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Recalling that Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez was well received on his visit to Guyana in 2004, resulting in the construction of the US$2 million Hugo Chávez Centre for Rehabilitation and Reintegration in Region No.5 and debt write-offs, former President David Granger warned that the territorial claim could not be settled by charity.
Granger made the comments while speaking on his television programme – the Public Interest, his party PNCR said in a release. He pointed out that Venezuela’s President Raúl Leoni, despite committing to seeking a peaceful solution under the Geneva Agreement in February 1966, deployed armed force to seize Ankoko Island in the Cuyuni River eight months later in October. Venezuela has remained in possession of Guyana’s portion of the Island for 55 years. President Leoni also published Decree No. 1.552 in July 1968, purporting to appropriate part of Guyana’s maritime zone.
The former President expressed the view that Venezuela’s policy on Guyana’s territory had the same strategic objective under ten presidents – from Raúl Leoni in 1966 to Nicolás Maduro today. President Carlos Andrés Pérez had attempted, during his visit in October 1978, to offer finance for the Upper Mazaruni Hydropower Project and to reduce the territorial claim in exchange for the Essequibo coast which would give Venezuela, a Caibbean state, a coastline and exit to the Atlantic – la Salida al Atlantico.
Mr. Granger regarded changes in Venezuelan policy under President Hugo Chávez, who saw himself as a revolutionary and visionary, as delusory. He tried to displace United States’ hemispheric hegemony by deploying his country’s petroleum wealth to strengthen state control of PdVSA and to promote organisations such as CELAC and PetroCaribe.
Chavez’s visit to Georgetown in February 2004 witnessed concessions to adjust conditions of the Caracas Energy Cooperation Accord, cancel debt and allow development of Essequibo. Yet, he opposed exploration by Exxon and Chevron in Guyana’s maritime zone. President Nicolás Maduro, who saw himself as Chavez’s heir, visited in August 2013 pledging to foster cooperation but, six weeks later in October, his Navy seized the Teknik Perdana vessel. He followed the old playbook by issuing Decree No 1. 787 in May 2015 after Guyana discovered petroleum and Decree No. 4.415 in January 2021 renewing the claim to the maritime zone.
Former President Granger expressed satisfaction at UN the Secretary General’s decision in January 2018 to refer the territorial controversy to the ICJ, as Guyana’s best course. Venezuela’s policy remained unchanged after the 25-year long UN Good Offices process.