meeting, after the submission of the Final Report of the Mixed Commission, the following Protocol, known as the Protocol of Port of Spain, was signed on the 18 June 1970:


The Government of Guyana, the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the Government of Venezuela,

Having received on this date the Final Report dated 18th June, 1970 of the Mixed Commission established by the Agreement between the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in consultation with the Government of British Guiana, and the Government of Venezuela, signed at Geneva on the 17th February, 1966, hereinafter referred to as the Geneva Agreement;

Convinced that the promotion of mutual confidence and positive and friendly intercourse between Guyana and Venezuela will lead to an improvement in their relations befitting neighbouring and peace-loving nations, have agreed as follows:


So long as this Protocol remains in force and subject to the following provisions the Government of Guyana and the Government of Venezuela shall explore all possibilities of better understanding between them and between their peoples and in particular shall undertake periodical reviews, through normal diplomatic channels, of their relations with a view of promoting their improvement and with the aim of producing a constructive advancement of the same.


(1) So long as this Protocol remains in force no claim whatever arising out of the contention referred to in Article I of the Geneva Agreement shall be asserted by Venezuela to territorial sovereignty in the territories of Guyana or by Guyana to territorial sovereignty in the territories of Venezuela.

(2) In this Article, the references to the territories of Guyana and the territories of Venezuela shall have the same meaning as the references to the territories of British Guiana and the territories of Venezuela respectively in the Geneva Agreement.


So long as this Protocol remains in force the operation of Article IV of the Geneva Agreement shall be suspended. On the date when this Protocol ceases to be in force the functioning of that Article shall be resumed at the point at which it has been suspended, that is to say, as if the Final Report of the Mixed Commission had been submitted on that date, unless the Government of Guyana and the Government of Venezuela have first jointly declared in writing that they have reached full agreement for the solution of the controversy referred to in the Geneva Agreement or that they have agreed upon one of the means of peaceful settlement provided for in Article 33 of the Charter of the United Nations.


(1) So long as this Protocol remains in force Article V of the Geneva Agreement (without prejudice to its further operation after this Protocol ceases to be in force) shall have effect in relation to this Protocol as it has effect in relation to that Agreement, subject to the substitution for the words "British Guiana" wherever they occur in that Article of the word "Guyana" and subject to the deletion from Paragraph (2) of that Article of the following phrases: -

(a) ", except insofar as such acts or activities result from any agreement reached by the Mixed Commission and accepted in writing by the Government of Guyana and the Government of Venezuela"; and

(b) ", nor shall any claim whatsoever be asserted otherwise than in the Mixed Commission while that Commission is in being".

(2) The signing and continuance of this Protocol shall not be interpreted in any way as a renunciation or diminution of any rights which any of the parties may have on the date on which this Protocol is signed or a recognition of any situation, practice or claim existing at that date.


(1) This Protocol shall remain in force for an initial period of twelve years, renewable thereafter, subject to the provisions of this Article, for successive periods of twelve years each.

(2) Before the expiration either of the initial period or of any period of renewal the Government of Guyana and the Government of Venezuela may by agreement in writing decide that with effect from the end of any such period this Protocol shall continue in force for successive periods of renewal each less than twelve years but not less than five years.

(3) This Protocol may be terminated at the expiration of the initial period or of any period of renewal if, at least six months before the date on which it may be terminated, either the Government of Guyana or the Government of Venezuela gives to the other Government parties to this Protocol a notice in writing to that effect.

(4) Unless terminated in accordance with Paragraph (3) of this Article, this Protocol shall be deemed to have been renewed at the end of the initial period or at the end of any period of renewal, as the case may be, in accordance with the provisions of this Article.


This Protocol to the Geneva Agreement shall be referred to as the Protocol of Port of Spain and shall come into force on the date of its signature.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF the undersigned, being duly authorised thereto by their respective Governments, have signed this Protocol.

Done in triplicate at Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, this 18th day of June, 1970, in the English and Spanish languages, both texts being equally authoritative.

Minister of State

(signed) R.C.C. HUNTE
High Commissioner for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Trinidad and Tobago

Minister of External Relations


The following communiqué was issued after the Protocol was signed:

The Minister of State of Guyana, Mr. Shridath S. Ramphal, and the Minister of Foreign Relations of Venezuela, Dr. Aristides Calvani, met in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, on the 18th June, 1970.

Discussions between the two Ministers covered a wide range of topics of concern to both countries.

They reaffirmed their belief in the principles of the United Nations Charter as cardinal precepts in the foreign policies of their respective countries.

In particular, the two Ministers reiterated, in the name of their respective Governments and peoples, that the peaceful settlement of international disputes is the most constructive means for the maintenance of international harmony and good relations among all peoples.

With respect to relations between the two countries, the Ministers and a representative of the Government of the United Kingdom signed, on behalf of their Governments, the Protocol of Port of Spain with the aim of promoting mutual confidence and positive and friendly intercourse between Guyana and Venezuela leading to an improvement in their relations befitting neighbouring and peace-loving nations.

The Ministers analysed the difficulties that in the past affected the relations between both countries and agreed that a patient effort would be needed fully to secure the harmony which the Protocol now made possible and that certain steps in this direction could be taken immediately.

The Ministers attached special importance to Article I of the Protocol and recognised that it required Guyana and Venezuela to take, "as quickly as possible, all measures necessary to secure a reduction of tension and an avoidance of incidents in all areas where contact between them created the possibilities of the occurrence of any incidents". The Ministers recognised in particular that incidents of this kind involving personnel under the authority of either Government could prejudice the objective of creating a better understanding between the Governments of Guyana and Venezuela. They accordingly agreed to the early establishment of a Joint Committee comprising two representatives of each Government to examine ways and means of achieving that reduction of tension and avoidance of incidents through the exercise by each Government of its sovereign powers in a spirit of moderation and good will.

The Ministers considered that these immediate steps would demonstrate the determination of both Governments to implement the provisions of the Protocol with all earnestness. They were convinced, moreover, that if during its continuance the spirit no less than the letter of the Protocol governed the conduct of the Governments and the peoples of the two countries, understanding, confidence and friendship would be achieved.

The Ministers recalled that the initial conversations at official level were held in Tobago in March 1970. They expressed their gratitude to the Government of Trinidad and Tobago for their co-operation and support in the holding of these conversations and for the excellence of the facilities provided for the holding of the Ministerial meeting in Port of Spain. The Ministers placed on record their particular appreciation of the personal efforts of the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, the Right Honourable Dr. Eric Williams, P.C., in making it possible for these conversations and discussions to have been held with such satisfactory results.


On the afternoon of the 18 June 1970, Guyana's Prime Minister, Forbes Burnham, in an effort to explain the meaning of the Protocol, made the following statement in the National Assembly:

...At 10.00 a.m. today the Honourable Attorney General and Minister of State, on behalf of the Government of Guyana, signed in Port of Spain, Trinidad, a Protocol to the Geneva Agreement of 1966.

The signing of the Protocol came at the conclusion of discussions between the Honourable Minister and the Foreign Minister of Venezuela, Dr. Aristides Calvani. Also signing the Protocol was the High Commissioner for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Sir Roland Hunte, acting on behalf of the British Government. The Government of the United Kingdom, it will be recalled, were parties to the Geneva Agreement and remained parties after Guyana became independent.

Immediately prior to the Ministerial discussions, the Mixed Commission established under the Geneva Agreement had submitted to the Governments concerned their Final Report in which they formally notified the Governments of their failure to find a solution to the controversy referred to them under the Agreement. The Ministerial discussions were primarily concerned with the steps to be taken consequent on the submission of that Report.

The Protocol provided for a minimum period during which Venezuela undertakes not to assert any claim to sovereignty over the Essequibo Region of Guyana, and Guyana to assert no claim to Venezuelan territory, and both Governments agree to promote a closer understanding between them and their peoples. The initial period of the protocol is twelve years but it may well be of indefinite duration since it is automatically renewable. It could be terminated by either side at certain stated intervals; but it has a guaranteed minimum life of twelve years.

The Protocol does not replace the Geneva Agreement. While it is in force Article IV of the Geneva Agreement is suspended. If it ever comes to an end, for whatever reason, Article IV of the Geneva Agreement will be automatically revived and all the procedures provided in that Article will be available to the parties.

I need hardly remind this House that Guyana has never asserted any claim to Venezuelan territory. The Protocol, therefore, imposes on Guyana only the obligation of exploring new ways and means of improving our relations with our neighbour to the west and, in the language of the preamble to the Protocol, of promoting mutual confidence and positive and friendly intercourse between Guyana and Venezuela as befitting neighbouring and peace-loving nations.

If we are to be successful in achieving these aims of the Protocol, it is of course essential that incidents on the border be avoided. Article I of the Protocol permits this to be done through agreement between the two Governments, and it is in this context that I would refer Honourable Members to the Communiqué issued at the conclusion of the Ministerial discussions in Port of Spain.

In their Communiqué, the Ministers expressed the special importance which they attached to that Article of the protocol and their recognition "that it required Guyana and Venezuela to take as quickly as possible, all measures necessary to secure a reduction of tension and an avoidance of incidents in all areas where contact between them created the possibility of the occurrence of any incidents.

The Communiqué goes on to explain the agreement that has been reached in this context for the early establishment of a Joint Committee of the two Governments charged with working out ways and means of achieving that reduction of tension and securing that avoidance of incidents.

As the Communiqué states, these are immediate steps which serve to demonstrate the earnestness of both Governments in implementing the provisions of the Protocol. My Government attaches the greatest importance to these arrangements and the climate of normalcy on our borders which they are designed to secure.

We share in full measure the conviction expressed in the Communiqué that if, during the continuance of the Protocol, its spirit no less than its letter governs the conduct of the Government and peoples of the two countries, understanding, confidence and friendship may over the next twelve years, and beyond, replace the suspicions, mistrust and hostilities of the last five years.

What we have done today is to bring an immediate end to tension and spiralling discord between our countries. What lies ahead is to build on this foundation of accord so that all differences between us may be resolved by peaceful means.

The Protocol, of course, will not transform our relations overnight. Much patient effort will be needed to overtake five years of strained relations and to secure that harmony which the Protocol now makes possible.

Outstanding problems, having their origins in policies of the last five years could further increase these difficulties. Thus the continued occupation by Venezuela of the eastern half of Ankoko Island will make all our tasks more difficult. We must continue to work for its termination even as we explore the possibilities of better understanding in other areas.

The conclusion of the Protocol and the arrangements associated with it represent a new period of mutual respect accompanied by a patient search for understanding. These principles must guide us in the years ahead. If they do, the Protocol thus will have served well, not only Guyana and Venezuela, but the Hemisphere itself - and there can be no reason why the regime of peace which the Protocol establishes should ever end.


Two days after the Protocol of Port of Spain was signed, the PPP issued this statement: The Geneva Agreement gave status and recognition to the Venezuelan claim to Guyana's territory and the excuse to Venezuela to occupy Ankoko and to commit other aggressive acts.

The Port of Spain Protocol will permit the continued occupation of Ankoko and the maintenance of the status quo and operations within the framework of the inter-American system.

The periodic reviews as in the past will achieve nothing except a waste of taxpayers' money and the excuse to Venezuela to commit further acts of intimidation and aggression.

The PPP has said that the Guyana Government has acted in a cowardly manner by refusing to bring Venezuela's aggression to the UN Security Council despite the bold statements of "not an inch of territory" and "not a blade of grass".

The Geneva Agreement was part of the Anglo-American conspiracy to maintain Guyana as a neo-colonial state. The Trinidad Protocol is another step in the same direction.

The PPP condemns the PNC Government for signing this Protocol and calls on it to pursue the steps outlined in the Geneva Agreement to settle the issue once and for all, and put an end to this period of marking time.


A Motion to ratify the Protocol of Port of Spain was presented to the Guyanese National Assembly by the Guyana Government on the 22 June 1970. The main spokesman for the Government was the Minister of State, Shridath Ramphal who, in the course of his speech, outlined the "positive goals" of the Protocol: ...For a guaranteed period of twelve years Venezuela may not assert a claim to Guyana's territory.

We may use different words to describe this obligation. Already, some like a modus vivendi, a moratorium, a cooling off period, have been used. I prefer the plain words of Article II of the Protocol:

"So long as this Protocol remains in force no claim whatever arising out of the Venezuelan contention shall be asserted by Venezuela to territorial sovereignty in the territories of Guyana".

This is essentially ... what the Protocol of Port of Spain is about, and it is clear enough what this means.

During these years there must be removed from Guyana-Venezuela relations the spectre of this claim.

But the Protocol . . . is not merely negative. It would not be enough to leave the matter on the basis of negative obligations. It is one thing to agitate a territorial claim. It is quite another matter to pursue policies and codes of conduct which will replace hostility by friendship and replace mistrust and suspicion by confidence and goodwill.

It is to these more positive goals that Article I of the Protocol is directed - requiring as it does, both Governments to explore the possibilities of better understanding between them and to undertake periodical reviews of their relations, through normal diplomatic channels, with a view to their improvement and constructive advancement.

Together, therefore, these two provisions of the Protocol require each Government to show restraint in its conduct so as to avoid bringing into discredit its honour, standing or authority of the other Government and . . . to abstain from any statements, publications or other acts which could be detrimental to the economic development and progress of the other State.

Campaigns of propaganda, smear publicity, the undermining of Government authority, the discouragement of investment or development - all these . . . are forbidden under the Protocol.

To the banishment of these methods from the conduct of relations between our two countries, both Governments have pledged themselves. . .

During the debate on the Motion, PPP Members of the National Assembly were very critical of the Government for signing the Protocol and repeated the views of the Party which were outlined in the statement two days before.

The Protocol was eventually ratified with the PPP voting against.


Despite the fact that the Protocol of Port of Spain received the blessings of the Guyana Government and was ratified by the National Assembly, it was never ratified by the Venezuelan Congress. There existed some speculation that certain sections of both the Venezuelan Government (the COPEI coalition) and the main opposition force, the Accion Democratica (AD) had some reservations about the Protocol, and these differences of opinions prevented the then COPEI Government from presenting it to the Congress for final ratification.


top of pageTop of Page  

Back to table of contents