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….no pre-conditions set by Venezuela
By Svetlana Marshall
Trinidad and Tobago, as the sitting Chair of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), teamed up with the Government of Guyana and other Member States to pressure Venezuela into releasing the 12 Guyanese fishermen who were detained by the Venezuelan military.
After close to two weeks of detention, the fishermen and their vessels were set free by the Nicholas Maduro Administration on Wednesday.
“As Minister of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs I called in the Ambassador of Venezuela to POS to convey the serious concerns of CARICOM and T&T at the detention of the Guyanese fishermen and vessels, I emphasised that we maintain full solidarity with Guyana on the issue, and underlined that the detentions could have negative implications on the peace and security of the entire region,” Trinidad’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Amery Browne told Village Voice News on Wednesday.
Dr. Browne said he also engaged in frank and direct discussions with Venezuela’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jorge Arreaza, on multiple occasions during the period of the detentions.
“Minister Arreaza is completely fluent in English [and] he made himself available for dialogue at all times and he consistently conveyed his government’s interest in finding solutions to the crisis,” Dr. Browne said.
The Trinidadian Foreign Minister made it clear that all aspects of his own involvement in the matter were guided by the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, and Chairman of CARICOM, Dr. Keith Rowley.
“[It was also] shaped by Guyana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Hugh Todd with whom I have developed an excellent understanding and friendship. Every time I spoke with Ambassador Carlos Perez Silva or Minister Arreaza I would check-in with Minister Todd to ensure that the efforts in Port of Spain were in synch with the work being done on this matter by the Government of Guyana,” he further explained.
He noted too that Prime Minister Rowley maintained a constant stream of communication with President Irfaan Ali, with other CARICOM colleagues, and with the leadership in Venezuela.
Asked whether Venezuela had set any precondition for the release of the fishermen and their vessels, Minister Browne responded in the negative. He also indicated that no assurances was given by the Government of Venezuela that it will not enter Guyana’s maritime space inclusive of the EEZ.
The fishermen and their vessels – the Lady Nayera and the Sea Wolf – were illegally detained on January 21 when they were unlawfully intercepted by the Venezuelan Naval Vessel Commandante Hugo Chavez GC 24 off the coast of Waini Point within Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
The crews and the fishing vessels were escorted to Port Guiria in Venezuela, where they were held for close to two weeks until their release on Wednesday.
In a telephone interview with Village Voice News on Wednesday, owner of Lady Nayera, Kumar Lalbachan said he was overwhelmed with joy when he received a phone call from his captain, indicating that the Venezuelan Government had taken a decision to release the fishermen, including the captain.
Lalbachan, who owns Big Bird & Sons Fish Port Complex at Charity on the Essequibo Coast, said based on informed released the fishermen were not harmed during their detention in Venezuela.
He said before departing Venezuela, they were given essential supplies, such as water, groceries and fuel, reportedly by the Venezuelan Government.
The incursion by Venezuelan armed forces into Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and the arrest and detention of the fishermen were viewed as a flagrant violation of international law and the sovereign rights and jurisdiction of Guyana over its maritime spaces.