The Trail Of Diplomacy

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

PART SIX - 1970 - 1981

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The Protocol of Port of Spain placed a moratorium on discussions on the border issue for a period of at least twelve years. But this did not prevent Venezuela, during the period after 1970, to push its claim to all lands west of the Essequibo River. For instance, maps of Venezuela since 1970 began to show the area west of the Essequibo River as Venezuelan territory, shading it in diagonal stripes and labelling it as "Zona de la Reclamación". Some over-eager Venezuelan cartographers did not even bother to display that label on their editions, since they regarded the territory as totally Venezuelan.

The Venezuelan claim to all lands west of the Essequibo River - as displayed on Venezuelan maps after 1970 - became a new demand, since up to the period before 1970, a part of the Essequibo coast east of the line connecting the mouth of the Moruka River with the Cuyuni-Mazaruni junction was not claimed. Some maps published after 1975 even included the Essequibo Islands as part of the extreme claim.

After the signing of the Protocol, Venezuelan students continued to be taught - as they were since 1966 - that the area west of the Essequibo River belonged to Venezuela, and that it was illegally occupied by Guyana. Venezuelan newspapers also continued to use their columns to clamour for the territory to be "returned' to Venezuela.


In Guyana, on the other hand, the Government did very little between 1970 and 1980 to educate the Guyanese nation on the issue. However, the Opposition PPP, despite limited propaganda resources, never failed to enlighten the nation of the Venezuelan unfounded claim. This fact was recognized, following renewed agitation in 1981 by Venezuela to press its claim, by the May 1981 issue of the Caribbean Contact which stated: "The Opposition PPP of Dr. Cheddi Jagan has done much in the past to expose the "spurious nature" of Venezuela's territorial claim to Guyana and also of the possible link of the claim with US interests."

The PPP, during the first half of the 1970s, consistently maintained that because of the border claim, Guyana could be in danger of intervention from Venezuela. The Party stated that this could be done to protect the PNC regime in Guyana in case of a popular uprising. However, the PPP took care to point out that possible Venezuelan intervention must be seen not only in the context of defending the PNC against popular revolt, but also against the regime itself if it should move away from the political line favoured by US imperialism. This view was enunciated by Dr. Jagan in a letter to the editor of the Sunday Graphic on the 30 November 1971. The letter, entitled "Guyana's Alignment with Pro-Imperialist Axis", stated, inter alia:

"The 5-year Geneva Agreement and the 12-year Port of Spain Protocol not only recognised the bogus border claim, but also keep it in abeyance for future use against any progressive government in Guyana. In keeping with this same policy, the Venezuelan Government sent arms to Trinidad and moved its troops to its north coast near to Trinidad during the "Black Power" revolt against the PNM regime in April 1970."

Dr. Jagan's letter also replied to speculation published in the Sunday Graphic during November 1971 that Brazil - which had expressed support for Guyana's territorial rights following the occupation the Guyanese part of Ankoko by Venezuela in 1966 - would come to the aid of Guyana in case of Venezuelan armed aggression. In respect to this, Dr. Jagan stated:

"The visit of the Venezuelan Foreign Minister to the West Indies - and the announcement that Venezuela intends to fill the power vacuum in the West Indies signify clearly that Venezuela has been assigned by US imperialism, because of her geographical proximity and political orientation, to "contain" the growing revolutionary movement in the West Indies, somewhat in the same way that Brazil is assigned to help the PNC regime, not against attack from Venezuela, but from liberation forces inside Guyana. Viewed at from this position, there is no need to speculate whether help would be forthcoming to Guyana from Brazil against Venezuelan attack."

The PPP also maintained during this period, as it had done before 1970, that the entire matter could be solved if the Government of Guyana took the issue to the United Nations Security Council and the World Court. At the UN, the Party was sure that Venezuela would be condemned as an aggressor, and the USA would be put in an embarrassing situation. The PPP insisted that it was because neither Venezuela nor the USA wanted the case referred to the UN Security Council and the World Court, that the Guyana Government was showing a reluctance to take the issue to these international bodies.

Other than the statements of the PPP, in Guyana very little public discussion on the border issue ever occurred, though Guyanese were generally reminded of the Venezuelan claim every time the Venezuelan press agitated in support of its country's claims. Formal objection to Venezuela for Guyanese territory being included as Venezuela's on maps prepared by official Venezuelan authorities were made by the Guyana Government, but his did not halt the zeal of the Venezuelan cartographers.


Following reports in October 1972 that the Guyana Government was planning a development programme for the Essequibo region, and had also agreed to grant oil exploration rights to a West German firm, DEMITEX, in the area claimed by Venezuela, the Venezuelan President, Dr. Rafael Caldera, held a press conference on 12 October 1972 to discuss these developments. After the conference, the United Press International (UPI) on the same day reported that President Caldera insisted that the Protocol of Port of Spain, which set a moratorium on the border issue, "does not in any way modify this country's legitimate claims to that territory" UPI also quoted President Caldera as saying:

"Any action carried out in the territory does not alter our rights, our arguments, our aspirations. No developments taking place in the zone under dispute can alter our position or our rights over the area."

In response to Caldera's statement, the Guyana Government, through an official spokesman, made this statement to the press on the 14 October 1972:

"Developmental activities of the Guyana Government in relation to the county of Essequibo, like all development, are in exercise of Guyana's sovereign rights and in discharge of the Government's sacred duty to improve the living standard of its people after almost two centuries of colonial rule."


On the same day of the Guyana government's statement, the Venezuelan newspaper, El Vespertino, reported that Senator Leonardo Montiel Ortega of the opposition party, Union Republicana Democratica (URD) intended to ask the Venezuelan Congress to veto the Protocol of Port of Spain since "Guyana is exercising sovereignty over the Essequibo territory. . . ." The newspaper said that Ortega would ask the Congress to stop Guyana from exercising sovereignty over the Essequibo which, claimed the paper, belonged to Venezuela, but was under dispute since 1899. Ortega claimed that Guyana had negotiated with a Canadian company to cut timber and was turning the territory into "a desert by indiscriminate farming". He declared that "the National Congress has still not approved the Port of Spain Protocol which freezes discussions about the dispute". He added that he would ask that the Protocol be vetoed and denounced before the international law organizations since Guyana had breached the agreement by granting rights for oil exploration and timber operations.

Although the COPEI Government never presented the Protocol to the Venezuelan Congress for official ratification, it, however, stated that it intended to honor the treaty. In 1973, a new Acción Democratica (AD) Government - which had opposed certain aspects of the Protocol when it led the opposition - came to power, but even though it expressed that it would also honor the agreement, it never officially ratified the Protocol in the Venezuelan Congress.


In Guyana, the PNC Government which had come to power on the platform of pro-imperialism and anti-communism with the aid of the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in December 1964, had begun to take certain limited progressive actions internally and externally by 1974. These actions commenced after a fraudulent general election on the 16 July 1973 in which the PNC was able to take control of a two-thirds majority in the Parliament. Charges of wholesale rigging and severe condemnation of the election and of the PNC regime were made both locally and internationally.

However, despite these attacks on the regime, it nevertheless began to make statements to the effect that it intended to institute socialist policies and that its political goal was to establish a socialist society in Guyana. A process of the nationalisation of key foreign controlled productive industries was then stepped up and the government began to establish close political links with socialist governments, including Cuba.

As a result of the ideological shift of the PNC to the left, the PPP gave "critical support" to the PNC Government during the 1975-1976 in order to encourage the ruling party to increase and hasten any progressive measure it might have thought about. The PPP warned that it intended to be critical of any short-comings on the part of the regime, and it proposed certain political and economic policies that the PNC regime should adopt to move the country towards socialism. As a consequence of this new policy of the PPP towards the regime, the Party, which instituted a Parliamentary boycott after the 1973 election, decided to take its allocated seats in the Parliament.

The PPP offer of "critical support" was meant to show that it intended to display its patriotic duty to stand in defence of the nation's territorial integrity, and to struggle against any pro-imperialist destabilising forces threatening the country's sovereignty. During this period the PNC regime gave great publicity to information that the Brazilian military forces were being built up on Guyana's border to the south and were therefore posing a real threat. Such incessant "information" in the media, which was hugely state-controlled, created genuine fears in Guyana that these elements in Brazil would have staged a military intervention on Guyana's southern border with the main intention of forcing the PNC to reverse its then pro-socialist tendency and to follow again the path of pro-imperialism. These views were also expressed by the official Cuban press.

Two scenarios were developed as a result of the propagation of the so-called Brazil threat. One view was that pro-imperialist forces in Brazil were trying to influence the PNC not to accept "critical support" from the PPP, and not to work in cooperation with that Marxist-Leninist Party. The other view was those who were frightening Guyanese about a Brazilian invasion were trying to create a crisis to force the PPP to show greater sympathy and even open support for the PNC regime. This was what the PNC regime wanted, and subsequent political developments in Guyana were to give credence to the latter view. Of interest to note was that the deputy Secretary General of the PPP, Ranji Chandisingh, exaggerated the so-called Brazil threat and tried to pressure the party leadership to give unilateral support, instead of "critical support" to the PNC. He did so shortly after he returned from a visit to Cuba where he held consultations with the leadership of the Cuban Government. Political observers at that time commented on the close relations between the Cuban and the Guyana Governments and most likely Chandisingh was convinced by the Cubans that the PPP, as a party having close relations with the Cuban Communist Party, should render unilateral support to the PNC Government. After Chandisingh could not get the PPP to support his stand, he, shortly after, resigned from the party and joined the PNC.

In reality, there was no serious evidence that Brazil was expanding the strength of its border outposts, even though there were some minor reports in the Brazilian press that this was being done. However, these reports were so insignificant that they could not be classified as a "threat" as was being purported by the regime in Guyana.

But the Guyana government, exploiting the issue that Guyana was facing threats on its borders, began the sale of National Defence Bonds ostensibly with the aim of raising money to purchase military hardware and other equipment necessary for national defence. The sale of these bonds, which could be cashed after a period of a minimum of five years, became a primary programme of the Government and leading members of the PNC were given the task to induce people to purchase them. In fact, many business owners and public servants who purchased them, because they feared victimisation from the PNC regime in one form or the other, were actually coerced to do so.


With the "threat" against Guyana at that period coming from Brazil, the PNC regime paid more friendly attention to Venezuela and, consequently, no attempt was made by Guyana to heat up the border issue. Apparently, Venezuela, now under the Presidency of Carlos Andres Perez, tried desperately from 1974 to play down the border issue during this period. And since that country was receiving verbal attacks from imperialist quarters because of the nationalisation of its petroleum and iron industries, it was tactically willing to lend solidarity to Guyana which was also nationalising its bauxite and sugar industries at that time. By doing this, Venezuela intended to win the solidarity of Guyana against any destabilising forces. At the same time, Venezuela which was becoming more and more powerful through its vitalised oil wealth, was competing with Brazil for strategic power in the Caribbean area in particular, and wanted to obtain as many friends in the region as possible. The "threat" from Brazil on Guyana, therefore, was indeed a welcome boon for Venezuela.

As a result of this renewed friendly relationship, the two countries on 12 June 1974 signed a "Convention of Cultural Exchange" to enable the exchange of works of artists and sculptors and others in the artistic field.


This level of cooperation expanded when the Venezuelan Government offered economic assistance to Guyana which was experiencing severe economic problems as a result of the international "oil crisis". From June 1974, Guyana's Ambassador in Caracas Samuel Rudolph Insanally held discussions with senior officials of the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Office of the President to work out the terms of the economic assistance.

Finally, the Guyana Chronicle of the 14 August 1974 reported that Venezuela would grant a loan of US$15 million loan to Guyana and that an announcement to this effect was made at the United Nations by the Venezuelan Permanent Representative, Dr. Adolpho Talyhardat.

This loan agreement was arranged through an exchange of diplomatic notes on 22 August 1974 between the Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Ephraim Schacht Aristeguieta, and Insanally. By this agreement, the loan was provided as an economic contribution by the Venezuela to Guyana within the framework of the programme of assistance conceived by the United Nations to assist countries seriously affected by the prevailing economic situation brought about by the drastic rise in the price of petroleum.

The terms of the loan, detailed in the Venezuelan diplomatic note, signed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, specified:

(a) The Government of Venezuela, in anticipation of its special contribution to the United Nations Programme will arrange a loan, free of interest, of fifteen million dollars (US) ($15,000,000) to the Government of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana.

(b) The Cooperative Republic of Guyana undertakes to repay to the Republic of Venezuela the amount indicated in the above paragraph, commencing August 1, 1979, in two (2) half-yearly payments of five hundred thousand dollars (US) ($500,000), each year, until the sum of fifteen million dollars ($15,000,000) has been reached.

(c) In accordance with the conditions which will be established by the United Nations, governing the emergency operation and the Special Programme contemplated . . . ., the obligations which devolve from this advance which the Government of Venezuela makes to the Government of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, may be transferred by mutual accord to the aforementioned Organisation and may be subject to the relevant modifications in the event that the conditions established by the UN are more in favour to Guyana. . . .

The following year, on the 12 June 1975, in a story headlined "Venezuela Strengthens Ties - Experts to Work out Co-op Plan", the Guyana Chronicle announced that both Governments had reached agreement for Venezuelan assistance in the economic development of Guyana. In keeping with this policy of friendship towards Guyana, Prime Minister Burnham was invited to pay a two-day visit to Venezuela. This visit was eventually made in September 1975.

Subsequent to the granting of the US$15 million loan, the Guyana Government began repayment in instalments of US$500,000 in August 1979. Five payments amounting to US$2.5 million were made up to August 1981. No additional payment was made since then.


By 1977, the PNC regime, under pressure from the IMF, had halted its nationalisation drive and it came under attack from the PPP which claimed that the PNC had stopped the pro-socialist process and was under pressure from US imperialism to reverse its policies. The PNC, on the other hand, had refused to accept the measures proposed by the PPP to hasten the move towards socialism. Subsequently, the PNC rejected the "critical support" of the PPP on the grounds that "critical support" was more critical than supportive of PNC policies.

Another proposal made in August 1977 by the PPP for the establishment of a National Patriotic Front and a National Patriotic Front government involving the PNC, the PPP and other progressive forces, in order to bring about a political solution in the country, was rejected outright by the PNC at its second Biennial Congress held in December 1977.

The PPP, in responding to the PNC decision to work alone, claimed that the ruling Party was under pressure from imperialism not to work with the PPP, and predicted that the PNC would be pressured to take an even more pro-imperialist stance. The eventual signing of an agreement with the IMF in June 1978, according to the PPP, was justification of this charge.


After the forthwith declaration of the PNC that it had no intention of working with the Marxist-Leninist PPP, the threat from Brazil abated, and friendly relations were again restored between the two countries. This renewed friendship went a stage further when on 3 July 1978 Guyana signed the Treaty of Amazonian Cooperation (popularly referred to as the Amazon Pact) with seven other South American nations, including Brazil and Venezuela. This multilateral treaty ensured cooperation of the countries sharing the Amazon basin in the development of the area. Resulting from this, Guyana and Brazil agreed to jointly construct a bridge over the Takutu River on the south-western border of Guyana with Brazil. Brazil also submitted plans for the construction of a road linking Brazil through the proposed Takutu bridge with Georgetown. In return, the Brazilians received promises from Guyana of free-port facilities at Georgetown on the completion of the road.


At the time when it was improving relations with Venezuela, the PNC administration moved quietly to strengthen the western border. Apparently, the PNC had been thinking of using the western Essequibo, particularly the North West District, as a buffer zone to halt any military aggression from Venezuela. It, therefore, as quietly as possible, arranged for the American preacher, Jim Jones, and members of his cult, the People's Temple, to settle in the North West District near the Barima River from August 1974. Jim Jones settlement, called Jonestown, located not far from Port Kaituma, was secretly given autonomy by the Guyana Government, and it became "a state within a state".

On 18-20 October 1978, Venezuela's President Carlos Andrez Perez paid a two-day visit to Guyana, at a period when friendly relations between Guyana and Brazil were becoming more improved. His itinerary included a visit to Jonestown, but this was cancelled at the last moment. No reason was given by the Guyana Government for the cancellation of the visit of Perez to Jonestown, but most likely it was because Venezuela was against the settlement of the People's Temple in that area.

On 18 November 1978, Jonestown settlers, including Jim Jones himself and a US Congressman, Leo Ryan, who was visiting the settlement to listen to the grievances of the cult members, perished in a shocking murder-suicide tragedy. Apparently, Jones ordered the murder-suicide operation after some cultists decided to leave the settlement and return to the USA with Ryan. In the days that followed, Guyana Defence Force soldiers who were sent to Jonestown to assist in the removal of the bodies, discovered huge arsenals of highly sophisticated automatic weapons in the settlement.

According to the PPP and other opposition groups in Guyana, it was the intention of the PNC, not only to allow Jim Jones to carry out his shady deals in order to obtain strongly armed cultists to assist the regime in putting down any popular uprising, but also to use the settlement and the cult of causing Venezuela to think twice before it could invade Guyana. The reasoning behind this contention was the fact that the Jonestown settlers were in the overwhelming majority American citizens, and Venezuela would be cautious not to attack them or to occupy their settlement. In case of a Venezuelan invasion, the USA would be forced to support Guyana since American citizens would be under attack. Venezuela itself would not want any military confrontation with the USA.

An editorial in the 30 January 1979 issue of the Mirror also expressed a similar view when it questioned the close ties of Guyana with Brazil, especially following a three-day meeting of the Guyana-Brazil Joint Commission for Economic and Cultural Cooperation held earlier that month. The Mirror suggested a number of reasons for the close ties with Brazil and added:

"Another reason may be that Guyana did not fare so well during the last high level meeting with Venezuelan President Perez, and failed to reach an agreement. The Jonestown affair had not made relations any better, particularly with the strong suggestions that Jonestown was set up with the consent of the Guyana Government as a buffer in the disputed territory."

The Caribbean Contact of May 1979 printed an extract of a lecture on the Jonestown tragedy, delivered at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Cave Hill Campus in Barbados by the UWI historian, Professor Gordon Lewis. Professor Lewis made the claim that the Jonestown commune could be seen as a deliberate attempt by the PNC regime to have the settlement act to firmly establish Guyana's claim to the territory claimed by Venezuela, with similar motives as the Israeli's establishment of settlements on the so-called disputed West Bank of the Jordan River.

However, the PNC denied that there was any such strategy and maintained that the Jonestown settlers were agriculturalists intent on developing the interior. Two days after the tragedy - on the 20 November 1978 - the Guyana Minister of Information, Shirley Field-Ridley, admitted at a press conference that the followers of the People's Temple subscribed to some of the objectives of the PNC. The Government, she said, had no problems with the Temple whose members had, according to a Mirror report of the 21 November 1978, "established a reputation for themselves as being good farmers, industrious and hard working".

A further denial of the PNC regime's involvement in the Jonestown affair was made by Christopher Nascimento, the Guyana Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister, in a letter published in the Caribbean Contact of June 1979. The letter was actually a reply to the extract of the lecture of Professor Gordon Lewis which had been published the previous month in that newspaper. Nascimento asked in his letter if "in historical terms, a legitimate parallel might not be drawn between the settlement of the Pilgrims in Massachusetts in 1620 and the People's Temple of Guyana in 1974."


The murder-suicide of the 914 Jonestown settlers nevertheless foiled any plan to use the settlement as a "buffer". However, the Guyana government, from December 1979, again secretly arranged with organisations closely allied with US political policies, to settle members of the Hmong tribe from south-east Asia in the Waini-Yarakita district north-west of Jonestown and close to the border with Venezuela.

The fiercely anti-communist Hmong tribesmen (known also as Meos), had become "refugees" after they joined American, and later Chinese and other anti-nationalist forces, in fighting against the patriotic forces and their Vietnamese allies who were batting against the genocidal Pol Pot regime in Cambodia. According to the PPP which vehemently opposed the settlement project, the plan was for the USA to offer assistance to the Hmong tribesmen who would assist the PNC regime to resisting any armed Venezuelan encroachment on Guyanese territory. The Party pointed to the possibility that the Hmong could also be used to assist the regime in battling any popular uprising in Guyana.

As information of this settlement plan leaked into to public domain, lengthy protest articles on the proposed Hmong settlement issue appeared during April 1980 in a number of leading newspapers in Britain, Canada and the USA. The Mirror of 18 May 1980 reported that British journalist, Greg Chamberlain, in an article under the caption "Guyana Alert on Refugees" in the British Guardian stated that Venezuela had warned the Guyana Government not to go ahead with the settlement plan in what Venezuela said was a disputed frontier region.

The public outcry in Guyana led by the PPP forced the Government to abort the scheme on the 6 May 1980.


During the 1973 election campaign, Prime Minister Forbes Burnham had announced that his administration intended to develop a large hydro-electric power complex in the Upper Mazaruni River region aimed at powering an aluminium smelter to be built at Linden, and, later, two large factories to produce fertilizer and caustic soda. The entire project was envisaged to cost about of US$2,500 million in the first stage. At that time, Guyana was spending more than 25 percent of its Gross Domestic Product on fuel imports costing about $500 million.

Immediately after the election, which the PNC massively rigged to retain power, Burnham set about to fulfil this campaign promise. In 1974, he sought the assistance of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) which provided a grant to enable a major hydro-electric survey in the country. The UNDP appointed the World Bank as the executing agency and the Montreal Engineering Company was contracted as the consulting firm. The survey included a hydro resource reconnaissance and inventory for all of Guyana, and pre-feasibility studies of a limited number of sites.

Through this survey, it was established that Guyana's total hydro-electric potential amounted to about 7,000MW spread over a number of sites, some of which were inaccessible. The Upper Mazaruni River basin, close to the border with Venezuela, with a capacity of 3000 megawatts (MW) was identified as most suitable for development, and a full-scale feasibility study of the area was carried out in 1975.

Around the same time, the Government began to inform the Akawaio Amerindian population in the Upper Mazaruni area of the plan for the construction of the dam and the creation of a reservoir for the hydro-electric project. In March 1975, the captains of the seven Akawaio villages in the area were hurriedly called to Georgetown to meet with the Minister of Energy and Natural Resources, Hubert Jack. But due to the suddenness of the request, two of the captains could not attend. At the meeting, Jack told the others that the villages in the locality would be flooded as part of the reservoir and that the government wanted their cooperation in the resettlement of the 4,000 residents of their communities. However, he provided no information as to where they would be resettled. When the chiefs raised objections to this plan, Jack told them that the decision to flood their villages was final and could not be changed. He also tried to convince them that the hydro project would give the Amerindians of the area an opportunity to contribute to the development of Guyana.

According to a report of the meeting carried in London's The Guardian on March 21 1975, one of the captains opposed the scheme while the other four present were induced to sign a statement agreeing to the drowning of their villages. The paper stated that the captain who refused to sign was told that he would be barred from the resettlement committee that would be established.

(a) Feasibility studies

Early in 1976, the Government established the Upper Mazaruni Development Authority to administer the installation of the Upper Mazaruni Hydro-Electric Project and the aluminium smelter at Linden.

Later that year, the Government contracted the large Swiss company, Alusuisse, to undertake a feasibility study for the construction of the modern primary aluminium smelter. At the same time, Sweco, a Swedish consulting group, was contracted with World Bank assistance to conduct a feasibility study for the establishment of the Upper Mazaruni Diversion Scheme, including the building of the dam across the river.

Both studies, completed during 1977, formed the basis for discussion between representatives of the Government of Guyana and multilateral financing agencies including the World Bank. These studies established the technical feasibility of the project with a first phase installed capacity ranging from 750MW to 1200 MW and a smelter with a capacity ranging from 140,000 to 280,000 metric tonnes of aluminium per year.

Such a smelter plant required in excess of 300MW thus providing a base load for electricity development by the hydro-electric scheme which was expected to provide the national grid with about 240MW.

(b) The plan

The overall plan for the development of the hydro power project involved the construction of a dam at Sand Landing on the Upper Mazaruni River which would create a 500 square kilometres reservoir, largely for regulation of flow rather than height of head. The flooded area was not expected to form a large lake but a much smaller body of water extending into fingers of existing river tributaries, widened when flooded to higher levels.

Also to be constructed was a headrace tunnel about 11 kilometres long through rock to a 4,200 metre drop in elevation leading to an underground powerhouse with accommodation for turbine generators capable of producing 750 to 1200 MW of electricity. The plan also involved running a 400kv double-circuit transmission line, about 370 kilometres long from the powerhouse to Linden where it would enter the national grid. Also to be built was a main access road with an all-weather laterite surface, 320 kilometres in length, from Itaballi, near the mouth of the Mazaruni River, to the dam site. This road was needed to transport construction materials to the site of the hydro-electricity dam and power plant.

This ambitious scheme was expected to provide primary employment for more than 6,000 persons. A new town consisting of 320 apartments was to be built at Kumarau in the Mazaruni to serve personnel operating the installation. This town would also have offices, a guest house, vocational training facilities, a school, shopping centre, church, medical clinic and recreational facilities.

(c) Opposition from the Akawaios

With regard to the flooding resulting from the creation of the reservoir, and the displacement of approximately 4,000 persons, mainly Akawaios, the Minister of Energy in January 1976 set up a resettlement committee to work out compensation terms and proposals for the smooth transition of resettlement. The committee also had the task to explain to the local residents the rationale and the main features of the power project.

It was apparent that the local Akawaio population was very perturbed over the plan to resettle them. A few international groups championing the cause of indigenous peoples took up their concerns and gave them much publicity in the international media. One of these groups was the London-based Survivor International (with offices in New York) which rendered advice to the Akawaio population as to how they should publicise their concerns and even their opposition to the project.

Thus, Survivor International warned that despite existing evidence that even minor changes can seriously affect the cultural life of the Akawaios, the Government planners did not take into account the "cultural appropriateness" of new housing for the resettled population.

The resettlement concerns were also raised in early 1977 by the captains of the Akawaio villages when they wrote to the Prime Minister, Forbes Burnham:

"This land is where we belong. It is God's gift to us and has made us as we are. This land is where we are at home, we know its way: and the things that happen here are known and remembered, so that the stories the old people told are still alive here. This land is needed for those who come after us. . . . This land is the place where we know where to find all that it provides for us - food for hunting and fishing, and farms, building and tool materials, medicines. Also the spirits around us know us and are friendly and helpful. This land keeps us together within its mountains - we come to understand that we are not just a few people or separate villages, but one people belonging to a homeland. If we had to move we would be lost to those who remain in other villages. This would be a sadness to us all, like the sadness of death. Those who moved would be strangers to the people and spirits and places where they are made to go."

In response to this opposition, the government tried as much as possible to allay the fears of the local residents by explaining the economic benefits that would become available to them with the construction of the hydro-electric project.

(d) Support from Venezuela

From as early as 1976, the Guyana Government had informed the Perez administration in Venezuela of its impending plan to implement the Mazaruni hydro-electric project. Burnham himself, in a direct communication with President Perez, suggested the possibility of reaching a definitive agreement on the territorial issue in exchange for the Venezuelan participation in the Mazaruni hydro-electric project. Perez became very interested in these developments and felt that Venezuela could benefit by its involvement in the scheme.

During this period, support for the project from Venezuela was positive and indirectly Venezuela ended up contributing, although in a very small part, to the preliminary financing of the preparatory work for the hydro-electric scheme. This occurred in June 1977 when the Special Aid Fund of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), with the support of Venezuela, granted to Guyana a US$ 1.6 million loan, repayable in 15 years.

Later in the year, the Ambassador of Venezuela in Georgetown, Abdelkader Marquez, officially informed the Guyana government of Venezuela's interest to collaborate in the construction of the dam, particularly through the purchase of excess energy. As a result, there followed a period of intense diplomatic activities between both countries. These included a visit to Georgetown of Perez's special envoy, Ambassador Francois Moanack, on 14-16 November 1977, the visit of Guyana's Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Wills to Caracas from 30 November to 3 December 1977, and the trip to the Guyanese capital of a Venezuelan delegation led by Venezuela's Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Isidro Morales Paul at the end of December 1977. These diplomatic activities eventually culminated with the visit of the President Perez to Guyana in October 1978.

By the end of 1977, the blue-print for the huge multi-billion dollar hydro-electric project was ready. The drawings and two copies of the feasibility studies done by the Swiss company Sweco were forwarded to the Venezuelan Government which, according to the Guyana Government, did not object to the establishment of the project in that area, even though a part of Venezuelan territory was expected to be flooded on the completion of the scheme. The Guyana Government anticipated, too, that Venezuela would purchase excess energy generated by the hydro-electric turbines.

Soon after, the Guyana government submitted an application to the World Bank for financing the project. In the meantime, it had begun to implement the scheme and by 1978 more than US$25 was already spent from its own resources for starting the construction of the access road to the project site.

During the visit of Venezuela's President Carlos Andres Perez on 18-20 October 1978 to Guyana, the project was fully discussed. Indeed, he expressed support for the development of the project, according to the final communiqué issued just before he departed for home. With regard to the possibility of purchase of energy by Venezuela of energy, he expressed Venezuela's willingness to finance the study for the interconnection and suggested that a committee should be established to study the issue of the possible participation of Venezuela in the hydroelectric project.

At his press conference on 20 October 1978 at the end of his visit, Perez emphasised Venezuela's general support for the project by declaring: "Venezuela has decided to study the possibility of linking the present and future systems of the two countries and purchasing electricity from Guyana on the completion of the hydro-project. . . . We will give all we can to help develop this complex."

Guyana, at the same time, expressed interest in the purchase of three power plants with a capacity of 30 MW (one of 15 MW and two 7.50 MW each), which Venezuela offered for sale.

In addition to energy issues, Perez and Burnham examined problems associated with bauxite production and Venezuela's assistance to the Guyanese social sector. Perez raised the possibility of forming a multinational company involving Brazil, Jamaica and Suriname for the exploitation of the bauxite reserves in Guyana. And later, they discussed the possibility of forming an aluminium entity similar to the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and they agreed to appoint a group of experts to study this initiative.

In relation to Venezuelan assistance in the social sector, Perez expressed the possibility of his country's assistance in building low income housing projects in Guyana.

While it was clear that President Perez and certain sectors of the Venezuelan Government wanted Venezuela to participate in the hydro-electric project, they were undoubtedly aware of the technical difficulties and the huge financial cost for the electrical transmission of energy from the Mazaruni to the Venezuelan industrial centres could negatively affect its economic viability. But there was strong opposition as well within the Venezuelan Government. The critics felt that hydro-electric development in Essequibo would modify substantially the demographic, economic and ecological characteristics of the region, and could hamper Venezuela from recovering the claimed territory.

At the same time, even within the Guyana government there existed differences in views regarding making concessions to Venezuela on the territorial matter in exchange for participation in the Mazaruni project. Obviously, these differences of opinions existing in both Governments made diplomatic negotiations very difficult. Thus, those in the Guyana government who wanted to grant territorial concessions to Venezuela found it very difficult to influence others especially when Venezuela was not giving a clear indication that it wanted to participate in the project. On the other hand, the high costs involved for Venezuela's participation made it hard for those in the Perez administration who supported the project to convince the opponents, especially when Guyana was not making any direct proposal on conceding territory to Venezuela.

(e) Venezuela's opposition to the project

Despite the agreement that President Perez was ready to offer Venezuelan financial help to the hydro-power scheme, subsequent reports emanating from Venezuela indicated that his advisers discouraged him from doing so. It was apparent that the matter of participating in the project stirred intense debate within the inner Venezuela government circles with the opposing group finally convincing Perez not to render his administration's support. Towards the end of Perez's term as President, at the close of 1978 - and just a few weeks after his visit to Guyana - the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that the Government had no interest in participating in the project.

According to a report subsequently published on 2 April 1981 in the London Guardian, while Perez was ready to offer Venezuelan financial help to the hydro-power scheme, his advisers talked him out of it at the last moment. The report further claimed that the Venezuelan Government was on the point of reaching a border settlement with Guyana by which Venezuela would have renounced its claim to the Essequibo region in return for some territorial concessions, a proposal which was ultimately rejected by Guyana. Subsequently, the Guyana Government denied that there were any discussions on reaching any border compromise.

Shortly after the inauguration of Venezuelan President Luis Herrera Campins in 1979, Guyana's Minister of Energy and Mines, Hubert Jack, informed Venezuela's Foreign Minister Dr. José Alberto Velasco Zambrano in March 1979 of the progress of the project with the hope that the new government would render support. The latter's response was that the Venezuelan government needed time to study the project plans. However, the Campins' government by the end of the same month decided to continue the Perez's administration policy of not providing any support for the project.

But the hydro-power project, almost immediately after, began to experience problems in obtaining international financial backing. Political groups in Venezuela, associated with the new Herrera Campins administration, by this time had begun to vocally oppose the establishment of the project in the area which they maintained was Venezuelan territory, and, no doubt, these objections caused international lending agencies to be hesitant in financing the project.

According to the Caribbean Contact of December 1980, Jack had claimed during November that organisations abroad were seeking to influence the World Bank to cancel aid for the project. He said that one of the organisations was the London based Survival International whose objective was to preserve the natural way of life of the indigenous Akawoi Amerindians who would be displaced on the implementation of the hydro-electric scheme. The paper also mentioned that "the Venezuelans were accused by Guyana of economic blackmail against that country".

In relation to the work of Survival International, the New York Times in an editorial on the 18 October 1980 on "Twilight of the Primitive" had praised the organisation for publicising the cause of the indigenous peoples. The editorial observed that the proposed project in the Mazaruni region would involve the construction of a dam on the frontier with Venezuela, and that it "would flood the home of the Akawoi, an unoffending tribe known for its cultural vitality... But since the dam would involve Guyanese pre-emption of a border area that is also claimed by Venezuela, the project may not materialize..."

Up to the end of 1980 the project had not commenced because of the non-availability of international funding. (By the mid-1980s, the Guyana Government, after spending over a billion Guyana dollars to prepare the project site, eventually decided not to proceed with it).


On the political scene in Guyana, the situation deteriorated alarmingly towards the end of the 1970s. Faced with mounting political, economic and social problems, the PNC Government called a referendum on the 10 July 1978 for the Guyanese people to give support to the proposal that a two-thirds majority in Parliament, rather than any future referendum, should have the power to change all aspects of the existing constitution. Opposition political parties, spearheaded by the PPP, and many social, professional and religious bodies opposed the regime's proposal, and even the holding of the referendum itself, since they maintained that the referendum would be rigged in the regime's favour. They stated that the regime needed to "win" the referendum so that it would be able to postpone general elections due in 1978. They also insisted that the regime should hold free and fair elections rather than the referendum.

The groups opposing the referendum, therefore, called a boycott of the polls. This boycott was massively supported, and at the end of the voting exercise which was closely monitored, the opposing groups maintained that only between 10 to 15 percent of the electorate had voted. However, the results declared by the regime a few days later announced that over 71 percent had voted and of that 97 percent of those who voted did so for the regime's proposal.

Armed with this new power, the PNC regime amended the constitution with the use of its two-thirds majority in Parliament, postponed general elections due later in the year, and established a Constituent Assembly to draft a new constitution. The Constituent Assembly, made up of PNC Parliamentarians, eventually accepted the PNC submitted draft while rejecting all other proposals made by other groups, including the Trade Union Congress. In October 1980, this new constitution was promulgated and Forbes Burnham, previously the Prime Minister, was sworn in as Executive President of Guyana. Dr. Ptolomy Reid, formerly Deputy Prime Minister, was then appointed as Prime Minister. The former ceremonial President, Arthur Chung, immediately went into retirement.

The year before, in May 1979, the Working People's Alliance (WPA), a small anti-PNC political pressure group, which was making inroads into the PNC Afro-Guyanese support, declared itself a political party with the primary aim of removing the PNC from power. The WPA, of which Dr. Walter Rodney, a renowned Third World scholar and historian, was recognised as leader, worked very closely with the PPP in organising the referendum boycott and in agitating against the PNC, even though it expressed tactical differences with the PPP in carrying out the struggle against the regime.

On the 13 June 1980, Dr. Rodney was assassinated when a bomb exploded in a car in which he was sitting. Protests from all over the world, even from a number of Governments, implicated the PNC in the assassination. To these accusations, the PNC issued strong denials that it was responsible.

In October 1980, Burnham announced that general elections under the new constitution would be held on the 16 December. A boycott call was made by the WPA, but the PPP urged its supporters to vote, even though it had no illusions of winning the "rigged elections". The PPP maintained that it was participating in the elections in order to block the establishment of a one-party state, and that it "must utilise every forum, however corrupt, to expose the reactionary minority regime".

An international team of observers, made up of representatives of parliamentary, legal and religious bodies in Great Britain, Canada, the USA and the Caribbean, monitored the elections held on the 15 December 1980 and came to the conclusion that they were heavily rigged by the PNC to maintain itself in power.

The PNC, thus, retained power by giving itself 77 percent of the votes and an even greater majority, but it was heavily condemned locally and internationally for rigging the elections.

This was the situation that Guyana faced as it entered the year 1981.

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In March 1981 it was announced in Georgetown that Forbes Burnham, now President of Guyana, would make a two-day visit to Venezuela in early April. As a build-up to this visit, the Venezuelan daily, El Nacional, began the publication of a series of articles entitled "In The Vortex Of The Essequibo". These articles were aimed at stirring up a fanatical nationalism over the Venezuelan claim to western Essequibo, while at the same time unleashing a scathing attack on the political and economic policies of the PNC regime in Guyana (which was classified as the South Africa of South America). Most of the Venezuelan mass circulation papers were of the view that Guyanese were oppressed, with those particularly of Indian and Amerindian descent being suppressed and discriminated against.

The Venezuelan press also accused the Guyana Government of soliciting the aid of Cuba in the territorial controversy. The English language Daily Journal of 29 March stated:

If the Guyanese President Forbes Burnham is looking to Cuba for support against Venezuela, he is playing a dangerous game. . . It is clear that this Government (Venezuela) fears that Burnham will use Cuba's recently stated support of Guyana's territorial integrity to shore up Guyana's side of the argument... The worst thing the Guyanese could do would be to resort to third parties in the matter.

In relation to this "Cuban support" the paper also quoted a Venezuelan Foreign Ministry statement which said: "We do not think it is an intelligent game, and it is a game that is more dangerous for Guyana than for Venezuela."


No reason was given by the Guyana Government for the impending visit of Burnham to Venezuela. The Caribbean Contact of April 1981 purported to give the reasons for the visit. An article written in Caracas by Pierre M. Thivolet, datelined 30 March, (on the eve of the visit) stated:

A month ago President Luis Herrera Campins requested the Guyana President to make an "official and urgent visit" to Venezuela, according to the media reports here...

As Diario de Caracas reported, the trip occurs eight months before an important deadline in relations between the two countries. By December 18 this year, Caracas and Georgetown have to express their positions on the problem of Venezuela's claim to about two-thirds of Guyana's 83,000 square miles of territory.

The dispute has been frozen for 12 years until June 18, 1982 by the signing of the Protocol of Port of Spain in 1970.

According to the Venezuelan newspapers this problem will undoubtedly be the main topic of discussion between Presidents Campins and Burnham. . .

But according to Diario de Caracas, the Venezuelan Government would prefer to "warm up" the already 11 years frozen claim, and begin new negotiations with Guyana. If Venezuela is giving up, by diplomatic means, its claim to Essequibo, what then will it ask in return of President Burnham?

But if Venezuela is not looking for something in return, then it is difficult to understand the unusual place that the border dispute with Guyana has suddenly taken in the Venezuelan press and even in the daily life of the country.

For example, the new official police badges show a map of Venezuela with Essequibo (as part of the country). Some official maps have been drawn, not only with Essequibo as a claimed territory, but already as a Venezuelan province.

This propaganda is warmly supported by the army, which is proof, if necessary, that the Government is involved in the campaign. According to a report given by a group of officers to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, "Venezuela has the right to defend its right on . . . the Essequibo".

At the beginning of March, Caracas' influential newspaper, El Nacional, published for one week, long articles on Guyana. Impressive pictures showed dirt roads, crowded houses, with the sub-title, "This is Essequibo under Guyanese Rule", and headlined "Guyana, A Fortress with 50,000 Soldiers".

But it is hard to imagine Venezuelan tanks crossing the Guyanese border. Not only because there is no road between the two countries, but because Caracas would ruin years of efforts to appear as a liberal and democratic model for the Third World and especially the Caribbean.

In October last year, a bilateral commission between Guyana and Brazil was held, just after the meeting of the Amazon Pact. Through this Pact, which Venezuela was reluctant to sign, Brazil wished to extend its influence on the whole of the Amazon Basin.

Brasilia's attitude towards Georgetown has changed. Burnham is no longer regarded as a second Castro. And the Brazilians feel they could try to develop the interior of Guyana to their advantage. By building a road between Lethem and Kurupukari, and by helping to push the construction of the Mazaruni Hydro Dam in the disputed territory, would be Brazil's de facto recognition of Guyana's sovereignty over Essequibo. The opening of the Roraima territory on the Atlantic Ocean through Guyana could also be very interesting for Brazil, for both economic and strategic reasons.

Caracas, which has always feared the growing Brazilian influence on its southern border, will probably use the Essequibo claim to exercise some pressure on the Guyana Government. They could, for example, revive the interest in getting President Burnham to accept joint venture agreements for development projects in Essequibo. The Mazaruni hydro-project for which Georgetown cannot find money, could be handled that way; and more important for the Guyanese Government, Venezuela could use part of the energy to be produced.

All this could improve President Burnham's position in his country. And at the same time, further Venezuela's designs on Guyana.

The Burnham visit to Caracas, therefore, may be of great significance to Guyana's future.


Burnham commenced his state visit to Venezuela on the 2 April, and after a welcome ceremony at the airport where he was greeted by Campins, he proceeded to a wreath-laying ceremony at the Simon Bolivar Monument in central Caracas. However, even before he arrived there, a group of students demonstrated in favour of Venezuela's claim to western Essequibo. The students were clad in white shirts which carried maps of Venezuela with western Essequibo as part of that country. They also distributed pamphlets calling for the handing over of the claimed territory to Venezuela.

On the following day another demonstration by about sixty students occurred outside the Panteon Nacional. A Guyana News Agency report of this demonstration (carried in the Guyana Chronicle on the 4 April) stated:

. . .The group calling themselves volunteers for Venezuelan rights, appeared outside the Panteon Nacional, Venezuela's national shrine, with banners shortly before the arrival of President Burnham and the visiting Guyanese party.

Led by 31-year old Clemente Piemento from the Central University, the group shouted slogans and shared pamphlets affirming Venezuela's rights over Essequibo and calling for a termination of the Protocol of Port of Spain. In a brief interview with the Guyana News Agency, the bespectacled student leader who led the group said they "wanted Burnham to respect the claim we are making".

"From the time of Bolivar," he added, "we were told to fight for what is ours."

While the others shouted: "Struggle to nationalize the land", "Essequibo belongs to Venezuela" and "Don't prolong the Protocol", Piemento explained that the group was drawn from a few colleges of the Central University.

According to him, they had banded themselves together some two years ago "to help safeguard Venezuela's territorial rights in relation to Colombia and Guyana".

He argued that Essequibo belongs to his country just as how the Gulf of Venezuela, the territory over which Venezuela is in dispute with Colombia, belongs to them.

The chanting continued about 400 yards from the Panteon until the ceremony ended. And though the Venezuelan authorities did nothing to quell the protest, the proceedings were not disturbed nor interrupted.

The Guyana Government apparently wanted to create an impression in Guyana that Burnham obtained a good reception in Venezuela. As a result, the state-owned Guyana Chronicle reported that Burnham was given an "impressive welcome" and was awarded a special medal by the Venezuelan Government, and that Burnham reciprocated with a gift of Guyana rum to the Venezuelan President! However, shortly after, when the international media reported that Burnham encountered protests during the visit, the newspaper apologized saying that Burnham received no medal as it had reported. At a State reception in Caracas, replying to a speech by President Campins, Burnham, after giving a lengthy review of his Government's position on a number of international issues, touched briefly on the border issue:

...It is not my habit nor my desire to bury my head in the sands of unreality like the proverbial ostrich. There are some differences between us.

There is a difference of opinion relating to our border. However, given the fact that our two countries have displayed so eloquently on numerous occasions, a collective adhesion to the noble tenets of international law and international relations such as the peaceful settlement of dispute and non-interference in the internal affairs of states, we are also convinced that our border differences can receive dispassionate attention within an atmosphere of harmony and goodwill.

During the two-day visit, the Guyana Ministry of Information issued a number of statements, which, though very short of details, explained that matters relating to the border controversy were discussed by the two Presidents at a number of meetings which were held in a cordial atmosphere. The Ministry also announced that a joint communique would be issued simultaneously in Caracas and Georgetown at the conclusion of the visit.

Just before his departure for Guyana, Burnham, at a press conference, rejected the claim by sections of the Venezuelan press that Guyana had been seeking military and other support from the Cuban Government in relation to the border question. He explained that Cuba and Guyana had signed no treaty as had been suggested, but that the Foreign Ministers of both Cuba and Guyana had signed a communique earlier in the year in which support for nations' right to territorial integrity had been underscored. He added that this, as one of the firm principles of the Non-Aligned Movement, was nothing new, as both Guyana and Cuba were members of the Movement of which Venezuela was an observer. Burnham emphasised that Guyana had not been soliciting the involvement of any third party in the territorial issue since the matter was between two sovereign states which were competent to settle their problems.

Burnham returned to Guyana on the evening of the 3 April, but no joint communique, as promised by the Guyana Ministry of Information, was ever issued; neither did the Guyana Government release any statement related to the visit. However, the Ministry of Information reported that Burnham would meet the press on Sunday 12 April.


But the events took a dramatic turn on the night of the 4 April, when the Venezuelan Government issued from Campins' Miraflores Palace, Caracas, the following communique:

As a result of the recent official visit by the President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, Mr. L.S. Forbes Burnham, to Venezuela and of the meetings he held with the President of the Republic, Dr. Luis Herrera Campins, the National Government considers convenient to inform as follows:

1. Both Presidents held cordial and frank talks about the most relevant affairs of the relations between both countries and on current international events.

2. President Herrera Campins ratified firmly the valid enforcement of Venezuela's claim on the Essequibo Territory, which was despoiled unlawfully from our country by the Arbitration Award of 1899, that never had been valid and that we, therefore, do not recognize.

3. President Herrera Campins, therefore, reiterated the Venezuelan rejection to any commitment considered incompatible with the claim of Venezuela and with the national desire of obtaining satisfaction for the grave injustice committed against our country due to the voracity of the colonial Empires.

For this reason, President Herrera Campins once again asserted the rejection of Venezuela to the hydro-electric project of the upper Mazaruni.

4. President Herrera Campins reminded that Venezuela and Guyana have committed themselves to seek satisfactory solutions for a practical settlement of the pending controversy, and ratified the Venezuelan determination to continue searching for the most adequate means to attain that goal. In that sense he made it quite evident that at this moment there is no intention on our part to extend the Protocol of Port of Spain.

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Following the announcement of the Venezuelan communique, Burnham's press conference, originally planned for the 12 April, was brought forward to Wednesday 8 April. This press conference, held in the Film Centre in Georgetown, was attended by journalists drawn from various local and international news services, as well as press representatives from several of the embassies based in Guyana.

At the press conference, which was recorded and broadcast on Guyana radio later in the day, Burnham outlined his Government's account of the history of the border controversy and explained his Government's position on the issue. He said, inter alia:

In 1962, the then Government of British Guiana agreed to certain discussions being held on the subject between Venezuela and the United Kingdom. Incidentally, that Government, (not mine), entrusted the discussions to the British Government. The dialogue so started led to further discussions in later years. In the light of the posture assumed by Venezuela, it was considered wise shortly before Independence to agree to set up a Mixed Commission to examine the matter. The arrangement was set out in the Geneva Agreement which was signed by the three Governments concerned, namely, Venezuela, the United Kingdom and Guyana on February 17, 1966.

The Guyana-Venezuela Mixed Commission so established was charged under the Geneva Agreement with the task of seeking "satisfactory solutions for the practical settlement of the controversy between Venezuela and the United Kingdom which has arisen as a result of the Venezuelan contention that the Arbitral Award of 1899 about the frontier between British Guiana and Venezuela is null and void".

That carefully chosen language would suggest to the mind of the reasonable reader that the "practical settlement" visualized would come about only after settling the basic controversy relating to the Venezuelan contention that the Arbitral Award was null and void.

A solution produced without first tackling the underlying contention of nullity would hardly be a "satisfactory solution for the practical settlement of the controversy" within the meaning of the Geneva Agreement. Yet in the Mixed Commission Venezuela steadfastly refused to produce material or argument in support of her contention of nullity, her somewhat naked demand being that Guyana should forthwith say how much land she was prepared to give up.

Needless to say, that approach looked both premature and precipitate to us, and the not surprising result was that the Mixed Commission ended its four-year term of office without producing a settlement.

Article IV of the Geneva Agreement provided that, if the Mixed Commission did not resolve the question, the Governments of the two countries should choose one of the means of peaceful settlement specified in Article 33 of the Charter of the United Nations, namely, negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of settlement chosen by the parties.

As you know, the requirement to resort to these settlement procedures was suspended in 1970 by the Protocol of Port of Spain. The first twelve-year period of the Protocol will come to an end on 18th June, 1982.

But the Protocol is automatically renewable unless otherwise notified by either party before 18th December, 1981.

From an English language version of a statement issued on April 4, 1981 by the Presidential Palace in Caracas, it seems that Venezuela is indicating an unwillingness to extend the Protocol of Port of Spain.

This statement also seeks to apply pressure upon us by openly opposing, for the first time, the Upper Mazaruni Hydro-Electric Project.

In these respects it appears to me that the Venezuelan statement is somewhat more negative than the tone and the temper of our talks in Venezuela. The talks were generally frank, cordial and open.

I sought in the spirit of good neighbourliness to exchange views and discussed how we would approach the search for a solution to the differences of opinion as regards the border and the controversy which has arisen therefrom.

Generally, we agreed that there should be further consultations within the context of the legal instruments which relate to our frontiers.

At the same time we sought to examine how economic and other forms of cooperation could be carried forward especially on the question of the Upper Mazaruni Hydro-Electric Project.

We have always kept Venezuela acquainted with our plans for the development of the Upper Mazaruni Hydro-Electric Project. During the term of office of President Perez we delivered to the Venezuelan Government two copies of the feasibility study which has been done by Sweco (a Swedish company) on this Project.

We were informed at that time that the Venezuelan Government was considering assistance to Guyana in the development of the project and the possibility of taking power from us.

Furthermore, during the visit of President Perez in 1978, this project was fully discussed and President Perez in his press conference at the end of his visit indicated his support.

Upon the inauguration of the present President of Venezuela, the Government of Guyana took the earliest possible opportunity of acquainting the Venezuelan Government with the progress of the project by having the Minister of Energy and Mines raise this matter with Foreign Minister Zambrano in March 1979.

The response at that time was that the Venezuelan Government needed time to study the project. We have been waiting for a further response from them since that time.

In the light of the position which the recent Venezuelan statement appears to have taken, it would be convenient for me to restate here, as I did recently in Venezuela, that our Government's position is as follows:

The 1899 Arbitral Award was entirely valid. Even if the Award was invalid, the boundary laid down pursuant to the Award has acquired full validity as a result of Venezuelan recognition, acquiescence and other conduct relating thereto.

Even if both the Award and the boundary laid down pursuant thereto are invalid, the land claimed by Venezuela does not automatically go to her.

In such a situation, whatever settlement procedure is adopted, account will be taken of all the claims of both sides, including in particular, claims by Guyana to the Amakura, Barima and Cuyuni areas, which we lost to Venezuela as a result of the Award; and claims by Guyana based upon her possession and occupation right up to comparatively recent times when Venezuela first formally rejected the validity of the 1899 Award.

Meanwhile, the Essequibo region is in integral part of Guyana and has been so for the entire history of the country. There is nothing whatsoever in the Geneva Agreement or the Protocol of Port of Spain which precludes Guyana from developing any part of her territory, including the part claimed by Venezuela.

Nor will Guyana ever consent to any agreement having any such effect. On the contrary, Guyana has a moral duty to make optimum use of her resources for the benefit of her population and for the promotion of the integrated development of the region and the hemisphere of which she is a part.

This applies very specifically to the Upper Mazaruni Project. Besides being very crucial to the development of the nation, the Project offers opportunities for regional cooperation of the kind visualized under OLADE, which Venezuela vigorously espouses, and the Treaty of Amazonian Cooperation to which both Guyana and Venezuela stand committed. Guyana, therefore, intends to intensify her efforts to bring this project to a fruition.

It is entirely a matter for Venezuela to decide whether she will terminate the Protocol. But this Government does have some say over the course to be pursued when the Protocol comes to an end.

We would hope that the exploration of the problem will continue to develop, as it has been developing under the Protocol, in a climate of friendship, understanding and cooperation.

To those honourable ends I pledge this Government. I would sincerely like to think that the same applies to the Government of Venezuela.


Responding to questions from reporters, Burnham said that he was not worried about obtaining international financing for the Upper Mazaruni Hydro-Electric Project. He added that the Guyana Government was in active discussions with would-be donors to ensure the success of the project. He also pointed out that Guyana's position was that the project was not in any way a violation of the Protocol.

Asked what Guyanese should do in retaliation to Venezuela's declaration that the Protocol would not be renewed, Burnham said: "This is not a time for agitation. Hurried actions and agitation never give rise to wisdom. This is a time for calm and deliberate effort to plan the next move."

Burnham then explained what his Government intended to do:

Guyana proposes to inform the world of the facts. The principal help we envisage and seek is to inform international public opinion so that the world could see and understand.

We would inform the world so that they could see that a large country like Venezuela which is oil rich, seeks to rob a poor developing country of five-eights of its territory...

We will educate people on the matter from kindergarten to university.

Answering a question about where Guyana would turn for assistance, Burnham declared that CARICOM member countries were up to that time not been informed about the recent development and that there were no consultations at Heads of Government level. He also admitted that the political opposition in Guyana was not consulted before or after his Venezuelan visit. However, he intimated that he intended to meet with Dr. Cheddi Jagan of the PPP to discuss the border question.

Pressed by a correspondent of the Mirror to say whether he did not think the Government blundered into signing the 1966 Geneva Agreement thus giving recognition to the territorial claim by Venezuela, the Guyanese President declared: "I don't follow your logic. I disagree with your conclusion."

In reply to a question on joint development, he said that Guyana never sought to ask Venezuela to assist in joint development of the hydro-electric project. He explained that the cooperation that was sought was in relation to the buying by Venezuela of the excess power from the project. He added that the Government was going ahead with the exploration of oil in the Essequibo.

Questioned why the Government did not seek recourse to the UN Security Council when Venezuela seized Guyana's half of Ankoko Island, Burnham implied that such a course was not pursued because of certain political judgement by the Government of Guyana.

The Mirror correspondent asked if the granting of land titles to the Akawoi people of the North West District would not help to bolster the frontier defence capability of Guyana in case of aggression. Burnham explained that the Akawoi people were not granted titles, but that they were advised to identify other lands which they would want to occupy. That matter was being examined by a Government resettlement committee.

Referring to reports in certain sections of the Venezuelan press and in the Chronicle that Dr. Jagan had called upon the Venezuelan Government to assist in the overthrow of the PNC regime, and the possibility of this being a motive for Venezuela pressing its territorial claim, Burnham admitted that he had seen such reports of "unpatriotic if not treasonable reports" attributed to "one minority leader". However, he hastened to add that not all newspaper reports were true.

Towards the end of the press conference, President Burnham confirmed that President Herrera Campins of Venezuela would be making a visit to Guyana shortly and that the key question for discussion would again be the border issue.


In Caracas, the Venezuelan Foreign Affairs Minister, Dr. Jose Alberto Zambrano, on the 10 April 1981, issued the following statement directed to the people of Venezuela:

The National Government has made public, through a communique dated April 4, 1981, the decision of President Herrera Campins not to extend the Protocol of Port of Spain. This is, no doubt, a transcendental decision that gives a clear perspective to our just claim on the Essequibo Territory. For that reason, to continue the controversy on whether or not the Protocol of Port of Spain should be denounced; or on if it should have been signed eleven years ago, or not, seems unnecessary and even barren. The decision of the Government is not subject to any interpretations: without stopping to weigh the historical meaning of the Protocol of Port of Spain, the fact is, that said instrument will not be renewed. The Government considers that new ways should be explored to materialise our claim, and seems that it interprets, with its decision, the national sentiment.

Since the judgement as to the convenience and suitability of the Protocol of Port of Spain belongs to history, then, it is senseless to discuss the juridical value of said instrument. If on the one hand, Article 6 established that it would become effective upon signature, and that the lack of a formal pronouncement from the National Congress for the approval of the Treaty would introduce specific peculiarities, on the other hand, it would seem useless and rhetorical to explore the juridical scope of all these aspects, since its provisions have been observed for almost eleven years, and when the President of Venezuela has announced there is no intention, on our side, to extend that situation.

The immediate consequence of the expiration of the Protocol of Port of Spain would be renewed enforcement of the procedures set forth by the Geneva Agreement of 1966. That Agreement, which in its time had the full support of the National Congress, provides for Venezuela and Guyana to find a satisfactory solution for the practical settlement of the controversy.

Hence, what would be most constructive for the nation is to concentrate its attention and its reflection on the Geneva Agreement. We must evaluate whether Guyana and Great Britain have fulfilled in good faith the commitments stemming from this accord. We must analyse minutely the procedures set forth by that Treaty in order to choose the one that would be the most convenient for the interest of the nation, and in accordance with the objectives previously established by the Parties.

Under these circumstances, it is fundamental that the Venezuelan position should represent the national will and not be weakened by petty, sterile debate. The unity of the Venezuelans is decisive, so that it be quite clearly understood, that with all the due respect we have for the existence of a neighbouring and friendly State, we also have the firm decision of having our position respected. As well, the ethnic and juridical basis of our claim should be respected, so as to obtain compensation for the abuse to which we were subjected as victims of the colonial empires; and, that the commitment made by Venezuela, Guyana and Great Britain in 1966 to find satisfactory solutions for a practical settlement of the controversy be equally respected.

The possibilities increase for making the procedures of the Geneva Agreement work more positively, as the unity of the Nation widens around these matters. This unity would also be necessary to make Guyana and the international community understand that for Venezuela it is unacceptable, while awaiting a satisfactory solution of the dispute, that decisions be taken unilaterally concerning the territory under claim which could seriously affect it and that would pretend to ignore our rights. In the specific case of the Upper Mazaruni Dam project, it should be made evident on the international level, that its construction, under the present conditions is unacceptable for Venezuela. Therefore, we are unwilling to acknowledge any right that might be invoked after the hypothetical implementation of said project.

The strength of the Venezuelan position demands a readiness to be willing to look ahead, and not to waste our intellectual and political efforts in fruitless debates. The National Government is willing to make a considerable effort as to bring together in this purpose the will and the joint action of the Nation and its representative sectors, and expects that the tone of the debate be fitting with what history demands from all of us at this moment.


In Guyana, the United Force (UF) made the first significant statement in support of the Guyana Government's position on the border issue following President Burnham's press conference. In an interview with the Chronicle of 10 April 1981, the leader of the small right wing party, Marcellus Fielden-Singh, stated that even though the UF and the PNC did not share the same political ideology, in respect to the border dispute with Venezuela, his party was fully in support of the President's position on the issue.

"We in the United Force totally reject the Venezuelan claim and consider it totally unfounded. They have no right to reject the Upper Mazaruni Hydro Project, because the land is ours," Fielden-Singh added. The UF leader stated that it was his view that the Guyanese interpretation of the Protocol of Port of Spain was correct and his party stood in support of that.

The statement of the UF came as a timely reminder to the Guyanese people that, as a partner of the PNC in the coalition Government of 1964-68, it supported the signing of the Geneva Agreement in February 1966.


On the 11 April, the Working People's Alliance (WPA) issued the following statement in response to Burnham's declaration at the press conference three days before:


The existence of an anti-popular dictatorship in Guyana represents a great danger to the national interest at a time when there is need for a legitimate, nationally-supported Government to enter into negotiations with the Venezuelan Government. The fact that the Guyana Government has handled the border issue as a party affair, and the fact that for thirteen years Guyanese have had no chance to change their government, mean that only one point of view has gone into the official attitude on the border issues with Venezuela and Suriname. This is not the case in these two countries.

The WPA makes it very clear that our Party neither accepts the Venezuelan claim to Guyana nor any attitude that is so blind as to ignore the aspirations of the masses on one side or the other -- whether in Guyana, Suriname or Venezuela, all of which lay claim to being part of the oppressed world. From the point of view of Guyana, the WPA also sees the border issues as interfacing on each other. Just as the Venezuelan attitude was hardened by its disappointment on the Colombia frontier, so developments on Guyana's Venezuela frontier can affect developments on the Suriname frontier.

Although the WPA does not accept Venezuela's claim, it does not consider that the present Government of Guyana has the necessary moral authority to enter into a final resolution of the border issue. The admission of the regime of its own failure to consult on the issue is a reflection of its isolation from the masses as well as of its lack of faith in them.

Thus, it is not surprising that the Guyana delegation, ill-prepared and ill-informed, returned from Venezuela with a sense of rejection, injustice and humiliation which the Venezuelans would not dare inflict on a legitimate Government respecting human rights in its own country. Acting exclusively in their own interests, sections of the Venezuelan population gave the Guyana regime a taste of what the Guyana regime imposes on Guyanese subjects on a day to day basis.

WPA said in a statement on March 20 last that the regime has handled the border issue as a party issue and has not consulted or informed the Parliament set up after December 15, (1980). In his press conference on April 8, 1981, Mr. Burnham confirmed that he had "not yet" consulted the Opposition and that he was in fact running a one-party state under the pretence of a multi-party democracy. The Guyana regime's handling of the border issue, then, is essentially unpatriotic; and is in contrast to the exchange of views reported as taking place between Government and Opposition in Venezuela. WPA's position is that where a Government treats other political organizations as outcasts, it cannot blame those organizations for the consequences of their own behaviour.

Judging only from reports in the Guyana Chronicle taken as a whole and from the April 8 press conference of the President of Guyana, it is fair to say that Mr. Burnham's handling of the Venezuela issue is a diplomatic disaster. It shows that the delegation went to Venezuela without proper preparation and without any room for manoeuvre on this sensitive issue, acting on a series of incorrect assumptions.

The blunders of the Guyana regime in relation to this visit can be listed briefly:

First, accepting the invitation by President Campins without prior consultation with what it now calls the Minority Leader in Parliament, and without any debate in the state-owned press or discussion in Parliament;

Second, by its own admission, being more eager to inform the Venezuelan Government of plans for Guyana's economic development than to inform the Opposition in Guyana and the Guyanese public;

Third, going to Venezuela with the assumption that assurances given or allegedly given by a previous President of Venezuela were binding on his successor;

Fourth, concentrating its intelligence activities against organizations like the WPA rather than on issues vital to the country's security. Mr. Burnham boasted publicly that he knew where Brother Walter Rodney slept every night. Yet he did not know the political situation in Venezuela.

Fifth, aggravating the crisis by bringing forward claims to areas in what became Venezuelan territory under the 1899 accord upheld by Venezuela and thus consenting once again to a reopening of the 1899 settlement.

The blundering of the Burnham regime is brought into strongest focus when it is recalled that Guyana had boasted of being instrumental in the settling of the problem between Belize, Guatemala and Britain and has to confess inability to settle its own problems.

In his many admissions of April 8, under the pressure of his diplomatic failure, Mr. Burnham revealed that the Upper Mazaruni Hydro-Electric Scheme had been planned on the assumption that Venezuela would import the excess output of the scheme. He had no contractual arrangements for this sale of electricity and Venezuela has now opposed the project as a whole. It is hard to see how such an astute politician could have based an important project on such flimsy assumptions. His continuing optimism about being able to finance the project appears misplaced, since financiers will want to know how the electrical output will be traded commercially in order to make the controversial project viable.

Because the Government of Guyana has tended to handle the whole issue as one of the ruling party, the WPA cannot rely wholly on information released at its convenience by the Guyana regime. It has therefore come to the following position for the time being:

WPA demands assurances from Guyana and Venezuela, and especially from the militarily stronger Venezuela, that they will refrain from ill-considered and outmoded aggressive measures which can only jeopardize the masses of working people in both countries, reverse relations in the region and create divisions in the Non-Aligned Movement.

WPA is considering as early as practicable the investigation of the points of view of popular organizations in Venezuela on the border issue. It will do the same in relation to neighbouring Suriname.

Patriotic and non-chauvinistic organizations in Guyana and Venezuela should at once set about organizing a people's congress to explore deeply and expose approaches to the dispute and to set up a standing body of lawyers, scholars and trade unionists to propose solutions by a date to be agreed on. In addition, the OAS and CARICOM should assist and observe such a congress, which will be a people's approach to the concept of a zone of peace.

WPA sees the border dispute as having its origin in Spanish and British colonialisation under monarchies of the old order. It asserts without fear of contradiction that the "blade of grass" diplomacy on both sides has failed and threatens to engulf the peoples in profitless conflict, in the course of which others may seek to try out their most up to date weapons.

The patriotic masses of the countries involved must impose on the governments who have bungled and mishandled the border issue a commitment to a settlement in which the Caribbean sense of values prevails.


A few days after Burnham's press conference, the leadership of the Guyana Government held discussions with both the leaders of the PPP and the UF, the two opposition parties in Parliament. The meeting with the UF leader, Marcellus Fielden-Singh, was held on the 13 April while that with Dr. Jagan, Leader of the Opposition, was held two days after. At these meetings, the Government delegation included the Prime Minister, Dr. Ptolomy Reid, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rashleigh Jackson, and Minister of Mines and Energy, Hubert Jack.

During the meetings, the Prime Minister gave the two leaders the background to the Venezuelan claim and provided them with details of some of the recent developments. He also took the opportunity to give them the background about the steps taken by the Guyana Government in the promotion of the Upper Mazaruni Hydro-Electric Project.


In the meanwhile, on the 12 April, the Venezuelan newspaper, El Diario, quoted "reliable Venezuelan sources" which suggested a mediator to bring about a settlement in the border issue. Responding to this suggestion, the Guyana Chronicle of the 16 April quoted a Guyana Government spokesman as saying that the use of a mediator did not reflect Guyana's position. The spokesman stressed:

None such has been conveyed privately or publicly to any Venezuelan official... No member of the Government of Guyana has communicated to any Venezuelan, a position which implies that a possible reference to the International Court of Justice of the controversy arising from the spurious Venezuelan claim to territory in western Guyana is under consideration.


During mid-April 1981, a delegation from Brazil headed by Brigadier Ottomar de Souza Pinto, Governor of the State of Roraima, paid a visit to Guyana for discussions with Guyanese Government officials. This visit evoked much interest in Venezuela which showed some apprehension over the growing ties between Brazil and Guyana.

On the 15 April an Inter Press Service (IPS) report from Caracas stated that Caesar Rondon, Venezuela's Ambassador to Cuba, in a statement in the Venezuelan capital, had indicated that increased cooperation between Guyana and Brazil could seriously harm Venezuela-Brazil relations. Rondon said that any assistance rendered by the regional government of the Brazilian state of Amazona to Guyana for oil exploration and production in the Rupununi area, part of the territory claimed by Venezuela, could harm Venezuela's ties with Brazil. According to the diplomat, Venezuela told the Brazilian Government "that such actions would be interpreted as injurious to good bilateral relations".

The IPS report also stated that recent statements by President Burnham were criticised in Venezuelan governmental and political circles as part of "an orchestrated campaign" aimed at securing support for Guyana from the English-speaking Caribbean nations and Brazil in its border row with Venezuela.

The news service quoted the Secretary of International Relations of the governing Christian Democratic party (COPEI), Leopoldo Castillo, as saying that Venezuela was continuing its policy of cooperation with Caribbean nations and was increasing its ties with Brazil.

The Guyana Chronicle of the 16 April carried a comment from a Guyana Government spokesman concerning the statement made by Rondon. The spokesman said that he found the statement both "surprising and dangerous". He added:

It is surprising in the context of the Treaty of Amazonian Cooperation to which Guyana, Brazil and Venezuela subscribe and the high level meeting on Economic Cooperation among Developing Countries which will be hosted by Venezuela in Caracas next month. . . The comment is dangerous in that interference in the international affairs of States is suggested.

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The first response by the PPP to the escalation of the border issue was a brief statement made by its General Secretary and Leader, Dr. Jagan, and published in the PPP-supporting Mirror of the 19 April. According to the paper, Dr. Jagan warned: "They (the PNC regime) are going from pillar to post; from the frying pan into the fire". He noted that pious statements were being echoed in certain quarters about the capacities of the Guyanese people: "All this is hypocrisy since those who are now so solicitous about the Guyanese people are the first to ravish their rights and liberties!" Dr. Jagan added that the Government had a responsibility of letting the people know exactly what the position was since at one time the regime boasted of friendly relations with Venezuela, while it was now boasting of fraternal relations with Brazil.

The Opposition Leader stated that he met with the Prime Minister, Dr. Reid, on the 15 April and at that meeting, matters pertaining to the border situation were raised. He expressed regret, however, that the Government never thought of consulting with him before the ill-fated visit of President Burnham to Caracas to ascertain the views of the PPP and those of the majority of the Guyanese people on the issue.


The Mirror of the 19 April rebutted part of President Burnham's statement made at his press conference on the 8 April. In an article entitled "A Frankenstein Monster", the newspaper stated, inter alia:

From what President Burnham said at his April 8 press conference, the impression might be created that somehow the Guyana-Venezuela border quarrel was linked to discussions with the PPP Government in 1962 had agreed to take place between Venezuela and Britain.

"The dialogue so started led to further discussions in later years," the President stated in his attempt to background the signing of the 1966 Geneva Agreement.

But was this the whole picture of what transpired during that period?

The article went on to explain that after Venezuela raised its border claim in 1962, the British Government reluctantly consented with the concurrence of the then PPP Government that the documents relating to the border issue be reopened for examination in order to dispel doubts which the Venezuelans might have had about the validity of the Arbitral Award of 1899.

It explained that neither the British Government nor the PPP Government accepted that there was a border dispute, and quoted heavily from Dr. Jagan's speech in March 1964 in the Legislative Assembly on the border issue when he declared that his Government was "not prepared to engage in substantive talks on the revision of the frontier".

The article continued:

There was nothing up till then to indicate that the PPP Government had given recognition to what obviously was a spurious claim. Such recognition was implied afterwards when the Jagan Government was ousted and the reactionary PNC-UF coalition fell victims of a conspiracy hatched by the imperialists, which has since menaced Guyana's national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

There is evidence at hand which indicates that Britain was pressured by US imperialism to backtrack on its original position with regards to the Venezuelan claim. The PPP warned the coalition Government against an agenda for the Geneva talks which gave status to the Venezuelan claim, and against any arrangements with Venezuela for the development of the so-called disputed 50,000 square miles of territory of the Essequibo.

Not only was the advice ignored. The PNC-UF coalition refused to allow opposition representation on the Guyana team for the Geneva talks as indicated by the PPP which insisted on a united front to meet the Venezuela-imperialist manoeuvre.

The imperialists were fearful at the possibility of the PPP's return to power, and were bent upon activating the border question. It is in this context that a definitive explanation of this 1966 debacle and the Port of Spain arrangement should be premised.

What then began as a conspiracy eventually emerged as a Frankenstein monster threatening to ensnare the entire nation...


On Thursday 23 April, the PPP issued a statement setting out its views on the developments surrounding the border issue. The statement was issued after the Party's Central Committee held lengthy discussions on the matter. During the ensuing period leading from Burnham's press conference two weeks before to the time of the PPP statement, hysterical outbursts were printed in the Guyana Chronicle which almost continuously demanded that the PPP make a comment on the issue, even though the Party's position on the history of the controversy was nationally and internationally well known. One of the newspaper's columnists, writing under the pseudonym, Dargan, outdid himself by referring to the PPP as unpatriotic for not issuing an immediate statement of support for the Guyana Government's position on the border issue.

The PPP stated:

The People's Progressive Party (PPP) rejects the claim by Venezuela to Guyana's territory and will defend, as it has consistently done in the past in and out of government, the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Guyana.

Defence of our nation does not, however, mean in any way defence of the minority authoritarian PNC Government.

Venezuela's claim was raised in 1962 as part of the process to destabilize the PPP Government. Despite the problems faced by the Government as a result of CIA-PNC-UF inspired terrorism, it never accepted the existence of a dispute.

When the PNC came to power, it almost immediately sold out the sovereign rights of the Guyanese people by signing, contrary to the warning of the PPP, the Geneva Agreement, and recognizing the existence of a dispute. It then proceeded to sign the Port of Spain Protocol which entertained Venezuela's claim.

Throughout the years since the Geneva Agreement, the PNC has maintained a shroud of secrecy over the issue and failed to rally the nation.

The history of the PNC is a history of anti-national deals and selling out postures. It includes not only the Geneva Agreement, but also a secret agreement with Reynolds Metal Company, a secret agreement with the USA extending facilities for the use of Atkinson (now Timehri) Airfield, and unreasonably high payments to Reynolds, DEMBA and Bookers.

When Venezuela in 1966 took over our part of Ankoko Island, and (in 1968) its naval craft patrolled our territorial waters, the PNC, on orders from imperialism, failed to go to the United Nations Security Council and protest against these acts of aggression. Instead, it used the aggression as an excuse to whip up political support during the 1968 general election, and at the same time to impose further burden on the people by increased taxation through a defence levy.

The history of the PNC is also a history of oppression, incompetence, corruption, assassination, rigging of elections and increased dictatorial practices.

The PNC has thus weakened the nation and jeopardised its honour. Had the PNC heeded the numerous calls of the PPP for the re-establishment of democracy in Guyana and for the institution of a genuine People's Militia, the Venezuelan Government would not have acted as it did.

Having jettisoned national unity, the PNC regime embarked on the dangerous game of playing off Venezuela against Brazil in 1975-76 and is now playing off Brazil against Venezuela in 1981.

The Guyanese people must be alert against the use by the PNC of the border issue to muster political support in the face of isolation at home and abroad, and to provide an excuse for its failure to implement the Mazaruni hydro-electric smelter project, mooted on the eve of the 1973 general election, and on which tens of millions of dollars have already been expended.

Under the guise of defending the nation, it will also as in the past expend more money for a bigger military force to maintain itself in power. At the same time, its puppet trade union leaders will call on the workers for greater sacrifices coupled with a further wage freeze.

Jingoism and sabre-rattling are not in the interest of either the Guyanese people or the Venezuelan people. Only the imperialists and their lackeys on both sides can gain from the border tensions. The neighbourly and friendly peoples of Guyana and Venezuela have a common interest; their common destiny lies in national liberation, democracy, peace and social progress.

The minority PNC Government has no moral authority to represent and speak for the people of Guyana. It has sold them out in the past, and it will do so again. Guyanese must be on guard against joint development and other manoeuvres.

The peoples of Guyana and Venezuela, through their Parliaments and genuinely representative organizations, should immediately explore other means to cooperate and avoid the snares of imperialism and reaction. The border issue must not be left dangling like the sword of Damocles to be used at their convenience.

Some PNC scoundrels and collaborationists will no doubt shelter under the noble sentiment of patriotism when neither history nor the people can absolve them from the stigma of treachery. But now is the test: the PNC regime would lose an irretrievable opportunity to demonstrate to the world that Guyana's national sovereignty and territorial integrity are above narrow partisan interests. The regime can best do this by resigning forthwith and allowing an emergency government of national consensus to take over.


The PPP statement was released at a public meeting held in Georgetown on the afternoon of the 23 April. The meeting was addressed by Dr. Jagan and Clinton Collymore, the Party's spokesman on Defence in Parliament. Collymore blamed the PNC for the crisis over the western frontier, and reasserted the PPP's strong views that there was no dispute existing and that the entire Essequibo was Guyanese territory. He further denounced the PNC for seeking to re-examine the 1899 Tribunal Award and for making counter-claims to territory legally owned by Venezuela.

The Mirror of the 3 May 1981 summarized Collymore's speech:

. . .The part of the regime's position statement which is totally rejected by the PPP is ... as follows:

"1. Claims by Guyana to the Amakura, Barima and Cuyuni areas which we lost to Venezuela as a result of the Award; and

2. Claims by Guyana based upon her possession and occupation right up to comparatively recent times, when Venezuela first formally rejected the validity of the 1899 Award."

The above position amounts to making counter-claims to Venezuelan lands, and also to a move to set aside the 1899 Award and revert to the precarious war-charged situation that existed before that date.

In concluding his address, Mr. Collymore drew the crowd's attention to the recent trip of a Brazilian General to Guyana less than two weeks after the diplomatic debacle in Caracas, and explained that the regime was playing off Venezuela against Brazil. He warned against this also, should it be true, and pointed out that:

1. The Venezuelan claim is in reality mainly political, with the intention of eventual complete annexation of Guyana in the class and geo-political interest of Venezuelan reaction and US imperialism.

2. Should Venezuela and Brazil clash over Guyana, the territory of Guyana would be partitioned between the occupying armies of these two hemispheric powers. This would also meet the US imperialist plans to block the popular revolution in Guyana, seeing that the PNC puppets are tottering already.

In either situation . . . "Guyana's sovereignty would be lost and Washington would celebrate".


At the public meeting, Dr. Jagan, in addition to explaining the PPP's position since 1962 on the issue, called for the resignation of the Government and stoutly denied accusations of the PNC that he had asked the Venezuelan Government to assist in overthrowing the PNC regime in Guyana. He also categorically stated that the PPP intended to defend the territorial integrity of Guyana, but specified that the defence of Guyana "does not, however, mean in any way defence of the minority, authoritarian PNC Government".

He also spoke of his approaches to various Governments, including that of Venezuela, to raise the matter of the denial of civil, political and human rights in Guyana, in the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations, and thus to help to isolate and remove the PNC from the Government.

Dr. Jagan's speech was summarized in the Mirror of the 10 May, 1981:

"Defending Guyana's territorial integrity is one thing; defending this rotten Government is another. Let that be quite clear."

The above statement was made by PPP Leader, Dr. Cheddi Jagan, to a large appreciative crowd at Bourda (Walter Rodney Mall) when he announced the PPP position on the renewed border issue. Dr. Jagan reiterated that not an inch of soil is to go to Venezuela for the 1899 Tribunal Award was final and was accepted in good faith by all the parties concerned. He charged that US imperialists and the most conservative elements in Venezuela are behind the renewed claim.

Dr. Jagan, in his 90-minute address, referred to the pre-independence days when as Premier he firmly rejected the Venezuelan claim in 1964. He later solemnly warned the PNC-UF coalition not to entertain any discussion or recognition of the issue with Venezuela. This patriotic advice was not heeded however and the coalition regime under Anglo-American tutelage signed the fateful Geneva Agreement in February 1966. This "deal" tacitly recognized a "dispute".

The PPP Leader mentioned the various attitudes of successive Venezuelan Governments in relation to the freedom struggle in the world and particularly to Cuba. He referred to the game of the PNC-UF coalition played with the imperialists in the early 1960s, when they alleged that there were "over 1000 Cubans in Guyana", when in truth and in fact "only one Cuban was in the county and he was engaged in setting up the Mirror press.

He referred to the goodwill mission he had taken to Venezuela when he asked the three parties in Government at that time to renounce the claim. They agreed (for fear of the ultras) neither to renounce it nor to raise it. "The Geneva Agreement of 1966 was part of the conspiracy to keep the border issue alive," he charged.

Denouncing the PNC regime for not taking the entire issue to the UN, Dr. Jagan said that this was because it was not in the interest of US imperialism at that time to have the issue aired there. The US with 60 percent of its Latin American investment located in Venezuela would have been forced by the legality of the 1899 Award to back Guyana and pronounce against Venezuela. This would have jeopardized US interests in that country.

Even when there was aggression in 1966 and 1968 the matter was studiously kept out of the UN. The PNC at that time was still the darling of US imperialism, going so far as to praise Lyndon Johnson for landing US troops in the Dominican Republic. This courtship with imperialism cooled off in 1971 with the nationalization of DEMBA, which was followed by destabilization moves and threats emanating from Brazil. This was when the PNC turned to Venezuela for support against Brazil. "Now," declared Dr. Jagan, "the same PNC is turning to Brazil for support against Venezuela! Don't you see that these people are crazy?"

Referring to the current poor state of the nation's civil defence, he said: "We told them to set up a People's Militia, to arm every man and woman. Instead they set up a PNC militia." Dr. Jagan reiterated his call for a genuine People's Militia ... every man a gun! He denounced the PNC as traitors who by their policies have weakened Guyana in the face of imminent invasion threats. He charged the regime with "national betrayal" and called for its resignation..

Dr. Jagan said that when an agreement was about to be signed between Venezuela and Colombia, the ultras in Venezuela howled in protest causing the Government to backtrack. Now that same Government is due to face elections soon in Venezuela. He opined that pressure from the ultras will increase in relation to Guyana.

He went on to mention three important political developments in Guyana within the past year: (1) The assassination of Walter Rodney; (2) The Lord Avebury Observer Team Report; (3) The US Report to Congress on Guyana. Dr. Jagan argued that the PNC is so embarrassed by these adverse developments including Jonestown that it is seeking anything to help refurbish its jaded image. . .

Said the PPP General Secretary: "The PNC now wants everybody to beat their breasts and rally in support of its regime, but patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels. They also want to use the border issue to cover up their failures in the Upper Mazaruni Hydro Project. They have no conception of planning. They are living from day to day. The army and the police which cost $15 million in 1970 now cost over $139 million. They will now say that they need a bigger army still! They know that they will have to rely more and more on the army to keep them in power."

He then pointed out that Brazil with whom the regime has a strange courtship is "moving north" and that this expansionist policy has to be taken into account as a matter for concern to progressives. He called for a solid front to demand and bring about the resignation of the PNC regime, because imperialism would clearly like the regime to go further backwards, than it is now.

"We would like this border issue to be solved, and not be left dangling like a Sword of Damocles over our heads," he remarked after he had called for the setting up of a "genuine representative body in Guyana to meet with a similar body in Venezuela to trash out this problem. If an agreement is reached, then such an agreement could be lasting."

Dr. Jagan called for a peaceful solution, and opposed any resort to warfare. He also declared to tumultuous applause from the large crowd:

"If this Government is really patriotic, then only one course is open to it to take, and that is that Burnham must tender his resignation as President!"


The state-owned Guyana Chronicle of Friday 24 April gave a different slant to what transpired at the meeting. In a front page story headlined: "The Border Issue: PPP Will Not Defend Guyana", the paper stated:

...While Dr. Cheddi Jagan has said that Venezuela's claim to five-eights of Guyana was unjust, he added that the People's Progressive Party was not going to the frontiers to defend Guyana.

Dr. Jagan said that any defence of the country at this time would be a defence of the People's National Congress and an attempt to keep President Forbes Burnham in office.

...Dr. Jagan called for the resignation of President Burnham. He also denied seeking the assistance of the Venezuelan Government to topple the Government. President Burnham had described Dr. Jagan's call on the Venezuelans as an act of treason..."


However, on the following day, the Guyana Chronicle embarrassingly carried the headline, "Jagan: PPP Will Defend Guyana" under which it printed a letter from Dr. Jagan who criticised the story carried by the paper the day before. In his letter, Dr. Jagan stated:

Your headline in Friday's issue of the Guyana Chronicle, "The Border Issue: The PPP Will Not Defend Guyana", and the first paragraph in the news item that -- "...Dr. Jagan has said that Venezuela's claim to five-eights of Guyana was unjust; he added that the People's Progressive Party would not be going to the frontiers to defend Guyana . . . Dr. Jagan said that any defence of the country at this time would be a defence of the People's National Congress and an attempt to keep President Burnham in office", completely distorts what was said at the public meeting last Thursday.

As regards your story, the PPP statement, which formed the basis of what Clinton Collymore and myself said at the largely-attended meeting last Thursday, set out the PPP's position as follows:--

The People's Progressive Party rejects the claim of Venezuela to Guyana's territory and will defend, as it has consistently done in the past, in and out of government, the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Guyana.

Defence of our nation does not, however, mean in any defence of the minority, authoritarian PNC Government...

Some PNC scoundrels and collaborationists will no doubt now shelter under the noble sentiment of patriotism when neither history nor the people can absolve them from the stigma of treachery.

But now is the test: The PNC will lose an irretrievable opportunity to demonstrate to the world that Guyana's national sovereignty and territorial integrity are above narrow partisan interests.

The regime can best do this by resigning forthwith and allowing an emergency government of national consensus to take over.

As regards the press report that I called Venezuela's claim to five-eights of Guyana "unjust", this is incorrect.

As you will see from . . . the statement, the PPP never accepted the existence of a dispute, and therefore the question of justice or injustice does not arise, and was not put like that by me to the attentive crowd.

Your newspaper has from time to time vilified me about reports in the Venezuelan press that I had called on the Venezuelan Government to overthrow the Guyana Government.

I had denied this, but the abuse continues, especially in the Dargan feature in your April 17, 1981 issue.

On this point, your reporter failed to set out what I had said at the meeting, namely, that since Guyana had not signed the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, only a member state could raise matters pertaining to violations of human rights in Guyana in the Human Rights Committee set up under the Covenant; and although I had not formally solicited the help of the Venezuelan Government, I had told the Venezuelan press that I was seeking the help of Governments, including that of Venezuela, to raise the case of Guyana in the Human Rights Committee and thus to help us isolate and remove the PNC from the government.

This is in accord with historical experience; at the meeting I cited several examples of Governments coming to the assistance of peoples fighting for national liberation. . .

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