The Trail Of Diplomacy

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


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In early April 1981, on two occasions, allegations were made by Venezuela that Guyanese soldiers fired shots at Venezuelan army personnel from Eteringbang, the Guyana border post near to Ankoko Island. In a protest note sent to the Guyana Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the 25 April, the Venezuelan Embassy in Guyana claimed that the first incident occurred on 7 April when "shots were fired from the Guyana border post in the Ankoko area, against Border Post 2 of Venezuela's National Guard, in which eight bullet holes were found", while the second incident took place on the following day when "several shots were fired from the Guyanese side against a Venezuelan boat carrying two National Guards".

In a reply to the Venezuelan note, the Guyanese Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rashleigh Jackson, on the 27 April dismissed the allegations as "totally without foundation". The reply which was handed to the Venezuelan Ambassador, Sadio Garavini, also drew the attention of the Ambassador to a report in the El Diario de Caracas of the 25 April 1981 that the Vice-Minister of Youth of Venezuela was contemplating leading a group of Venezuelan youths across the frontier in the Baramita area of western Guyana. Jackson requested clarification from the Ambassador as to the accuracy of this report, as well as another report that the Vice-Minister had already led a group of fifty youths into Guyana in early April. It was pointed out that any action by Venezuelan citizens to enter Guyana illegally and to violate the frontier was fraught with grave danger and, if pursued, could have dire consequences of far reaching nature.

The Minister also sought assurances that appropriate steps would be taken by the Venezuelan Government to prevent its citizens from violating the territorial integrity of Guyana.


The 25 April issue of El Diario de Caracas also carried a revealing article by Maria Euginia Diaz who stated that the Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs had already given "instructions to high functionaries in the international financial organizations to try to block loans" which the Guyana Government had requested for the development of the Essequibo.

Maria Diaz added: "Political sources in Washington revealed yesterday to this writer that the Venezuelan functionaries in the World Bank and the IDB have received express instructions from the national government in this regard."

"Venezuelan functionaries", the article stated, were asked to follow up all loans requested by the Guyana Government, and were instructed to make these financial organizations "realize the inconvenience of approving loans" for the development of the Essequibo. Further the Venezuelan functionaries were given the task of warning individually the member countries of "the serious repercussions" of the development projects in Essequibo.


By this time, the escalation of the border issue had begun to draw comments in newspapers in the Caribbean region. One week after the Venezuelan communique concerning the non-renewal of the Protocol was issued, the Sunday Express of Trinidad and Tobago on the 19 April published an editorial calling on all Caribbean Governments to support Guyana against Venezuela's threats. The editorial, the first public expression of regional opinion, described the Venezuelan Government's attitude as "absurd", "intolerable', and "an act of territorial banditry".

The Weekly Review of Granma, the newspaper of the Communist Party of Cuba, made a significant comment on the matter in its issue of 26 April. In an article written by Jorge Luna, a Prensa Latina correspondent, the paper stated:

The renewal of Venezuela's claim to two-thirds of Guyana's territory has opened up a new front to the Luis Herrera Campins Government's foreign policy: the eastern Caribbean.

Caracas' refusal to extend the Port of Spain Protocol -- due to expire next year -- was received with expressions of amazement and disbelief by the former British colonies, which along with Guyana, form part of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

The renewal of the conflict with Guyana is likely to ruin the work of many years during which Venezuela tried hard to exert its influence on the small English-speaking Caribbean islands with its petrodollars. . .

The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry, overloaded with the work involved in Venezuela's overt assistance to the repressive junta in El Salvador, did not seem to be prepared for CARICOM's reaction to President Herrera Campins' refusal to reconsider the Port of Spain Protocol.

It also looks as if the Venezuelan Government lacks the national support it needs to take such a risky position.

As if to exacerbate the new low in Guyanese-Venezuelan relations . . . the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry issued another communique, apparently aimed at combating growing criticisms at home. The communique went so far as to say that Venezuela was not willing to recognize Guyana's right to build the Alto Mazaruni hydroelectric power plant, and reiterated the Government's "determination to have its decision respected".

However, President Burnham, who has repeatedly stated that his country is ready to defend itself in the event of any threat, has gone ahead with the project in the area under dispute, which is one of the key areas for the development of the country. Meanwhile, as Guyana draws support from the eastern Caribbean, . . . and the Venezuelan Government is trying to neutralize the new Caribbean front, a number of newspapers in Caracas are calling for the Vatican to act as mediator in the conflict.


Towards the end of April, a war of words broke out between the Guyana Government and Venezuela. It started when the Venezuelan Ambassador to Guyana, Sadio Garavini, on the 20 April, sent the following letter to Dr. Ptolomy Reid in his capacity as General Secretary of the PNC, Vice-President and Prime Minister:


I wish to convey to you my most firm and vigorous protest in relation with the two cartoons which appeared in the weekly New Nation, official organ of your party, on the 12th and 19th of April, that insulted and denigrated the person of the President of Venezuela, Dr. Luis Herrera Campins.

Evidently, offends who can, not who wants, the author of the cartoons, who moreover demonstrates ignorance and bad taste, diminishes himself willing to insult a man who has been elected legitimately by the People of a Democracy which is an example to the developing world. In democratic nations we are accustomed to an independent press, hard and aggressive, which is responsible for its actions, but in this case, the New Nation is the official organ of the PNC, in a country where the doctrine of the Paramountcy of the Party over the Government exists.

As you know perfectly well, Cde. Secretary General, the non-renovation of the Protocol of Port of Spain is something absolutely normal in International Relations and was foreseen in the same legal instrument. At the end of the Protocol of Port of Spain, enters in force the Geneva Agreement, in the context of which Guyana and Venezuela are bound to seek "satisfactory solutions for the practical settlement of the controversy."

It is evident that a practical settlement of the controversy, satisfactory for both countries, will be reached more easily if the relations between Guyana and Venezuela are maintained in a civilized atmosphere of mutual respect.

Cde. Secretary General, in conclusion, I wish to remember here the words of President Forbes Burnham in the press conference of the 8th of April of this year: "This is not a time for agitation. Hurried actions and agitation never give rise to wisdom. This is a time for calm...

I hope that you, your Party and your Government will know how to transmit adequately calm and wisdom to the Guyanese people. Finally, I will be very grateful if this letter will be published in the next edition of the New Nation.

Copies of the text of this letter were sent by the Ambassador to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rashleigh Jackson, Minister of Information, Frank Campbell, the Manager of the Guyana Broadcasting Corporation, Terry Holder, the Manager of Guyana National Newspapers Limited, Harry Harewood, members of the Diplomatic Corps, and the Editor of the Catholic Standard, Andrew Morrison. A copy was also sent to Dr. Cheddi Jagan who was addressed as "Editor of the Mirror".


The Ambassador's letter drew a stinging reply from the Sunday Chronicle of the 26 April. This was shortly after a spokesman for the Office of the Prime Minister stated that the letter was extremely rude and that it was not properly addressed to the Prime Minister. The state-owned newspaper -- which in the same issue published the Ambassador's letter -- acting as the mouthpiece of the PNC regime, stated, inter-alia:

We publish in full today a letter improperly addressed to the Prime Minister of Guyana by Mr. Sadio Garavini, the Venezuelan Ambassador resident in Georgetown. The letter was copied to a number of persons including "Cde. Cheddi Jagan, Editor of the Mirror".

Of course, Mr. Garavini must know that Cde. Cheddi Jagan is not the Editor of the Mirror. But no doubt, he has his reason for copying to Dr. Jagan. Interestingly, a copy was not sent to the New Nation. But a copy was sent to us.

It could be clearly seen that the letter was, as a member of the staff of the Prime Minister has noted, extremely rude. Whatever Mr. Garavini might say about the New Nation's cartoons, his behaviour as a diplomat is most strange...

According to Mr. Garavini, the media in Venezuela are free and entitled to carry out its orchestrated and hostile campaign against the people and Government of Guyana, to indulge in personal and vicious attacks against its President, to be the medium for threats of military adventurism and naval blockade of our territory; and to commit to print and other forms of public dissemination of information every possible distortion it can about this country.

All of this activity is legitimate and acceptable, again -- according to Mr. Garavini -- because Venezuela is a democratic country. If the last paragraph of his letter is to be taken seriously, then he is even seeking to infer that such reporting contributes to a calm atmosphere in which to conduct relations between Guyana and Venezuela.

By the omission of any reference in his letter to persistent Venezuelan aggressions against Guyana, Mr. Garavini is on the other hand condoning the fact that the media in Venezuela can legitimately turn a blind eye to the successive violations of democratic Venezuela to every international agreement and understanding involving Guyana, including the Arbitral Award of 1899, the United Nations Charter as it relates to military intervention, the Convention of the Territorial Sea and Contiguous Zone of 1958, and the Protocol of Port of Spain of 1970 -- and apparently, that Venezuela can do all this because it is democratic -- it can be immoral, unjust and insensitive to the legitimate rights of a small country trying to pursue its own path to political freedom and economic and social justice for its people.

In our view, Mr. Garavini clearly misses the entire point of the cartoons and of the New Nation's editorial comments on the issue of Venezuela's claim to Guyana's territory. It is regrettable if Mr. Garavini reads the cartoons as a personal attack on his President. That's not Guyana's style.

However, the real issue is not, as Mr. Garavini suggests, whether the President of Venezuela has been made the unhappy subject of a cartoonist's commentary, which, in any case, has been the lot of our President in the Venezuelan media. The issue is whether the Guyanese media have a responsibility to the people of Guyana to assist in mobilizing them to reject the real threat of Venezuela's expansionism.

It may be, as Mr. Garavini asserts, the democratic right of the press in Venezuela to vilify Guyana. Surely, it must be the legitimate right of the people of Guyana to defend themselves against external pressures and to resist threats, whatever the source.

Mr. Garavini surely must be writing on his own behalf, but, in doing so, he demonstrates an arrogance unbecoming of a diplomatic representative dealing on a sensitive issue with a sovereign country. He compounds this arrogance by copying his letter to just everyone else in Guyana, including the Leader of the Minority Party in Parliament, and to the Editors of the Mirror and the Catholic Standard. Indeed, the only person not in receipt of a copy is the only relevant person, the Editor of the New Nation. But Mr. Garavini is too busy presuming to address himself preposterously to the Prime Minister to remember that the New Nation has an Editor.

The Government may have its internal differences with some of the persons whom his letter is copied and the Parties and organizations they represent. However, it has been established, and we can assure Mr. Garavini, that on the matter of Venezuela's immoral, illegal and unjust claim to Guyana's territory, all Guyana is speaking up in favour of its total rejection.


The Venezuelan Ambassador responded to the comment by the Chronicle in a letter to the Editor which was published in the same paper on the 3 May 1981. This letter stated:

I am writing to you in relation to your comment of my letter to the General Secretary of the PNC, Cde. Ptolomy Reid, published in the Sunday Chronicle on the 26 April.

The New Nation, as I am sure you know, is not just a newspaper but the official organ of the PNC, which means that for every rational human being more or less informed about politics and political parties, those ultimately responsible for the actions of an official organ of a Party are a Chairman ( who, I was told, was out of the country) and the General Secretary of that Party who, in this case, unfortunately happens to be also the Prime Minister and Vice-President of Guyana.

Therefore, to say that my letter was "improperly addressed" is just a delicate and humouristic expedient for avoiding an answer. But as you were so kind to make some remarks on my letter, I will try to clarify some points in which I believe there must be some kind of misunderstanding and / or bad information.

Most of the press, television channels and radio stations in Venezuela, not only are not under the control of the Government and / or the ruling Party, but they represent independent forces and actually some of them are even in bitter opposition to our Government. So, if some of our media have been hard and aggressive against President Burnham and his Government, you cannot make responsible the Venezuelan Government for that, as anybody, in his sane judgement, could make responsible your Government for whatever the Catholic Standard can say against anybody.

I should be grateful to you if you tell me what are the "persistent Venezuelan aggressions against Guyana" that you say I have omitted in my letter. As far as I know, the only relevant fact that has happened during the last month between Guyana and Venezuela that my Government is responsible for is the announcement that the Venezuelan Government does not wish to renovate the Protocol of Port of Spain.

This can be hardly considered an aggression, specially if we remember that when the effects of the Protocol will finally come to an end on the 18th of June, 1982, the Geneva Agreement enters again in force, and the legal instrument, signed by our two Governments, clearly states the mechanism through which the two countries can find "satisfactory solutions for the practical settlement of the controversy".

There is a huge difference between the responsible and serious task of informing the Guyanese people on the existence of the controversy between our two countries, that can and must be solved through the mechanisms of peaceful settlement that are foreseen in the Geneva Agreement, and the irresponsible task of trying to create an artificial mass-hysteria on the non-existent and ridiculous imminent military aggression.

Finally, I wish to point out that, for an evident geopolitical imperative, our two countries are, and will, be neighbours for the rest of their existence as nation-States; therefore, it is in their common interest to try to understand each other better.

After all, this controversy is only a moment in our relations and sooner or later will be solved through the mechanisms that already are in existence. Better times will surely come and it is the duty of concerned citizens of both countries to do their best to create a sensible and rational atmosphere between the two nations. . .


The Editor of the Chronicle responded sharply to this second letter from the Venezuelan Ambassador in the same issue of the state-owned newspaper:

. . .It is with a sense of duty that we respond to your letter . . . which, unless we are grossly mistaken, represents an attempt to insult our intelligence and that of our readers. . .

Certainly, "every rational human being" must know, Mr. Ambassador, that a newspaper has an editor and it has a publisher. "Every rational human being" must know that, in relation to the editorial content of the newspaper, the editor is the logical and proper addressee. Therefore, when you speak of "just a delicate and humouristic expedient for avoiding an answer" in responding to our reference to the improper address of your letter to the Prime Minister, you are not being fair. You are merely adding insult to diplomatic injury.

We note your suggestion that, not being the owner, your Government could not be held responsible for the abuse and hysteria generated by your media. But we are not unaware of the informal links which have been functional in the orchestration of a campaign of informational aggression against Guyana. There is no need to discuss your own strengths, influence and activities in this regard.

You invited us to indicate "the persistent Venezuelan aggression against Guyana" which you omitted in your letter.

We shall not bore you with a detailed list of matters of which you must be aware. Suffice it to cite a few examples.

In 1965, in defiance of the general map of the boundary which only sixty years earlier had been authenticated by your country's Boundary Commissioners, your Government militarily occupied the eastern portion of the island of Ankoko in the Cuyuni River, which in terms of that map and of all known instruments of international law properly belonged then, and still belongs now, to the people of Guyana. You, Mr. Ambassador, might find it convenient to forget this act of aggression. We the Guyanese people never will.

On July 9, 1968 the then President of Venezuela signed a decree No. 1,152 purporting to annex as part of the territorial waters and contiguous zone of Venezuela a belt of sea lying along the coast of Guyana between the mouth of the Essequibo River and Waini Point, and purporting further to require the armed forces of Venezuela to impose the dominion of Venezuela over the said belt.

This decree was inconsistent with the norms of decent inter-state conduct and good neighbourliness and contravened the Geneva Agreement as well as international maritime laws, insomuch as it violated the Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone and the Convention on the Continental Shelf of 1958 which conventions Venezuela has both signed and ratified.

Recently, spokesmen within Venezuela have claimed that it was Venezuelan pressure which resulted in the closure of Manganese Mines Limited in this country. It has also been boasted that similar pressure resulted in two oil companies ceasing the exploration for oil in Guyana.

Only last month, Venezuelan officials attempted to prevent Brazilian assistance to us in the development of our oil resources in an area contiguous to Brazil in the south of our country.

Generally, Venezuela has set out recently to prevent us from obtaining any international loan to develop the areas that Venezuela has eyes on, and to frustrate the fruition of the Government's most important projects intended to better the economic condition of the Guyanese nation.

We have given you a clear catalogue of some of the acts of aggression committed against Guyana by its neighbour Venezuela. If these do not represent aggression, Mr. Ambassador, what does?

We must express some optimism, however restrained, at the fact that the closing paragraphs of your letter offer both evidence or reasoning and some justification of hope. Your call for "a sensible and rational atmosphere" not only reflects our people's viewpoint, but mirrors the policy which our Government has so consistently pursued.

Our one difficulty, even at this point, is to reconcile your words with the behaviour of persons of high authority in the Government which you represent. That a member of your Government should proclaim that he led insurgents into our territory and declare himself ready to pursue further such a misguided course is the worst possible way to "create a sensible and rational atmosphere".

In speaking of the need for calm, your remarks are no less misdirected than was your original correspondence. In all these acts committed by your Government over the years, Venezuela has not suffered, except by way of an unfortunate reputation which it has been building for itself as an unconscionable aggressor.

The Guyanese people have suffered directly and tangibly. That your Government should advise us to be calm is the irony of the century.

Mr. Ambassador, we feel a sense of pride at having facilitated through these columns the ventilation of the position of the Government of Venezuela in a manner which does not accord with our country's own experience with the Venezuelan media. You will therefore not think it unreasonable if at this stage we should consider this correspondence at an end. . .

Two days before the Ambassador's letter was published in the Chronicle, he left Guyana for consultations with his Government in Caracas. His departure was linked with what was then regarded as a stiffening of positions of both the Guyanese and Venezuelan Governments on the border issue.

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The Anglican Church of Guyana at its Annual Synod held at the St. George's Cathedral in Georgetown on the 28 April expressed strong support for the defence of Guyana's territorial integrity. In an address to the conference, the head of the Anglican Church, Bishop Randolph George, said that the situation called for nothing less than the summoning of a conference of all the political parties in Guyana, in the hope that, after frank and open discussions, a common position would be arrived at.

Earlier, the Government of Barbados also expressed its total support for Guyana. At a press conference held on the 24 April, Prime Minister Tom Adams said that Guyana could look forward to the total and complete support of the Barbados Government over the border issue. He told the press conference that as far as his Government was concerned, Barbados saw no reason to consider the border of Guyana to be other that inviolate. He added that it was a pity that no theme of inviolability of borders similar to that of Africa was evolved in South America. In Africa, he explained, the many flagrantly unfair boundaries which were imposed in the days of imperialism were being maintained by agreements between all nations concerned and the African countries agreed not to have borders disputed.

Guyana won more international support when both Angola and the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) expressed backing for the Guyana position. This support was expressed in the International Forum for the Liberation of Southern Africa which was held in Georgetown towards the end of April 1981. On the 29 April, the Vice-Minister in the Department of External Affairs of Angola, Venancio de Silva Moura, explained that his country was fully supporting Guyana in the border issue. He added that his Government was prepared to use its good offices to contribute towards a peaceful solution of the matter. On the following day, Ambassador Laban Oyaka of the Liberation Committee of the OAU said that in the face of the Venezuelan claims, the OAU would be on the side of Guyana. Describing Venezuela as an arrogant and aggressive neighbour, Oyaka pledged his Organisation's total support to uphold the territorial integrity of Guyana.


Meanwhile, in Venezuela it was reported at the end of April that top ranking military officials held discussions with President Campins on the border issue. This meeting followed reports that the Venezuelan National Defence and Security Council had stated that the Venezuelan claim to the western Essequibo was "a national security issue". There were also reports that the Operational Planning Group of the armed forces was developing military plans in preparation for the "various directions" in which the conflict might move. According to an Inter Press Service report on the 30 April, General Celis Noguera, the Venezuelan Under-Secretary of the National Defence and Security Council emphasized the "geo-political importance of the Essequibo", the resources of which could be exported through the Orinoco River. According to the Under-Secretary, the claim to western Essequibo involved "sovereignty and territoriality" because the claimed region could be used as a "defence strip against any attack from the continent".

The IPS report also quoted retired General Arnaldo Castro Hurtado, a potential Presidential candidate for the 1983 elections in Venezuela, as saying that the only solution of the issue would be an "uprising militarily supported by Venezuela".

Late in April also, it was reported that the Deputy Youth Minister, Reinaldo Alvarado, had announced that a youth camp would be organised at Paramichi on the Venezuelan side of the border. At the same time, the Youth Ministry instituted a plan to encourage people to telephone offers of participating in what it was calling "sovereignty acts". According to the Youth Ministry, the plan had received full support from President Campins.


Labour Day, the 1 May 1981, was widely used by the Guyana Government to propagandise its position on the border issue. In Georgetown at the National Park, President Burnham was the main speaker at a rally to celebrate Labour Day. In an address to a large gathering comprised of school children and workers, he devoted his entire speech to deal with developments on the border issue. He emphasised that the border issue was one that involved the country's territorial integrity, and added: "This is a question of whether we are prepared to defend our country or give away five-eights of it."

Burnham stated that Venezuela was engaged in both physical and economic aggression against Guyana and pointed out that the Venezuelans were trying to use their "perceived influences" in international circles to block loans and grants intended to be used for the development of Essequibo. He insisted that Guyana was prepared to discuss but not prepared to yield any territory to Venezuela. He explained that Guyana had received support from a large number of organisations and that this was a source of happiness and strength. To receive such support for a just cause was not strange, he said.

According to the President, there were many Venezuelans who recognized the stupidity of the claim and there were others who supported it because there was no other course open to them.

Pointing out the actions that had been taken to publicise the Guyana case on the issue, Burnham said that the Government had set up programmes for educating the people. The world was being informed and the more this continued the more Venezuela would be standing alone, he insisted.

He also claimed that the Government was pleased with the support it was obtaining from the people. However, he noted that there was talk in Venezuelan circles that some Guyanese supported the Venezuelan claim. Insisting that he could not know all the happenings in Guyana, he added that if such persons were discovered they would be severely punished.

Burnham related the border issue to the economic conditions experienced by Guyana. "Take away the rich lands and the massive resources of the Essequibo and there will be no country to develop. . . I submit that no expense is too high and no sacrifice too great to defend Essequibo," he told his audience. He reminded Guyanese of the riches of the Essequibo and said that they must decide whether they wanted "luxuries today and no Essequibo tomorrow".

Touching on the demand by workers for a minimum wage of fourteen dollars a day, Burnham was explicit: "We can discuss the fourteen dollars; we can discuss twenty-one dollars; but right now we have to defend the Essequibo. Let us decide to unite so that we can defend the Essequibo."

He then proceeded to ask to ask the workers of Guyana to choose between the fourteen dollars a day and the Essequibo! He urged all Guyanese to join the People's Militia to help defend Essequibo from any Venezuelan military aggression. "Let me hear no squawking about guns before butter, flour and other foods because there would be none of those without the guns," the President said. (An organised large group of PNC supporters in the audience, at this time, chanted that they preferred Essequibo rather than the fourteen dollars a day wage increase!)

In his speech, Burnham also touched on the Upper-Mazaruni Hydro-Electric Project. To facilitate the Project, he explained that the Government was working on arrangements with the Amerindians who were occupying the area expected to be flooded after the building of the dam, on how they would be involved in the Project. He added that the Amerindians would decide where they would want to resettle.

The President also announced that in an effort to prepare the country to defend itself from the Venezuelan "threat", Parliament would meet during May to review the 1981 budget so as to allocate funds to meet such needs.


During April and early May 1981, the Guyana state-owned media, particularly the Chronicle carried out a campaign of bitter attacks on Venezuela. In hysterical outbursts, the newspaper, through its columnists, referred to the Venezuelan as "fascists", "terrorists" and "bandits". `

On the 10 May, the PPP commented on Burnham's May Day speech and the hysteria displayed by the Chronicle. The Party stated:

The People's Progressive Party is concerned over the PNC's heating up of events pertaining to the border issue between Venezuela and Guyana, particularly in the state-owned Chronicle. Venezuela is referred to as. . ."fascist enslavers", "conquistadores", "terrorists" and "bandits".

These appellations are not factual. VENEZUELA IS A DEMOCRATIC BOURGEOIS STATE, NOT A FASCIST STATE. No matter how strenuously the whole Guyanese nation may reject the Venezuelan claim to Essequibo, that does not alter the basic facts of the nature of the Government and state in that country. In any case, rigged elections and "paramountcy of the party" do not form part of the motivation of the Government coalition in Caracas.

Such vitriolic appellations can only serve to aggravate the situation and escalate it to actual military confrontation on the border, which would be neither in the interests of the Venezuelan people nor the Guyanese people.

The PPP calls on the PNC regime to "rein in" the frantic columnists in the Chronicle, particularly the one whose pen-name is Dargan before they do more diplomatic damage which only the force of arms may redress. The PPP is of the view that, while the whole nation must be prepared for any eventuality including military action, even if the entire Budget is re-geared towards the army, a military clash between Guyana and Venezuela will be disastrous for Guyana. We are too poor to sustain a major war effort. Besides, where are our friends who could be relied on to defend us and not to help devour us?

The PNC is escalating the verbal hostilities no doubt to give it a convenient lever to stifle the workers' demand for wage increases, their arrears wages for 1979 and for improved benefits and working conditions. This was clearly demonstrated at the TUC May Day fiasco.

The regime, true to its anti-working class colours, is not keen in paying up the $14 or to raise wages for 1980-81 to a satisfactory level. Instead it is taking steps to restructure the 1981 budget so as to make more funds available for the military apparatus. This can easily boost the $139.3 million to over $150 million (it was only $15 million in 1979). The TUC which should have been on the alert for such a subterfuge, allowed itself to be bent in the howling gale of PNC war propaganda, and has soft-pedalled the $14 money issues.

In 1980, the PNC declined to pay the $14 (per day minimum wage) and excused itself by saying that the hydro-project was more important. Now, in 1981, it is again excusing itself by saying that the border crisis is more important than "luxuries".

The cringing attitude of the TUC towards the PNC leaves much to be desired. The Trades Union Congress must fight the workers' battles at all times. Its May Day exercises which were taken over by the PNC for propaganda purposes were a farce. In 1976, instead of supporting GAWU's call for the establishment of a genuine People's Militia, it backed the Government's Defence Bonds issue. That only $2 million instead of $30 million was raised should be a salutary reminder to the PNC and the TUC as to the lack of confidence of the masses in the Government.

The 1981 Budget is at present heavily oriented against the working people of Guyana. Social services have been falling steadily over the years as a share of the Budgets. Any restructuring of the 1981 Budget would be much more detrimental to the welfare of the masses.

When the Protocol of Port of Spain expires on June 18, 1982, the Geneva Agreement of 1966 (which the PNC-UF regime should not have signed) will apply. And this provides for a recourse to the UN for a peaceful solution. It does not automatically mean that Venezuela would go to war against Guyana on June 19, 1982 or some hours or days afterwards. Are the Guyanese people to be under the added stress of war hysteria for a whole year to come?

The PPP recalls the days of close Guyana-Venezuela collaboration when Brazil (instigated by imperialism) was manifesting hostility towards Guyana on the southern front. A joint Venezuela-Guyana cement factory was also planned to be constructed. In the Chronicle of August 14, 1974 a headline on the front page declared: "$33 MILLION VENEZUELAN LOAN FOR GUYANA". An announcement to this effect was made at the UN by the Venezuelan Permanent Representative Adolfo Talyhardat and Guyana's Foreign Minister responded as follows: "I am pleased that it has been announced." In the Chronicle of June 12, 1975 another story captioned, "Guyana-Venezuela Strengthen Ties", further headlined "EXPERTS TO WORK OUT CO-OP PLAN".

The obvious switch to Brazil is a sign of instability, bad diplomacy and poor planning. It is well to remember in this regard that the USA posed as the friends of the Cubans in their fight against the Spanish, but after the latter had been defeated, the Cubans had to struggle even harder against American capitalism and tutelage.

The PPP condemns the Government for developing an aggressive tone in its relations with Venezuela. This is unwise and precipitate, considering the superior economic, political and military strength of Venezuela, and the as yet un-enthused masses of Guyana.

The PPP calls on the Government immediately to summon the Parliament to ventilate the issue.


With reference to the Government's intention of resettling the Amerindians in the Upper Mazaruni (as alluded to in Burnham's May Day speech), Dennis Abraham, an Amerindian from the Akawoi tribe residing in the upper Mazaruni area, in a letter published in the Mirror on the 3 May 1981 issued a call to the Government to name the area set aside for the resettling of the Akawois. He claimed that the Akawois in the Upper Mazaruni were not given any information as to where they would be resettled. Abraham concluded: "...Now that the Upper Mazaruni Hydro-Project is linked with border disputes and territorial claims, it has caused fear of danger to the Amerindian people, particularly the Akawois who are settled within Upper Mazaruni. It is clear that the present Government is preparing to create refugees out of four thousand Akawoi Amerindian people from the Upper Mazaruni region."

It was apparent that by this time the PNC regime was becoming worried about the manner in which Guyanese were responding to the Venezuelan claim. Oscar Ramjeet, writing in the official organ of the PNC, the weekly New Nation, on the 3 May 1981 complained: "I am of the view that Guyanese are taking the issue too lightly -- they should be more patriotic. It is understood that Venezuela is putting a lot of emphasis on patriotism. . ."


In Venezuela, an Inter Press Service (IPS) report on the 4 May 1981 stated that President Campins had requested that a meeting of the Venezuelan Defence and Security Council be held on the 28 May to discuss what Foreign Minister, Jose Alberto Zambrano Velsaco described as "border tensions" with Guyana. The report pointed out that direct negotiations between the two Governments were highly unlikely from the Caracas viewpoint, and that although a military confrontation seemed unlikely, Venezuela was taking an unexpected bellicose stance. Meanwhile, the leftist Opposition in the country underscored the importance of reaching a peaceful settlement, and accused the Government of lacking a coherent foreign policy. Both the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV) and the People's Electoral Movement (MEP), a pro-socialist party, were reported to be preparing a joint report on the country's options for effectively making its claim without appearing to the world as "an imperialist country trying to take territory from a former British colony".


At the same time the campaign in Venezuela was being built up for the reclamation of the Essequibo, a top-level team of Venezuelan diplomats undertook a series of visits to a number of Latin American and English-speaking Caribbean countries to put over their country's views on the border issue. On the 4 May, the Christian Democratic Senator, Jose Rodriguez Iturbe, and International Policy Director, Roy Chaderton, left for Panama and Mexico to seek those countries' support. The Senator had recently returned from a similar visit to Argentina and Brazil. Around the same period, too, the Venezuelan Ambassador to the Organisation of American States (OAS), Dr. Hilarion Cardozo, undertook a similar mission to Jamaica, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, and Barbados. According to the Trinidad Guardian of the 8 May 1981, Dr. Cardozo, at a press conference the day before at the Venezuelan Embassy in Port of Spain, said that he did not believe that the border issue could be solved through shouts or threats or arousing hatred in people, or having lists of countries in support or against any of the two involved in the dispute. He told the journalists, "We are not requesting any Government to become the enemy of another to be our friend; we respect the rights that all Governments have to choose and make friends. . . We know there is interest in this dispute; we know of lines taken by Governments which serve extra-continental Governments that are taking this situation to divide Venezuela and the countries of the Caribbean."

Dr. Cardozo explained that his country was not extending the Protocol of Port of Spain but insisted that there was a clear agreement between Guyana and Venezuela for solving the matter in a way acceptable to both countries. He pointed out:

Once we accept the mechanism, or way of solving it, then we would go into solutions of the problems of the frontiers. Under the provisions of the Geneva Agreement, if there is no solution during talks, the matter is to be referred to the Secretary General of the United Nations to choose a method of solution to the problem. If agreement is still not reached, the matter is to be referred back for him to choose other means under Article 33 of the United nations Charter until the dispute is solved. . . We told Guyana, "Let's talk things over". It is not the Venezuelan Government's intention to renew the Protocol . . . but to choose the established mechanism in the Geneva Agreement.

On the 7 and 8 May the Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Jose Alberto Zambrano Velasco, paid a visit to Brazil where he held talks with federal Government officials about the claim. On the 10 May, an IPS report on the talks indicated that although the Venezuelan Foreign Minister denied that Venezuela was trying to "internationalise the conflict" with its diplomatic offensive, he acknowledged that his moves were in response to what it perceived Guyana to be doing.

The same IPS report also alleged that the Libyan Embassy in Caracas had denied reports from Georgetown that Libya had made a statement supporting Guyana on the border issue.


Despite the diplomatic initiative of the Venezuelan Government, hysteria continued to be mounted by certain sections of the press in Venezuela. Part of the hysteria was generated against Cuba allegedly for giving military training to Guyanese troops. The French Press Agency (AFP), in particular, reporting from Caracas during this period, issued a number of unsubstantiated stories of Cuban military aid to Guyana. Commenting on these stories, the 9 May issue of the Granma, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of Cuba, carried this article by its staff writer, Luis M. Arce:

The border dispute between Venezuela and Guyana has a long history, and the facts are well known to all concerned.

After an agreement was signed in 1899 which gave Guyana the rights to 159,000 square kilometres on the west side of the Essequibo River -- which is now claimed by the Herrera Campins administration and which represents nearly 75 percent of present-day Guyana -- both sides were able to maintain a peaceful climate during what was the practical solution to the problem.

However, the surprising thing is that suddenly Cuba should become involved in the affair, at a time when the Venezuelan Government is making unprecedented efforts to take over 75 percent of a neighbouring country which has consolidated a completely different mode of production, culture and multinational society which is Guyanese and nothing else.

Recently, a Venezuelan general, Defence Minister Tomas Abreu Rescaniere, told journalists that the Venezuelan Government should change and take note of things like the military situation in the Caribbean. He made the comment in answer to a question about alleged "Cuban military backing for Guyana" in connection with the remote possibility that the dispute would lead to fighting.

The general made clear the position of the Venezuelan armed forces in the event of the worsening of the dispute by saying that they would "back all efforts to recover the territory of which we were unjustly deprived last century".

Also worthy of note in this affair is the provocative role being played by the French news agency, AFP, which has been trying to stir up trouble for Cuba and Guyana for weeks.

AFP has concentrated on publicizing what it calls rumours in Caracas about an alleged report which discusses the great inferiority of the armed forces of Venezuela with respect to those of Cuba and even says that, in a hypothetical Cuban attack on Venezuela within a regional conflict or world war, Venezuela's riches would be seized by the Cubans.

AFP concludes its reference to the "rumours" about the report -- of "unknown origin" by the way -- by saying that "Venezuela is counting on its guns in case the defence of its sovereignty, even over the territory it is claiming, requires military and not just political or diplomatic action".

Basically, this conclusion is call to war.

The counter-revolutionary and anti-Cuban campaign unleashed or blown up by AFP bases itself on a paragraph of the joint communique by the Foreign Ministries of Cuba and Guyana last January (1981) on the occasion of an official visit by Cuban Foreign Minister Isidoro Malmierca to Guyana, which reads as follows:

"The Cuban side reiterated its full support for the right of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana to have its territorial integrity respected and to pursue its own social, political and economic development."

On April 3, Guyanese President Forbes Burnham held a press conference in Caracas once the official activities of his visit to Venezuela were over. There he rebuffed the attacks on Cuba in the reactionary press by explaining that Cuba's support for Guyana's current integrity was a principle concerning sovereignty and self determination valid for the non-aligned countries. He denied reports of a military agreement between Cuba and Guyana, adding that his Government had not sought such support in a dispute which would be solved by responsible and peaceful means.

It comes as no surprise that Venezuela should serve as the sounding board for this shameful and inadmissible campaign against our country.

If, as can be seen from AFP dispatch No. 40 of April 22, Venezuela is counting its guns to defend its sovereignty "even over the territory it is claiming" and the campaign against Cuba is being used as an excuse for an attack on a sister nation, then starting right now, we warn of its consequences and denounce its vile objectives. This campaign also seeks to fan chauvinist feelings in order to undercut the traditional ties of friendship between the peoples of Venezuela and Cuba, and neutralize the solidarity movement with the Cuban Revolution and condemnation of Venezuelan Government's policy.

Everybody in Latin America is aware of the unpopular foreign policy of the Herrera Campins administration, which cooperates with the US imperialists in their aggressive policy against the peoples of Central America and the Caribbean. This is shown by the shameful support both of them are giving to the butchers in El Salvador and the bloodthirsty regimes that rule Guatemala and Honduras.

Not long ago, the Sunday Express of Trinidad and Tobago noted that the present Government of Venezuela had evident neo-imperialist inclinations and, in an effort at territorial plunder, did not hide its expansionist designs over Guyana and other countries. This concerns Cuba insofar as it has a principled stand on any act of injustice that threatens the sovereignty and integrity of a sister nation, and peace in the region. This is the meaning of Cuba's support for the territorial integrity of Guyana, as expressed in the Foreign Ministers' communique.

However, the enemies of the Cuban Revolution should make no mistake. No campaign, threat or intrigue, can destroy the solid friendship between the people of Cuba and those of Guyana and Venezuela.

Cuba will never foment a dispute between the sister nations of Latin America and the Caribbean. On the contrary, it will always do all it can to prevent useless bloodshed, and in this particular case, it hopes that the dispute can be solved in a rational, peaceful spirit of understanding, which is what the peoples of Guyana and Venezuela undoubtedly want too.

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Towards the end of May 1981, the Guyana Government launched its own diplomatic offensive in the English-speaking Caribbean. On the 28 May, a three-member delegation headed by Guyana's High Commissioner to the Eastern Caribbean, Harold Sahadeo, and including the Head of the Frontiers Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Cheryl Miles, and Administrative Assistant of the same Ministry, Riley Abdelnour, began a tour of Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Grenada, St. Vincent, Dominica and St. Lucia. In the course of the visit to each of these countries, the delegation delivered a message from President Burnham to the respective Head of Government. A Ministry of Foreign Affairs announcement stated, shortly after, that a similar delegation would visit other English-speaking Caribbean territories in due course.


While this diplomatic initiative was being launched in the Caribbean, the Guyana High Commissioner in London, Dr. Cedric Grant, in a letter in the London Guardian, was rebutting an article written on the 2 April by that paper's correspondent in Caracas, Keith Grant. The High Commissioner's letter, published on the 28 May, insisted that the correspondent's article captioned "Guyana Seeks Settlement" was "replete with distortions" and "downright dangerous and dishonest". Commenting on the article's allegation that "many Guyanese living in the Essequibo consider themselves as Venezuelan although their native tongue is English", the High Commissioner pointed out that the Guardian's correspondent was seeking to present a picture of a divided Guyanese population and to provide " an additional and compelling reason" for Venezuela to prosecute its claim. Dr. Grant stated:

Irrespective of ethnicity and where they live, Guyanese are unanimous in their rejection of the Venezuelan claim and have publicly voiced their support of the Government's stand on the issue. . . Likewise, political parties of differing hues, trade unions, voluntary and social organisations have, since President Burnham's visit to Caracas, reiterated the right of Guyana to enjoy its sovereignty and territorial integrity in accordance with its existing and traditional frontiers.

The article in the Guardian had also made reference to an attempt to "resolve the dispute" in 1977 during the Presidency of Carlos Andrez Perez of Venezuela. The compromise allegedly involved partial financing of the Upper Mazaruni Hydro-Electric Project by Venezuela in return for which "Guyana would have conceded a portion of the north eastern section of the Essequibo". In his letter, Dr. Grant described this allegation as "incorrect", stressing "that there has never been any change in the Guyana Government's view that the present boundaries of Guyana are non-negotiable and that the Venezuelan claim is completely absurd".


In Guyana, despite the denunciation of the Venezuelan claim by Opposition parties, the PNC administration maintained a stubborn refusal to consult with even the Parliamentary Opposition in handling the border issue. The monthly Caribbean Contact of May 1981, in an article headlined "PNC ONE-PARTY APPROACH RISKY IN FACE OF THIS HOSTILITY" pointed to the aggressive campaign of Venezuela, and added:

...The ferocity of the Venezuelan campaign is hardly matched by Guyana where Burnham's People's National Congress (PNC) has long been accustomed to running the nation's business as a matter for one party. Consequently, the Georgetown administration has been accused of showing all its weakness in the face of renewed hostility from across the western border.

While Venezuela -- long before Guyana gained its independence from Britain fifteen years ago this month -- has been systematically educating its people about its claim to what is perhaps Guyana's natural resources region, the Guyana education system was being cluttered with PNC propaganda, and the nation's school-going population remain largely ignorant about Venezuela's designs on their country.

Only now is Mr. Burnham talking of educating the Guyanese people about Venezuela's territorial claim, and he can hardly be doing so as head of a popular and constitutionally elected Government.

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 Burnham Government is currently courting the friendship of Brazil, with which Guyana shares borders and with which, like Venezuela, it recently signed the Amazonian Treaty that permits joint economic cooperation among the signatories.

Officials of the Campins administration, however, have already publicly warned Brazil against any cooperation with Guyana in developing the Rupununi region, clearly having in mind the forestalling of the billion-dollar hydro-power project for which the Burnham Government is still to find the necessary development capital.

But more than anything else, it should be obvious to the Burnham Government that it has to mobilise Guyanese, across party lines, to take on the challenge from Caracas. . .


Around the end of May 1981, Guyana received further support from the Caribbean region. At a meeting of Labour Ministers of CARICOM held in Antigua, the Ministers unanimously endorsed a resolution giving total support for the preservation of Guyana's territorial integrity, and recommending that their respective Governments give full backing to Guyana on the issue. The meeting also urged that every step be taken to reach a peaceful solution to the issue with full territorial integrity for Guyana.

The Guyana Chronicle which, in the meanwhile, had commenced a campaign of propaganda warfare against Venezuela, on the 30 May called for the establishment of a "Regional Defence Force for repelling aggressors". The paper's editorial made this call in commenting on the visits of the Guyanese diplomatic delegation to a number of Caribbean countries to deliver to the various Heads of Governments "a message from President Burnham" outlining Guyana's position on the border issue.


During this very period a high-level meeting between Venezuela and the United States Government was held in Washington DC. The Guyana Chronicle of the 31 May reported:

The so-called Venezuela-Guyana border dispute has been discussed at length in Washington DC at the highest levels.

The secret discussions are reported to have been "almost altogether in favour of Guyana's rejection" of Venezuela's claim. . .

American representatives at the top-level talks included Vice President George Bush and Secretary of State Alexander Haig.

Venezuela's delegation headed by Interior Minister Rafael Andres Montes De Oca, included Dr. Gonsalo Garcia Bustillos.

Minister De Oca in Venezuela's present Government is second only to President Luis Herrera Campins. Dr. Bustillos is Minister to the Presidential Secretariat. He was also one of Venezuela's representatives on the Guyana-Venezuela Commission appointed under the Geneva Agreement.

American sources at the United Nations Headquarters have been quoted as saying that the USA will never side with Venezuela against Guyana on the border question.

Members of the Venezuelan delegation themselves have admitted that the USA is definitely neutral.

According to one source, "the Venezuelans have been advised by Washington that they (the Venezuelans) can lose many good friends by not abandoning their territorial claim against Guyana".


On the 1 June the Guyana Government placed before the Parliament a motion to review the 1981 national budget. This was in keeping with a decision made by President Burnham during his May Day address. According to the Vice President responsible for Economic Planning and Finance, Desmond Hoyte, who presented the budget review, Venezuela's aggression against Guyana had serious implications for the country and, as a result, the Government had decided there must be re-ordering of priorities. The new budget proposals included a slash of 64 million dollars in the expenditure of the public sector, and increases, and in some areas, introduction of consumption taxes. Yet, at the same time, the Government announced large increases in wages for high-salaried public servants while refusing to implement a 14 dollars per day minimum wage to Guyanese workers.

Hoyte, in his presentation to Parliament, declared that following the statement by Venezuela that it would not be renewing the Protocol of Port of Spain, that country launched a programme tantamount to economic terrorism against Guyana. He stated that Venezuela, using a well financed and organised mechanism, attempted to establish an embargo through the process of sending emissaries to various agencies seeking to create a blockade of funds which were destined and designed to be pumped into development projects in Guyana.

Hoyte was emphatic that the budget review was necessary to place the nation in a position to protect its territorial integrity before it was too late to do so. He explained that a significant portion of the funds accumulated by the budget review would be utilised for augmenting the finances originally assigned to the defence sector.

In a general debate which followed for a three-day period, the Government spokesman tried desperately to defend the proposals especially in the light of the growing economic crisis in the country.

Pressed by PPP Parliamentarians to debate the border issue in Parliament, the Foreign Minister, Rashleigh Jackson, promised that a motion to that effect would shortly be introduced in Parliament.

The PPP launched a scathing attack on the budget review. Dr. Cheddi Jagan, in his contribution to the debate, stated that if the claim by Venezuela was real, then the PPP would be prepared to fully defend the territorial integrity of Guyana.

Dr. Jagan declared that the budget measures were really directives of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) whose targets the Government had to reach after failing to do so in the past. He insisted that the border issue was merely being used a "red herring". He called for a cutting down of extravagance immediately and emphasised that many of the ills of the society could only be changed through fundamental democracy and workers' control.

After urging the Government to re-negotiate the terms of external debt payments, Dr. Jagan said that the Government should indicate to the foreign agencies that had to be repaid that the interest of the workers came first and the compensation and other payments only came after that. He pointed out that if the Government proceeded with such a plan it would have the full support of the PPP. But he declared that the Government was afraid to confront their imperialist masters with such proposals.

The PPP leader called for a decrease in the cost of living and for subsidies on basic items and housing. He remarked that instead of tackling these fundamental problems, the Government was only concerned with the buffering up of the "ruling class".

Significantly, the pro-capitalist United Force (UF) also insisted that the budget review was a dictate of the IMF. Speaking during the debate, UF leader, Marcellus Fielden-Singh, added that while some funds would have to be diverted, it was unrealistic to fight Venezuela, noting that the fight must be on the diplomatic level and that the Geneva Agreement must be relentlessly pursued. He urged the Government to tone down its bellicose pronouncements against Venezuela.

The Prime Minister, Dr. Ptolomy Reid, was the main Government spokesman in the debate. In his contribution, he called for unity of the Opposition with the Government to counter the Venezuelan claim.

Dr. Reid said that he was glad that by now everybody had accepted that Venezuela had made a claim and he maintained that Guyana could not face up to this claim without proper preparation. But he noted that arms were not the only way through which the country could be defended. Other ways would include resort to diplomacy.

In relation to the increased taxation and the removal of subsidies, Dr. Reid stated that sacrifices were necessary to ensure that there could be progress. Focussing on the call by Dr. Jagan for the rescheduling of foreign debts, he declared that the Government was not prepared to do this since such action would not be wise.


While the debate on the revised budget was taking place in the Guyana Parliament, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rashleigh Jackson, departed on the 3 June for an official visit to Colombia. An Associated Press (AP) report from Bogota on the same day stated that the Colombian Foreign Minister, Carlos Lemos Simmonds, had announced two days earlier that he "will listen to what Guyana has to say about its border conflict with Venezuela". However, he declared that Colombia, part of whose territory was also being claimed by Venezuela, would not be converted into an intermediary between Guyana and Venezuela.

In Colombia, Jackson who was accompanied by Guyana's Ambassador to Venezuela, held talks with the Colombian Foreign Minister. He also held discussions with the Colombian President, Julion Cesar Turbay Ayala. The talks concentrated around the Venezuelan claim to the western Essequibo, but matters related to scientific, technical and cultural cooperation were also highlighted. In an interview with the Bogota daily, El Espectador, on the 5 June, Jackson insisted that "there is no room for discussion with Venezuela because all of Essequibo is ours". At the end of the visit on the 5 June, the two Foreign Ministers signed a scientific, technical and cultural cooperation agreement.


At the time of Jackson's visit to Colombia, it was announced in Caracas that Venezuelan officials would be holding talks with the British Government on its claim to Guyanese territory around the end of June. The Venezuelan delegation was expected to be led by the Foreign Minister, Jose Alberto Zambrano Velasco, and would include the former Foreign Minister, Ignacio Iribarren Borges. The latter was quoted by IPS on the 6 June as saying that either Venezuela "pressures" the Guyana Government to negotiate what he called a "civilised accord' or Venezuela would "take up arms" against Guyana. The report also quoted the President of the Venezuelan History Academy, Blas Bruni Calli, as saying that the border claim was "one of the most difficult faced by Venezuelan diplomacy".


Guyana's position received wider support internationally when the final declaration of the Sixth Seminar of Latin American Journalists, which was held from the 20 May to 2 June 1981 in Cuba, expressed support for Guyana against "the negative campaigns of Venezuela. . ." During the seminar which was sponsored by the Union of Cuban Journalists (JPEC) in collaboration with the Federation of Latin American Journalists (FELAP) and the International Organisation of Journalists (IOJ), the Cuban Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Richard Alarcon, reiterated Cuba's support for Guyana on the territorial issue, noting that the claim and campaign by Venezuela was hampering Guyana's development.

Meanwhile, the Jamaican Government, in a comment on the issue, stated through its Foreign Minister, Hugh Shearer, that the Government would not adopt a "boisterous" attitude in support of either Guyana or Venezuela. The Junior Foreign Minister, Neville Gallimore, also mentioned that Jamaica would be willing to convene a meeting with Guyana and Venezuela to help solve the issue. This official Jamaican position was severely attacked by the Jamaican Daily News in comments during the first week in June. The paper stated that the Jamaican Government's attitude was not in keeping with the CARICOM commitment in 1973 to provide mutual assistance against attacks on the territorial integrity of any member state. The paper praised the Barbados Government for taking the correct position of expressing full support for Guyana.

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On the 8 June 1981 the Venezuelan Foreign Minister wrote a letter to the President of the World Bank giving the multilateral institution an ultimatum to refrain from financing the Upper Mazaruni Hydro-Electric Project. While saying that Venezuela had never recognized the arbitral award of 1899, the letter further declared Venezuela's claim to Guyana's territory, and alleged that "the objective pursued by Guyana with its Upper Mazaruni project was political". It also revealed that the Venezuelan Government would recognise "no right nor legal situation which may be involved in the future by third states, international bodies or private corporations" based on the exercise of Guyana's sovereignty over the territory claimed by Venezuela.

The letter also attacked the World Bank insisting that it was not within the Bank's "competence" to "prejudge or adopt a position on border controversies". It also reaffirmed Venezuela's position to any transaction between Guyana and the World Bank involving finance of the hydro-electric scheme. In any case, Venezuela argued, the feasibility of the Project depended on the purchase of electricity by Venezuela, something which the Venezuelan Government did not intend to do.

The following is the text of the letter:

Caracas, June 8, 1981

Mr. President of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development Washington, D. C.

On behalf of the Government of the Republic of Venezuela I have the pleasure of addressing this Agency which you preside with so much dignity in order to ratify the position of Venezuela with respect to the hydroelectric project of the High Mazaruni and the construction of the corresponding dam, and for which financing has been requested from the Bank by the Government of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana.

As is public domain, there exists a territorial controversy between Venezuela and Guyana which encompasses the region wherein the dam referred to above is planned to be built. During the past century, through successive unilateral actions and facts accomplished, Great Britain progressively ignored the legitimate eastern boundary of Venezuela, which is the Essequibo River, in spite of the recognition made of the original boundary of the new Republic at the time of its independence.

With the inexistent Arbitrage of 1899, England attempted to consolidate the de facto occupation of which our country has been the victim ever since. This was a process which did not include any Venezuelan judge, nor was any Venezuelan citizen allowed to assume our representation. The alleged decision was not grounded on any juridical consideration; it was the result of the arrangements of (vested) interests and of political compromises. Hence the reason Venezuela has never recognized, nor will ever recognize, what is set forth in the inexistent Arbitral Award of 1899.

As a consequence of the protracted Venezuelan reclamation, the Geneva Agreement was signed in 1966, by Venezuela, Great Britain and Guyana, which at that time was about to gain its independence. Said which recognizes the validity of a territorial controversy, sets forth in its Preamble that the same must be "settled amicably in a manner that is satisfactory to both parties" and, in Article I it sets forth that Venezuela and Guyana will seek a satisfactory solution to the practical settlement of said controversy. Article IV of the Agreement assigns a role to the Secretary General of the United Nations to cooperate with the parties in seeking the means to a peaceful settlement of the controversy. This function was accepted by the Secretary General of the United Nations in a letter dated the 4th of April, 1966. Hence, the validity of a territorial controversy over the western region of the Essequibo River was formally recognized by the interested States and by the international community through the medium of the Secretary General of the United Nations.

On the occasion of the independence of Guyana, the Government of Venezuela declared in the note of recognition, that it (the note) "did not imply on the part of our country the relinquishment or the diminution of the territorial rights claimed". The note also expressed that Venezuela "recognized as territory of the new State only that which is located to the east of the right bank of the Essequibo River". Moreover, in that same note, as well as in successive international instances, Venezuela reiterated explicitly to the nascent country and to the international community at large, that it reserved explicitly its right to territorial sovereignty over all the zone between the left bank of the aforementioned river and that, accordingly, the territory of the Guayana Essequiba over which Venezuela explicitly reserves its sovereign rights, borders to the east with the new State of Guyana, through the line of the Essequibo River, taking it from its source to its mouth in the Atlantic Ocean.

At this time, the term of operation of an Additional Protocol to the Geneva Agreement, signed in Port of Spain in 1970, is about to expire. Therein Venezuela and Guyana agreed to leave in suspension for twelve years the operation of all the provisions of the above mentioned Geneva Agreement.

The point is that the projected dam over the High Mazaruni is located in the Essequibo territory, object of the territorial controversy and that it obeys a unilateral initiative taken by the Government of Guyana which is not consistent with its international obligations. In the face of this, the Government of Venezuela is obliged to make the following considerations:

1) The construction of the dam over the High Mazaruni encompasses considerable works which would alter deeply and irreversibly the region and the physical milieu. Venezuela ratifies its firm opposition to have such a unilateral action of disposition taken in a territory over which it has sovereignty.

This opposition obeys, in the first place, the absence of valid deeds on the part of Guyana for the Essequibo territory. Moreover, the circumstance by which Guyana attempts to advance actions for the irreversible modification of the region, is proof, on its part, of a lack of a serious will to observe its international obligations, arising from the Geneva Agreement, and which imposes on the parties the duty to seek a satisfactory solution to the practical settlement of the controversy. It is obvious that this gender of unilateral action is distant from the behavior expected of States under the obligation to negotiate in good faith, with a view to a peaceful and practical settlement of a pending controversy and adds unnecessary elements of tension to the international relations.

The opposition of Venezuela is so much firmer as it is quite clear that the political purpose pursued by Guyana with the High Mazaruni Project, the priority of which is far from proven and with an economic feasibility, in the denied assumption that it were ever built, which would depend on the acquisition of electric power by Venezuela, and this would never happen under any circumstance.

The opposition of Venezuela to the construction of said project under the present circumstances constitutes, therefore, a firm decision which obeys the essential objective of observing the sense and the essence of the obligations arising from the Geneva Agreement for the signatory parties and all the resources within the scope of our country are committed to its observance in good faith.

For this reason, with a view to gaining the inevitable redress, the Government of Venezuela has insisted in divulging its determination to the international community and to the different public and private agencies directly or indirectly involved in the matter.

2) As a result of the foregoing, the Government of Venezuela has upheld in public and ratifies that it does not recognize any right or juridical situation that could be invoked in the future, be it by third States, by international organizations or agencies, or by private corporations, grounded on an hypothetical unilateral act of disposition taken by Guyana over the Essequibo territory.

Obviously the same considerations apply to the credits which would be granted to finance the work, if attempts were made to oppose Venezuela in the future.

3) The World Bank is a technical organization for cooperation and development and it is alien to its functions to prejudice or to decide on boundary controversies. In this respect, Venezuela declares that any transaction made by Guyana before this organization to obtain the financing of the construction of the aforementioned dam lacks any juridical effect pleadable before our country or before third parties.

The Government of Venezuela places on record its firm and permanent opposition to any action taken by the Bank which could be interpreted as a recognition of the sovereignty of Guyana over the Essequibo territory. The Government of Venezuela is of the view that it would be uncommon for the World Bank, and would go against all precedents and distort its functions, to proceed to finance a unilateral action in a territory under controversy, the political purpose of which is quite clear on the part of Guyana.

4) Venezuela places on record the wish of its people and of its Government to have Guyana progress speedily to goals of development and expresses its best wishes that in the operation of the Geneva Agreement, both nations find a practical solution to the boundary dispute deemed satisfactory by both parties and thus opening the path to cooperation and common progress.

José Alberto Zambrano Velasco
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Venezuela


The situation took a new turn in early June when Venezuela made a request to the US Government to purchase a number of sophisticated F-16 fighter aircraft. The Guyana Government, in a response to this development, expressed its concern to the US State Department in a note from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rashleigh Jackson, on the 13 June.

On the 14 June, the Catholic Standard published a statement issued by the small right-wing party, the Vanguard for Liberation and Democracy (VLD). The release stated:

The Guyanese people have experienced unnecessary economic burdens in the past because of this Venezuelan claim. In the light of this, their political understanding constrains them to the belief that the present dispute has been blown out of all proportions and is being exploited by the regime to squeeze more taxation to solve the internal economic crisis which has resulted from mismanagement and corruption.

The VLD also was of the opinion that the Guyanese people were taking "a very negative attitude to the dispute". It also condemned the Government for not utilizing the services of the United Nations and for not involving Great Britain, a party to the Geneva Agreement, in negotiations with Venezuela in order to reach a peaceful settlement. Further, the party considered that the unrepresentative nature of the PNC regime, its corrupt policies and its refusal to accept responsibility for instigating the border crisis, disqualified it from arriving at an amicable settlement.

The Guyana Trade Union Congress (TUC) officially took a position on the border issue at its General Council meeting held on the 20 June 1981. It declared that it was calling upon workers of the world to recognise the injustice and immorality of the Venezuelan claim, its effects upon the legitimate aspirations of the workers of Guyana and its significance to the peace and security, not only of Guyana, but also the region in which Guyana has the right to exist as a free and sovereign nation with full territorial integrity.


The Economic Adviser to President Burnham, Carl Greenidge, according to a report in the Guyana Chronicle of the 21 June 1981, responded to reports that the Venezuelan Government had instructed its senior functionaries in the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank to oppose Guyana's applications for funds for projects such as the Upper Mazaruni Hydro-Electric Project. Greenidge pointed out that the importance of Venezuelan influence should not be over-rated and that its threat to pursue economic aggression against Guyana by opposing the international financing of projects in the Essequibo was not likely to have more than nuisance value. He was firm on the belief that the reported intention of Venezuela would have no effect on either future applications from or disbursements of loans to Guyana from the international banks.

Meanwhile, on the 23 June, a joint statement of the CARICOM delegations attending a meeting of the World Bank in Washington referred to Venezuela's economic aggression against Guyana and deplored Venezuela's most recent attempt to prevent World Bank financing for projects in Guyana. The statement issued by Guyana's Vice-President for Economic Planning and Finance, Desmond Hoyte, on behalf of the CARICOM delegations, affirmed that such action by Venezuela was "unacceptable" and that they were "opposed to it". In general, the CARICOM countries expressed their objection to any attempt to influence the World Bank to use political criteria for approval and disbursement of loan funds. They also expressed objection to what they termed an "infringement of the territorial sovereignty of a CARICOM country".


The border issue was a focus of attention in the British House of Commons on the 24 June 1981 when a Member of Parliament, Frank Fields, asked the Lord Privy Seal, Nicholas Ridley "whether, during the forthcoming visit of the Venezuelan Foreign Minister to London, he will attempt to promote a renewal of the Protocol of Port of Spain, especially given the increased tension between Guyana and Venezuela over the disputed territories". Ridley replied:

The Venezuelan Minister is due to meet with my Right Honourable and noble friend (the Foreign Secretary) today. We understand that he will wish to raise this question. The Protocol will be deemed to be renewed in June 1982 unless either the Government of Guyana or the Government of Venezuela give to the other Government, parties to the Protocol, a notice in writing to the effect that they wish the Protocol to be terminated. To date no such notice has been received from either Government.

The Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Jose Alberto Zambrano Velasco, did meet with his British counterpart to discuss matters relating to the Venezuelan claim. Later, in speaking to the press, he denied that there had been troop movements near the border. He explained that Venezuela had fourteen different frontier treaties because of its geographical situation and that it was not convenient to fight over any of them. He admitted that Venezuela's Ministry for Youth had organized student excursions to the border area but insisted that those did not form any part of the mobilisation for any invasion. Zambrano also repeatedly criticised President Burnham for the way he conducted diplomatic affairs.

On the 26 June, attention was again focused on the issue in the British Parliament. This time, Ridley was asked by A.W. Stallard "why the United Kingdom, being a signatory to the Protocol of Port of Spain of June 1970, supported a project in the World Bank on 7 October 1980 which would function in the Guyanese territory under dispute with Venezuela". On this matter, Ridley replied: "The Protocol of Port of Spain does not preclude examination of the development potential of the territories to which Venezuela lays claim. The British Government's attitude to World Bank projects is normally governed by developmental and economic criteria."


By this time, the border issue had reached heated proportions in Venezuela. Inflammatory and hysterical anti-Guyana propaganda was being made by a wide range of political forces, including the Campins regime. Many of their ideas expressed in leading Venezuelan newspapers were very bitter towards Guyana. At the beginning of June, the leader of the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), Teodoro Petkoff, writing in Resumen, said of Guyana: "It is small and militarily weak in addition to being a county of Indians and Blacks. . . It would therefore be easier to run through Guyana than Colombia."

This racist outburst by Petkoff was matched by the boldness of an editorial in El Diario de Caracas on the 2 June. The paper stated that "the military alternative would, without a shadow of a doubt, have the overwhelming support of public opinion in Venezuela. Referring to what it called the "overtly provocative tactics of Forbes Burnham", it said that Venezuelan analysts saw little possibility for a "just and proper solution".

El Diario further stated that the presence of "Cuban personnel" were "monitored" in the area claimed by Venezuela. Another newspaper, Ultimas Noticias of the same period reported also on the alleged Cuban presence, as was also stated by a Venezuelan newspaper publisher, Miguel Capriles, during a television interview.

Capriles acknowledged that international opinion was against Venezuela on the border issue, but felt that "the cheapest solution would be for parachutists to secure, early one morning, bridgeheads on the Essequibo. He added:

There is no solution because we would soon have Fidel Castro, the Caribbean countries and the Third World on our backs. We have to present them with a fait accompli (deed already done). . . We will perhaps have to make some concessions later on, but we must first occupy all or part of the Essequibo and afterwards negotiate and concede a half.

According to Capriles, the "half" which Venezuela would take would be those parts "which are of strategic interest to us, such as the coasts".

The only political force not joining in the orchestrated hysteria was the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV). A weekend issue of its newspaper, Tribuna Popular during mid-June, carried a commentary written by Hernan Carrera entitled "The Essequibo: The War of the Dogs". The commentary pointed out that some influential quarters were agitating for "military pressures to be applied". It also stressed that the "spectre of chauvinism" was haunting Venezuela, something which coincided with imperialist plans. The Guyana Mirror of the 28 June quoted Carrera's identification of the forces that were spurring up the war hysteria: "We have to include also sections and voices of almost all parties who, by their actions, remind us of those in the Second International who also proposed military pressures and ending up provoking World War I."

The Mirror also quoted part of Carrera's commentary which dealt with the political situation in Guyana:

. . .For years it was the communists who took the responsibility of denouncing the injustice of the fraudulent PNC regime. Now the injustices of the regime against the workers, the difficult conditions it has imposed on the Opposition, and the state of abandonment in which it has placed the indigenous minority, serve as the excuse for chauvinism, not to demand better living conditions for the Guyanese people, but to promote a campaign which, step by step, takes us further away from talks and draws us closer to cannons. . .

The people of Guyana, we are sure, will not allow themselves to be drawn into the provocation of a fratricidal war. Without failing to understand the dangers of the campaign which impels the Venezuelan bourgeoisie, the Guyanese people are sure to step up their opposition to the PNC regime until they achieve finally a really popular government. . .

Neither the Guyanese nor Venezuelan people stand to gain from a bellicose confrontation and much will be lost if the only possible solution is abandoned: full and respectable negotiations concerning the rights which we have on each side of the frontier.

Those who are accustomed to selling their country for pieces of gold like to accuse those who have inherited the Bolivarian commitment of combining patriotism with internationalism. For the revolutionary, when such accusations originate not from the people, but from enemies, they cannot frighten us. On the contrary it just proves that we are on the right path!


Guyana received further support at a meeting of CARICOM Foreign Ministers held on the 30 June to the 1 July in St. George's, Grenada. The final communiqué issued at the end of the meeting declared, inter alia:

The Ministers discussed this matter in the context of recent developments in the political controversy arising from the Venezuelan contention that the 1899 arbitral award, which settled the boundaries between Guyana and Venezuela, is null and void.

Reaffirming support for the territorial integrity of Guyana, the Ministers noted that the action of the Government of Venezuela against a CARICOM member-state did not accord with the fundamental principles governing international relations as enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, in particular, the sovereign equality of states, respect for territorial integrity and political independence of states, and the peaceful settlement of all international issues. The Ministers called upon the Government of Venezuela to settle this matter by peaceful means.

The Foreign Ministers declared that CARICOM states cannot accept that any state has the right to action to frustrate the economic development of any other state. They expressed full support for Guyana's effort to develop hydro-power in the upper Mazaruni as an alternative energy system and agreed to give every moral and political support to this end. . .


Three days after this communiqué was published, the Venezuelan Ambassador to the OAS, Dr. Hilarion Cardozo surprisingly insisted that Guyana was not receiving support from CARICOM countries. He declared, "I have not seen any support of Guyana by CARICOM in the matter of our claim." However, on the 8 July, a statement from the CARICOM Secretariat in Georgetown denounced Cardozo's declaration and again reiterated the support of CARICOM member-states for Guyana.

In early July also, the Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Ignacio Iribarren Borges, in a television interview, claimed that if Venezuela invaded Essequibo, it would face stiff opposition from the 122-member nations of the "Group of 77". Borges who worked under the administration of Raul Leoni, called for a sustained campaign, including economic pressures against the Guyana Government. He insisted that his country should not debate the issue publicly and maintained that if Venezuela tried to seek support from international organisations it would be of no use in gaining the objective which his country was pursuing in claiming the western Essequibo. Borges' statement was clearly an indication that the Venezuelan claim could not stand the scrutiny of the international community.


In Guyana, at a press conference held by Foreign Minister Jackson on the 10 July 1981, it was disclosed that the team from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that visited a number of Caribbean countries received encouraging responses everywhere they went.

Jackson also mentioned that there was an on-going exercise to put Guyana's case to countries around the world. As a result, emissaries had been sent also to Panama and Columbia, while another had been sent to Kenya to meet leaders within the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). Messages were also dispatched to the Foreign Ministers of all member states of the OAU to make them aware of Guyana's position on the border issue. Jackson further reiterated that there was no "border dispute" with Venezuela, as a number of foreign newspapers were stating, but that what existed was a political controversy between the two countries that resulted from Venezuela's claim to western Essequibo.

Jackson told the press conference that he had explained Guyana's position fully at the CARICOM Standing Committee of Foreign Ministers held in Grenada on the 30 June to 1 July. He explained further:

Previous positions including the one taken at the Barbados meeting in 1979 were recalled. That important resolution adopted at the Heads of Government meeting in Georgetown in 1973 dealing with mutual assistance against external aggression was also recalled because it declared, inter alia, that the political independence and territorial integrity of member states of CARICOM are essential prerequisites for the achievement of the objectives of the Community.


On the 11 July, the Venezuelan Foreign Minister stated in Caracas that the European Economic Community (EEC) had decided to refuse loans to Guyana for its development of the region claimed by Venezuela. However, the British High Commissioner to Guyana, Philip Mallet, denied that such a decision had been taken by the EEC. On the following day, the EEC representative in Guyana, Dominic Menichini, dismissed the Venezuelan Foreign Minister's statement as inaccurate. He said that the EEC policy and the conditions of the Lome Convention stipulated that there should be no political interference in granting loans to a "partner". Guyana, being a member of the African-Caribbean-Pacific (ACP) group, was a "partner" under the Lome Convention. Menichini added that several programmes expected to be financed by the EEC were in the territory claimed by Venezuela.


Meanwhile, during June and July, in a series of public meetings, the PPP, in explaining its position on the border issue, called upon the Government for the establishment of a genuine People's Militia and for the arming of the Guyanese people for the defence of Guyana. This suggestion of the PPP was severely attacked by the PNC and particularly by the columnist writing under the pen-name, Dargan, who used the columns of the Guyana Chronicle to carry out personal attacks on Dr. Jagan. In a letter published in the Guyana Chronicle on the 21 July 1981, Dr. Jagan defended the view that the people should be armed and took issue with one of the attacks by Dargan. The letter stated:

In your issue of June 18, columnist Dargan charged that I was inconsistent for criticising the establishment of a large standing army and simultaneously calling for a genuine People's Militia. To substantiate his charge he went on to say that I am "recommending that 20 times more be spent on arming all the people".

I am proposing no such thing. I was making the point in Parliament and at a public meeting that the police, military and para-military forces have become too costly - from $15 million in 1970 (11 percent of the current revenue) to $139 million in 1981 (28 percent and 22 percent of current revenue in the original and revised 1981 Budgets respectively).

The huge debt, along with the top-heavy bureaucracy and onerous debt and compensation payments, is responsible for the most part, for the chronic huge budget deficits every year - deficits which have to be met by lowering standards of social services, high taxes and mark-ups, wage freeze and restraint, removal of subsidies and dismissal of workers. In turn, this leads to frustration and discontent which are not conducive to patriotic fervour in defence of sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The fact is, with a small, disciplined, efficiently managed and contented army and a large People's Militia (as the militia and Committees for the Defence of the Revolution in socialist Cuba) Guyana would have been able to get a better defence force at far less cost.

Actually, in 1976, the Government had agreed to establish a People's Militia which "will have members in all districts right down to the smallest communities" (Sunday Chronicle, 10 November 1976), and up to quite recently, the posters all over the country boasted, "EVERY CITIZEN A SOLDIER"; but it failed to do so. This is because the PNC puts its own interest before the national interest.

The correlation between popular support or rather lack of it for the ruling party and the growth of the army is seen in the following facts and figures.

In 1973, the expenditure for the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) was only $10.3 million; in 1974 it jumped to $24.7 million, an increase of nearly 150 percent. In the calculation of the PNC, this became a necessity after the army intervention in the 1973 elections due to the drop in the voter turn-out in Georgetown, allegedly a traditional PNC stronghold, from 90-95 percent in 1964 to 60-65 percent in 1973.

Similarly, after the 1978 referendum and the 1980 elections, the expenditure for the GDF jumped from $58 million in 1978 to $109.5 million in 1981 ($139 for the military, para-military and police).

Dargan says: ". . . that the socialist revolution in Guyana has enemies who would like it to fail. Giving arms to the enemies of the revolution inside while being menaced by an armed aggressor externally would mean that Guyana would be caught by a pincer movement between counter-revolutionaries at home and aggressors abroad".

Why should the PNC worry about training and arming the people? Did they not claim in the 1981 (s)elections that they had obtained 76 percent of the vote? Do they not now claim that they have the support of the vast majority of the people? Why should they be fearful?

The dilemma facing the PNC is real. It does not dare create a real People's Militia because of its awareness that about 85 percent of the population is opposed to the party and the Government.

So it relies on a large standing army. But this army is inadequate for genuine defence of the country, and at the same time too costly for our limited financial resources.

The dilemma could only have been resolved by a democratic, anti-imperialist and socialist oriented National Patriotic Front which the PNC rejected in 1976-77. . .


Near the end of July, some confusion seemed to have developed in Venezuela over that country's campaign to obtain international support for its position. This came about after the Venezuelan OAS Ambassador claimed that Guyana had not received any support from CARICOM on the border issue. The Venezuelan daily, El Diario, on the 22 July carried an editorial pointing to the increasing "credibility gap" pertaining to statements to the Venezuelan and foreign media on the Venezuelan position and the Government's campaign regarding its initiatives and responses in matters related to the claim to the western Essequibo.

On the following day, the Venezuelan Foreign Minister answered the editorial of El Diario with a statement which sought to reconcile earlier statements given to the Venezuelan media about the results of that country's efforts to secure sympathy for its position. However, in his statement, the Minister attacked the Grenada meeting of Foreign Ministers of CARICOM (which had come out in support of Guyana) as a meeting attended by "low ranking officials" and that it was not properly constituted since all CARICOM territories were not represented there. The Minister also called on the editor of the newspaper to suppress the truth in order to protect and defend the national interest.

Comment on Zambrano's statement, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Guyana on the 25 July denounced it as "an unwarranted interference in the affairs of the English-speaking states of the Caribbean. . . Foreign Minister Zambrano has written as if by some divine right Venezuela has become a member state of CARICOM and thus acquired the capacity to determine what CARICOM representatives have said or have not said."


The Venezuelan claim that CARICOM had not given its support to Guyana evoked a response from Dr. Kurleigh King, Secretary-General of CARICOM. In a statement issued by the CARICOM Secretariat on the 31 July 1981, Dr. King made it clear that the Foreign Ministers meeting in Grenada was properly constituted and that it declared support for Guyana's territorial integrity, while noting that the action of the Venezuelan Government against Guyana, a member state of CARICOM, did not accord with the fundamental principles governing international relations as enshrined in the UN Charter.

Dr. King also pointed out that the meeting was attended by Foreign Ministers and other designated representatives from six independent member states whose participation went in accordance with CARICOM's organizational and procedural rules of the Standing Committee of Ministers responsible for Foreign Affairs, which provided that the "quorum of the Committee shall not be less than five member states".

The statement concluded:

As the Standing Committee was duly constituted in accordance with the provisions of the treaty (which established the Caribbean Community) and its own organizational and procedural rules, there is no room for disputing its competence in any aspect of its work as recorded in its report to member Governments, or as reported in its communiqué.

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On the 1 August 1981 the Guyana Chronicle revealed that an application by Guyana for an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) loan of 20 million US dollars (60 million Guyana dollars) was deferred for one week at the request made by the Venezuelan Executive Director on the IDB Board three days previously. The loan was intended to enable Guyana to purchase spare parts, machinery, fertilizers and other inputs for the agriculture sector. The IDB staff had prepared the loan document after spending over one year analysing the agriculture sector in Guyana, identifying the constraints and quantifying the needs of the sector.

The Guyana Chronicle stated:

The Venezuelans gave no official reason for requesting the postponement. However, reliable sources have said that the Venezuelans have confessed that their request is part of their programme of harassment and terrorism against Guyana in pursuit of their ridiculous claim to five-eights of our territory.

However, according to these sources, the Venezuelans intend to use the time gained by the postponement to try to persuade other member countries of the Bank to join them in opposing the loan.

The Bank is prohibited by its charter from taking into account any political consideration in the disbursement of loans.

On the 13 August, the USA used its massive voting strength in the IDB to block the loan. Under the rules of the Bank, the loan required a two-thirds majority for approval, but the USA which controlled more than one-third of the votes, voted against the loan request. All other executive directors voted in favour, with the exception of the directors of Venezuela and Chile who abstained. A few days before the vote was taken, the Venezuelan Executive Director and his country's Ambassador to the OAS met with Guyana's Ambassador to Washington, Lawrence Mann, to explain that Venezuela was not opposing the loan, but had requested the earlier postponement only to allow its newly-appointed Executive Director sufficient time to familiarise himself with the documents.

However, despite this assurance by the Venezuelans, the Guyana Government subsequently claimed that the refusal of the loan was part of the economic aggression launched by Venezuela against Guyana.


Meanwhile, Guyana's Information Minister, Frank Campbell, who was the leader of a team of Guyanese officials then on tour of the Commonwealth Caribbean countries to explain Guyana's position on the border issue, said in Trinidad and Tobago on the 12 August (according to the Trinidad Guardian) that Guyana would consider recourse to the United Nations if all other efforts at diplomatic intercourse failed in dealing with the Venezuelan claim.

During the final week of August, the Fourth Biennial Congress of the PNC was held in Georgetown. A number of foreign dignitaries who were invited to the Congress took the opportunity to express their organisations' support for Guyana. On the 24 August, Grenada's Foreign Minister, Unison Whiteman, at a press conference in Georgetown expressed his country's support and hoped that the border issue would be speedily resolved in a peaceful manner.

Support for Guyana was also expressed by Alex La Guma, the representative of the African National Congress (ANC), based in Cuba. In a speech delivered at Mabaruma in the North West District (part of western Essequibo) on the 25 August, La Guma said that if Venezuela took the five-eighths of Guyana it was claiming, all Guyanese living there would become aliens in their own land.

On the following day, at a rally in solidarity with the people of Namibia held in Georgetown, Helmeut Angula, the Head of the South West African People's Organization (SWAPO) division in Cuba, expressed solidarity with the Guyanese people in "their determination to preserve their territorial integrity".


On the 19 September 1981, Desmond Hoyte, Guyana's Vice-President for Economic Planning and Finance, wrote a lengthy letter to the President of the World Bank, A.W. Clausen, in which he commented on the letter written to the Bank on the 8 June previously, by the Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Dr. Zambrano. The Venezuelan letter had stated that nation's objection to the involvement of the World Bank in the funding of the Upper Mazaruni Hydro-Electric Project.

Hoyte's letter stated:

On behalf of the Government of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, I wish to place on record its views on certain representations which were made in a communication dated 8 June 1981, addressed to your predecessor by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Venezuela, Dr. Jose Alberto Zambrano Velasco. In that communication the Minister raised what purported to be an objection by his Government to the involvement of the World Bank in the realisation of the Upper Mazaruni Hydro-electric Project in Guyana C a project on which the Government of Guyana and the Bank have been in consultation for some time. The Venezuelan authorities gave maximum publicity to the document by facilitating the reproduction of its text in Venezuelan national newspapers, circulating copies to the representatives of member states of the Bank and otherwise ensuring worldwide distribution. In a communique issued in Caracas on the same date, the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry described the document as "an ultimatum to the World Bank". That a member state could boast of having threatened the Bank is surely a matter of sadness and regret. .

In the communication under reference, the Venezuelan Foreign Minister hazarded a number of arguments in his attempt to justify his Government's declared hostility to the Bank's participation in the Upper Mazaruni Hydro-electric Project. These can be conveniently summarized under two broad heads: First, that Venezuela is asserting a claim to that part of Guyana's territory in which the hydro-electric facility will be located; and, second, that the development priority of the project has not been demonstrated.

Let me immediately dispose of the proposition advanced under the second head: In the submission of the Government of Guyana it is irrelevant. It is not within the competence of the Government of Venezuela to decide on or dictate the development priorities of Guyana; nor has the Government of Guyana found any provision in the Bank's charter that requires the Bank to satisfy the Government of Venezuela about the development priorities of a member country before it participates in a project in that country. Moreover, it is manifest absurdity for the Government of Venezuela to suggest that the Bank would become involved in the financing of a project without first establishing its feasibility. Further on this point, I would merely add that the Venezuelan Foreign Minister is under a misconception when he asserts that the feasibility of the project depends on the purchase of electricity by Venezuela. This statement is completely divorced from fact. The project has been independently assessed by the World Bank, among others, as being technically and economically feasible, in circumstances which do not involve or require Venezuelan participation in any shape or form.

Of greater importance, however, is the objection based on the assertion by Venezuela of a claim of five-eighths of the land mass of our country. I wish at the outset to state Guyana's position on the matter. The Government and people of Guyana do not accept the validity of any claim by Venezuela to any part of their territory and reject any such claim in its entirety as having no legal and moral foundation. This claim poses a serious threat to peace and stability in the region. But more germane to the Bank's business are the serious implications of the Venezuelan Foreign Minister's communication for the non-political character of the institution and its objectivity and independence in the administration of its affairs. As the Government of Guyana understands it, . . . the Bank's charter requires it to apply only economic considerations in arriving at its decisions. What the Venezuelan Government is attempting to do, in this particular case, is to interfere in the Bank's modus operandi and introduce a political dimension in its decision-making process. The Bank has always resisted efforts at political intervention in its affairs, and the Government of Guyana is sure . . . it will continue to rebuff those who seek to use it as a tool to promote their partisan objectives. Indeed, it would be remarkable if the mere assertion by one country of a claim to territory of another country were to be deemed a sufficient ground for the Bank to abdicate its responsibilities under its charter and decline to participate in the development of the latter country.

I consider it unnecessary and inappropriate . .. to burden you with a seriatim refutation of the specious arguments advanced by the Venezuelan Foreign Minister. These arguments derive from a selective and tendentious appeal to facts and history and are inevitably vitiated by misinformation, misrepresentation and misinterpretation. Fortunately, the facts relating to the historical and legal issues alluded to by the Venezuelan Foreign Minister are not matters for speculation: they have been definitively established and cannot be altered or wished away by mere rhetoric, however repetitious and strident. . .

It is clear . . . that the Government of Venezuela has embarked upon a course of economic terrorism against Guyana calculated to stultify the development and growth of the country. The objective is to intimidate and coerce the Guyanese Government and people into surrendering the richest part of the country to an avaricious neighbour. With total disregard for the sanctity of treaties and agreements and the solemn obligations accepted thereunder, the Venezuelan Government has, even now, been dispatching its emissaries abroad to persuade Governments and private corporations in various parts of the world not to participate in the economic development of Guyana. It is perhaps of more than passing interest to note that the Venezuelan repudiation of the Arbitral Award of 1899 and the prosecution of its claim to the Essequibo region coincided with the publication of the results of the first seismic study in Guyana which had been commissioned by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The study indicated the strong probability of oil being present in the Essequibo region of Guyana. The present resurgence of Venezuela's campaign against Guyana has coincided with the current attempt to drill for oil in that region. . .

The efforts of the Venezuelan Government to prevent the development of the Upper Mazaruni Hydro-electric Project have implications which are wider and more serious than the national concerns of Guyana. These implications are international in scope. It is now accepted generally that energy is a world issue and that "energy must become a shared responsibility of the whole world community". The initiatives of the Government and people of Guyana to develop the Upper Mazaruni Hydro-electric Project accord perfectly with the general world strategy for the development of new and renewable sources of energy. Any activities calculated to obstruct this development will affect, not merely against the immediate economic prospects of Guyana, but also the wider interest which the world community has in the enlargement of energy sources. Indeed, since present projections are that by the end of the century Venezuela herself may become an importer of oil, her attempt to stop this development of our region may well be short-sighted and self-defeating.

It may be apposite to record that, motivated by the spirit of good neighbourliness and within the context of regional programmes for energy development and economic cooperation under OLADE and the Treaty of Amazonic Cooperation, (to both of which Guyana and Venezuela subscribe), the Government of Guyana has from the outset made it public that Venezuelan participation in the project was possible under agreed and clearly defined circumstances. In the Government of Guyana's view, such participation, though, as earlier mentioned, not essential to the validity of the project, could have included arrangements for Venezuela to purchase power for her own development purposes. These were constructive initiatives on the part of the Guyana Government, consistent with the efforts and policies of the World Bank, United Nations and other multilateral agencies to promote feasible programmes for the development of alternative sources of energy.

The present Venezuelan posture involves a remarkable inconsistency. For over eight years Guyana has been pursuing the development of this project in an open manner and with the full knowledge of Venezuela and, indeed, the world. During this period the Guyanese people at great sacrifice spent millions of dollars on the technical and economic studies, preliminary engineering designs, infrastructure and other necessary preparatory activities. During this period, too, in the spirit of the Geneva Agreement, which recognized that "closer cooperation between (Guyana) and Venezuela could bring benefits to both countries", Guyana Government representatives held discussions with Venezuelan counterparts at various technical and political levels in pursuance of Guyana's policy that the benefits of the project should be made available to neighbouring countries also, including Venezuela. These discussions had always been amicable and, we had believed, constructive.

Indeed, during a state visit to Guyana in 1978, the then President of Venezuela at a press conference held at the Pegasus Hotel, Georgetown, on Friday 20 November 1978, expressed Venezuela's general support for the project. Among other statements on this issue, he said the following:

"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."

No words can be clearer. Indeed, a large part of the official discussions during the presidential visit centred on the economics and logistics of the supply by Guyana and the purchase by Venezuela of electric power from the project. One firm decision was that the two countries would do further technical work on the cost and modalities of such an arrangement. Hitherto, Venezuela has never indicated any opposition to the Project. The Venezuelan Foreign Minister's communication of 8 June 1981, contained the first ever expression of opposition by Venezuela that the Government of Guyana is aware of. The manner in which the opposition was indicated was, to say the least, regrettable; but it is passing strange that it should have occurred at this time when we are on the verge of concluding arrangements which will greatly enhance the prospects of realising the necessary financing for the Project.

The Upper Mazaruni Hydro-electric Project is vital for the economic development of Guyana. When completed, it will for all practical purposes solve Guyana's energy problem for the rest of this century. At present, we are totally dependent on imported fossil fuel, the continuous escalation in the price of which has been strangling our economy. The adverse impact of the cost of oil imports in our economy will easily be understood from the following figures: In 1970, the cost of our oil imports was equivalent to 5 percent of our GDP; in 1975 it was 10 percent; in 1980, 29 percent. In 1970, the cost of oil represented 8 percent of the value of our total imports; in 1975, it was 13 percent and in 1980, 36 percent. In 1970, oil imports absorbed 9 percent of our total export earnings; in 1975, 12 percent and in 1980, 35 percent.

The present Venezuelan regime has analysed this problem very carefully and knows quite well that the economic salvation of Guyana hinges critically on the development of its hydro-electric resources. The perception of the Government of Guyana is that the regime is attempting to prevent the development of these hydro-electricity resources in the hope that Guyana's continued dependence on imported oil would aggravate the current economic problems and render it vulnerable to the regime's expansionist and colonial designs. In the circumstances, the Government of Guyana interprets the communication of the 8th June, 1981, as an undisguised attempt by the Venezuelan Government to manipulate the Bank and use it as an instrument for achieving its ulterior political ends.

Finally, . . . I wish to confirm that, notwithstanding the pretensions of the present Venezuelan regime, the Government and people of Guyana continue to place an absolute priority on the development of their hydro-electric resources and, more particularly, on the Upper Mazaruni Hydro-electric Project. They will persist in the most strenuous and disciplined efforts to ensure the implementation of the Project at the earliest practical date. Guyana sets a high value on its membership of the Bank and the good relations it has established with it over the years. As the Government and people of Guyana pursue their developmental objectives, they look forward to strengthening those relations as the Bank, for its part, continues to address the complex and challenging issues of world development in the discharge of its mandate and the fulfilment of its purpose. . .


At the Fourth Biennial Congress of the People’s National Congress (PNC) held during 22-29 August 1981, Foreign Minister Rashleigh Jackson, in a major address, discussed Venezuela’s breach of treaties and agreements related to the frontier.

He stated, inter alia:

. . . Earlier I said that our border with Venezuela was settled by Treaty. In fact there are five Treaties or international legal instruments which deal with the Guyana frontier with Venezuela and related questions. It was under pain of the threat of war by the USA in solicitation of Venezuela's interests that the United Kingdom, then responsible for the colony of British Guiana, agreed and signed with Venezuela in 1897 the Treaty of Washington.

That Treaty required under Article I, that an Arbitral Tribunal be appointed to determine the boundary line between the then colony of British Guiana and the United States of Venezuela. It further made provision for the nomination of five Arbitrators, two by the United Kingdom and two by Venezuela, the fifth, the President, being chosen by the four nominated Arbitrators. Importantly, the parties to the Treaty agreed, in accordance with Article XIII, to consider the result of the proceeds of the Tribunal of Arbitration as a "full, perfect and final settlement". All the legal requirements for making the Treaty effective were fully complied with.

Let me make a point about the Arbitrators. Venezuela had as her representatives the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court and another member of that Court. It should be noted as well that among the four lawyers who presented Venezuela's case to the Tribunal were a former President and a former Secretary of War of the United States of America. On the British side the Arbitrators were the Lord Chief Justice of England and one of the Justices of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. I will return later to this issue.

The Tribunal met in Paris and after considering voluminous evidence presented by both sides in support of their respective claims, made an Award on 3rd October, 1899. I wish merely to observe that as a result of that Award we lost to Venezuela territory in the Amakura, Barima and Cuyuni areas. It was on the basis of that Award that the two countries appointed Commissioners to demarcate on the ground the boundary between Venezuela and British Guiana. This task took six years and was completed in 1905. The results of the demarcation exercise were embodied in an "Agreement between the British and Venezuelan Commissioners with regard to the Map of the Boundary" which, in its own terms, has "a perfectly official character". Authentic copies of this Agreement with the official Map are lodged in the archives of all three countries. It is apposite to note that the relevant records show that the Venezuelan Commissioners were quite rightly meticulous in every detail, not wishing to deviate one iota for purposes of convenience as the demarcation process was pursued through swamp, over mountains, across plains and in rivers.

Thus, Venezuela and the United Kingdom agreed by an international treaty, the Treaty of Washington, to settle the boundary between Venezuela and British Guiana by arbitration; they agreed to accept the results of that arbitration as a "full, perfect and final settlement"; they participated in the process of arbitration; and they demarcated on the ground the boundary in strict accordance with the terms of the Arbitral Award of 1899. By those procedures and actions the two countries settled the territorial question, the territorial conflict, the territorial controversy between Venezuela and the United Kingdom on the boundaries between the former and what is today Guyana. There the matter rested for several decades and should have rested into perpetuity.

. . . Let us look now at the record of Venezuela's behaviour on each of those five Treaties or legal instruments concerning our frontier with Venezuela and other related questions. She has breached and violated each of those treaties and agreements.

Let us start with the 1897 Treaty of Washington. Venezuela, which had ratified that Treaty, had agreed to accept its results "as a full, perfect and final settlement". Now she wishes those results changed. Similarly Venezuela wishes unilaterally to set aside the 1899 Arbitral Award. Thirdly, in calling for a revision of the frontier, Venezuela is in effect reneging on the work of the British and Venezuelan Commissioners who completed in 1905 the demarcation on the ground of the boundary in strict accordance with the Award and authenticated a Boundary Map which was accepted by all the Governments concerned, and by the rest of the international community. Venezuela now wants that Map revised. Fourthly, Venezuela has frequently breached the Geneva Agreement, by invasion and illegal occupation of Ankoko like South Africa in Namibia; by subversion and the encouragement of rebellion; by economic pressure, intimidation and aggression. And finally, Venezuela has violated the Protocol of Port-of-Spain. Nothing more clearly demonstrates the Venezuelan attitude on the Protocol in particular and the instruments and Treaties in general than the recent bellicose reassertion of her territorial claim and the proclaimed intention to impede the development process in Western Essequibo.

Let us return to the statement which emanated from the Presidential Palace in Caracas Miraflores on April 4, 1981. As I pointed out earlier that was the occasion which the present Venezuelan Government chose to vigorously resuscitate and promote its claim to two-thirds of our territory. The statement referred to the Arbitral Award of 1899 as "illegal" and opined that it "was never valid". Further the statement gave the position of the Government of Venezuela as "rejection of any compromise incompatible with Venezuela's claim, and stresses the nation's desire that the grave injustice committed against it by the voracity of the colonial empires should be righted". Note the arrogance and pomposity of the language. The attitude is conveyed that things are what Venezuela says they are.

The Statement went further to signal the intention of the Government of Venezuela not to extend the life of the Protocol of Port-of-Spain beyond June 1982 and announced Venezuela's rejection of the Upper Mazaruni Hydro-electric Project.

As regards Venezuela's termination of the Protocol of Port-of-Spain, this possibility is envisaged by the Protocol itself. It is thus entirely within the legal competence of Venezuela to terminate the Protocol by unilateral action. If and when the Government of Venezuela takes such action, that is she gives notice in writing six months before the end of the first twelve year period of her intention, then, on the termination of the Protocol on 18 June 1982 the provisions of Article IV of the Geneva Agreement will be resumed.

With regards to the Upper Mazaruni Project, the Government of Venezuela is most aggressive. Since April 4, she has written to the World Bank formally opposing the scheme thus using an international economic institution to achieve overt political objectives. The Venezuelan Government even had the effrontery to go to Nairobi this month at the World Conference devoted to New and Renewable Sources of Energy to promote their objection to the Upper Mazaruni Project.

By the April 4, 1981 statement therefore, and action taken subsequently, Venezuela has mounted an offensive of pressure and intimidation. This offensive takes many forms and assumes many guises. On balance we can give the following summary. There is hysteria based on misinformation and sometimes downright malice created by sectors of the Venezuela mass media; there is a clouding, even by elements of Venezuelan officialdom of the true and real nature of the controversy; there is the selective and tendentious presentation of history in Venezuela to the Venezuelan people; there are the dangerous portents of Venezuelans calling for the use of force as a means of settlement and it is in this context, that the desire to introduce new and sophisticated weapons into the area must be seen; and there are the various acts of political blackmail and economic hostility and aggression directed against the people of our Co-operative Republic.

What has the Venezuelan Government been doing and saying since April 4? It has mounted an orchestrated campaign throughout the Commonwealth Caribbean; its emissaries have travelled up and down Central and South America; it has gone to the USA seeking a so-called neutrality on the controversy while endeavouring to purchase a squadron of F-16's; (I presume that they will claim that their intentions with respect to the purchase of the F-16 are peaceful and defensive in nature); its plenipotentiaries have travelled far and wide seeking understanding and neutrality for the Venezuelan position on her claim to two-thirds of our territory. But the Venezuelan administration has done more. It is endeavouring, through activities, bilaterally with countries like France and Yugoslavia, to discourage friendly countries from participation in the development process in Guyana; and the Venezuelan authorities have also approached multilateral institutions like the World Bank and the EEC importuning them against their involvement in development projects in Western Essequibo. It is nothing but economic blackmail and economic aggression. It is unworthy of any third world country, much less one that is Chairman of the Group of 77.

At this stage one needs perhaps to look precisely at what the Geneva Agreement says, what it expects of the High Contracting Parties and what is the nature of the issue or issues it deals with. As I said earlier, a Mixed Commission comprised of Guyanese and Venezuelans was given a period of four years to carry out a certain mandate. That mandate is contained in Article I of the Geneva Agreement which I now quote:

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

We saw how during the life of the Mixed Commission the Venezuela representatives refused to face the fact that the central issue was the contention of their Government of the nullity of the 1899 Award. This inability on the part of the Venezuelan Government, I regret to say appears to persist to this very day. Indeed, the Venezuelans are today saying the 1899 Arbitral Award as well as the process of arbitration are "non-existent". It has been erased from Venezuelan history!

Let us now look at present day Venezuelan arguments and postures. Their argument runs something like this: Athe 1899 Award is invalid," indeed in their view it does not exist. So there could have been no demarcation under a non-existent Award. According to Venezuela therefore there are only two relevant legal documents -- the Geneva Agreement of 1966 and the Protocol of Port-of-Spain of 1970. Since Venezuela has already signified her intention to terminate the Protocol of Port-of-Spain, the Geneva Agreement for Venezuela will become the only legal instrument which will relate to the frontier.

Earlier I had drawn attention to the composition of the Tribunal. At this particular point it is, I believe, apposite to allude to one of the possible conclusions to be drawn from Venezuela's posture and claim of deals relating to the nullity and non-existence of the Award. It is properly for those, from whose countries the Arbitrators came, countries in which they participated in eminent institutions of law and justice, it is for them to respond to the arrows unleashed by Venezuela at the integrity of those persons as just and honourable men.

The Venezuela argument and actions were therefore designed to have a discussion on the revision of the frontier. Now Venezuela has the right to terminate the Protocol of Port-of-Spain; she can, if she so wishes in self-delusion, attempt to deny the existence and/or the validity of the 1899 Award; but she cannot amend the terms of the Geneva Agreement unilaterally to suit her own purposes and get away with it.

The thrust of the Venezuela case contains certain elements which give a fallacious and in the end self-defeating presentation. Such a presentation also points to certain dangers for us in Guyana, in the region and beyond.

In citing the Geneva Agreement, especially Article I, the Government of Venezuela attempts to circumscribe the provisions and limit their scope and application. Venezuelan spokesmen lay emphasis on the words "the practical settlement of the controversy" to the exclusion of all other phrases in the relevant provisions. Indeed, the Foreign Minister of Venezuela has described the issue as a "territorial controversy".

Any bilateral discussion with a view to finding a solution to any controversy, or a difference of opinion, requires understandrng as to what is the difference and what is the issue being discussed. Unless the Venezuela Government is prepared to acknowledge the past and present errors of her ways in this respect, and agree that the prior issue to be discussed is her contention of nullity of the 1899 Award, we can very well be engaged in the future in an exercise in futility. But we are prepared to talk.

The Award of 1899 is part of the international law. It stands, unless it is set aside by mutual agreement. Venezuela can of course attempt to forcibly disturb it by acts of aggression either like Ankoko or otherwise. But that is another question. We must therefore be prepared to defend our land, to protect our patrimony and to repel any aggressors by our strengths, internal and external.

The Venezuelans in essence are trying to define the nature and the circumstances of the discussions and negotiations which are envisaged under the Geneva Agreement. A problem for Venezuela is that the two Governments will have to, if the terms of Article 33 of the Charter of the United Nations are employed, agree on the means for proceeding, This is not subject to unilateral Venezuelan action. In this context, I should let you know that the Venezuela posture is that "the matter" should be settled bilaterally, that is between Venezuela and ourselves. In the first place Her Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom is a party to all the Treaties and legal instruments. Secondly, the methods encompassed under Article 33 involve a third party. It is also possible that the office of the Secretary General of the United Nations could be involved under the conditions spelled out in Article IV(2) of the Geneva Agreement. The question is therefore potentially an international one of international concern and interest.

On the same day, Dr. Zambrano, the Venezuelan Foreign Minister, in a reply to Dr. Reid's speech, outlined the Venezuelan version of the history of the border and alleged that the 1899 Award was non-existent. However, Noel Sinclair, Guyana's Permanent Representative to the UN, in exercising his right to reply to the allegations of Dr. Zambrano, told the UN General Assembly on the 5 October 1981:

If all a state has to do to secure revision of a frontier is to allege the nullity or the non-existence of the agreement establishing that frontier, without being required to advance proof in support of that contention, then our planet would be thrown into a turbulence of ghastly and unimaginable proportions.


On the 24 September 1981, Guyana's Prime Minister, Dr. Ptolomy Reid, in an address to the UN General Assembly, detailed Guyana's position in the border issue. After giving a historical background to Venezuela's claim to Guyanese territory, Dr. Reid explained:

. . .The history of Venezuela's behaviour on the frontier with Guyana gives us little cause for optimism. What cause further concern are other policies being pursued by the present Government of Venezuela in this regard. Thus allied with the desire of that Government to acquire new and sophisticated weapons of war, including F16 aircraft, are increasingly clamorous calls within Venezuela for a military solution to the controversy. . .


Guyana won further support at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference which was held in Melbourne, Australia during the first week in October 1981. President Burnham attended the Conference where in his main address, he raised the matter of the Venezuelan claim to Guyana's territory. The Prime Minister of Belize, George Price, President Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia and President Daniel Arap Moi of Kenya also mentioned the issue in their speeches and called on the Commonwealth leaders to give support to Guyana. On the 8 October, at the end of the deliberations, a communique was issued on the outcome of the summit. Article 29 of that communique stated:

Heads of Government expressed their deep concern at the threat to the territorial integrity of Guyana by the resuscitation by Venezuela of a claim to more than two-thirds of the territory of Guyana and the steps taken by Venezuela in pursuit of the claim.

Noting that the existing boundary has been laid down by an international arbitral award in 1899 and accepted by all concerned as the final settlement, they expressed support for Guyana and called for the peaceful settlement of the controversy in accordance with established procedures and with full respect for the sanctity of treaties.


After the Melbourne summit, President Burnham attended a meeting in Cancun, Mexico, involving eight western developed countries, China, Yugoslavia and fourteen developing countries. Here, on the 23 October Burnham met with US President Ronald Reagan who was also attending the conference. Reagan did not state his views on the border issue very clearly, but from what he told Burnham, the USA was not sympathetic towards Guyana's position. Reagan's erroneous view was that the land row was in relation to a "double claim", an assertion Burnham refuted.


At the end of October the Guyana Government announced that the 20 million US dollars IDB loan, which was refused in August 1981 following US objection on "technical grounds", had been finally approved since the 23 September. When the loan was refused in August, Guyana Government spokesmen had alleged that Venezuelan pressure was the cause. In a comment on the granting of the loan, the PPP declared on the 31 October that news that the loan was "approved at last" was a "damp squib" since many political observers had expected the loan would have been approved eventually after the PNC's Fourth Biennial Congress concluded. The PPP statement added:

The loan was allegedly "blocked" on August 13, 1981 and was finally "approved" on September 23, 1981. The PNC's Congress began on August 22, and concluded on August 29, 1981. It is now apparent that the overall objective was to create an atmosphere for the Congress, in which the PNC could belabour US imperialism before its foreign guests in order to impress them.


During the period 27-29 November 1981, the Eight Congress of the United Centre of Venezuelan Workers was held in Caracas. Present at the Congress were representatives of many local and international trade unions, including the Guyana Agricultural and General Workers Union (GAWU) which was represented by its General Secretary, Komal Chand. The Congress discussed the border issue and eventually passed a resolution which condemned all violence and confrontation as a solution and called for dialogue and negotiations. The resolution also condemned the policies of the Venezuelan Government which constituted violations of the national sovereignty of Guyana.


In early December 1981, the Head of the Guyana Defence Force, Norman Mc Lean, travelled to Brazil in an effort to purchase a quantity of weapons. There he told reporters that he was interested in purchasing "aircraft, trucks and communication equipment". He also mentioned that Guyana could not consider any military offensive against Venezuela because of a disparity of forces. During his visit, Mc Lean also held discussions with leaders of the Brazilian army. Many observers saw the visit as an effort by the PNC regime to ensure a Brazilian alliance against Venezuela.

At about the same period, Venezuela stepped up its fortifying of the frontier with Guyana by introducing special combat forces in the zone.


The UN First Committee, the Committee on International Security Questions, on the 3 December 1981 adopted by 90 votes to 21 against with 3 abstentions, a declaration on the admissibility of intervention and interference in the internal affairs of States. The document was presented by Guyana on behalf of the Non-Aligned States to the Committee. Venezuela voted against the Declaration, but in explaining its vote, declared that while it supported the principle of non-intervention, it did not agree with all the terms in which the principle was expressed in the Declaration nor did the document provide enough safeguards to States.

Focussing on what it called territorial controversies, the Venezuelan delegation pointed out that nothing in the Declaration should impair the rights of States by virtue of treaties duly entered into in respect of territorial controversies, nor give shelter to any State which sought to avoid compliance with the obligation to seek, by peaceful means, a solution to territorial controversies as provided for in those treaties. "Nor is there any provision which recognizes the existence of controversy on territorial questions awaiting resolution. . .," the Venezuelan representative noted.


At a conference of the Latin American Economic System (SELA) held in Panama at the beginning of December 1981, Guyana's Foreign Minister, Rashleigh Jackson, declared that Guyana was open to dialogue with Venezuela. The Minister's statement immediately provoked favourable comments from leading Venezuelan politicians. Speaking in Maturin in eastern Venezuela on the 4 December, President Campins said that if Guyana wanted to talk then Guyanese Government spokesmen should stop their attacks on Venezuela in international fora. Two days before, the acting Foreign Minister, Paez Pumar, declared that his country would have dialogue with Guyana but only in a favourable climate. He said that his Government was receptive to any proposal tending to renew conversations with Guyana, but warned that "a negotiation within a living room and a warfare of accusations outside cannot be maintained". Nevertheless, he felt that Jackson's statement was positive.

An Accion Democratica (AD) spokesman, Congressman Canache Mata, also felt that Jackson's statement was positive because it indicated that there was a variation in the aggressive and high sounding conduct maintained up to then by Guyana. The Movement Towards Socialism (MAS), through one of its leaders, German Larrat, pointed out that Jackson's statement "is formulated within the Party's position C dealing with the problem by way of negotiation in a bilateral way". In addition, the New Alternative (Leftist) Party considered that the new attitude entailed a change in the arrogant position and that the situation was evolving towards a more national position.


On the 7 December 1981, the General Assembly of the Organisation of American States (OAS) convened in Saint Lucia. At this meeting, the eight CARICOM members of the 29-member body co-sponsored a resolution to amend Article 8 of the OAS Charter to facilitate the admission of Guyana and Belize to the hemispheric body. (This article barred countries in territorial disputes with member countries of the OAS from joining the Organization. As such, the Article precluded Guyana which was involved in a territorial matter with Venezuela, and newly independent Belize which was being claimed by Guatemala). On the same day the Assembly opened, VENPRES, the official Venezuelan news agency, ran a report from Saint Lucia quoting the Venezuelan OAS Ambassador as attributing the move to amend the Article to Guyana. This report by VENPRES caused anger among Caribbean diplomats attending the Assembly and they claimed that the report was distorted and misleading. Guyana's Ambassador to Venezuela who was attending the Assembly as an observer responded that Guyana was not a member of the OAS and could not spearhead anything as VENPRES charged.

The resolution was withdrawn after it was realised that it could not receive unanimous support.


On the 10 December, IPS reported from Caracas that President Campins had announced that the Venezuelan Government was preparing a final document which would denounce Guyana's hydro-electric project in the upper Mazaruni. The President explained that the document would be submitted to Venezuela's Advisory Commission on Foreign Relations, the political parties, the Venezuelan Congress and the armed forces for their consideration.

The IPS report also indicated that both military and political statements had become more heated in Venezuela over the past week. Former AD Foreign Minister, Ramon Escobar Salom was quoted as saying that he would not rule out a military solution to the territorial issue as a last resort. While former independent presidential candidate, Miguel Angel Burelli Rivas, agreed with Salom, he said that military action "would indicate that all else had failed". Meanwhile, Commanding General of the Venezuelan army, Vincente Luis Narvaez Churion, who had announced that Venezuela would be reactivating two jungle brigades on the frontier with Guyana, claimed that the move to reactivate these brigades was aimed at making Venezuelan aware of the need for their country to "show a presence" on its border. He added: "We are not provoking anyone, nor are we responding to provocations. . . The Venezuelan army is not afraid of Guyana nor of any other country. . . We are capable of responding to any foreign threat. . ."

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