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From left: Guyana’s President Irfan Ali, SVG’s PM Ralph Gonsalves and Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro.
From left: Guyana’s President Irfan Ali, SVG’s PM Ralph Gonsalves and Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro.
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By Kenton X. Chance

The presidents of Guyana and Venezuela are scheduled to meet in St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) on Thursday amidst heightened tension over the long-running border conflict, even as both countries remain steadfast in their opposing positions on how the conflict should be resolved.

Prime Minister of SVG, Ralph Gonsalves confirmed the meeting to the media in Kingstown on Saturday evening, sometime after reports about it emerged from the Guyanese capital, Georgetown. 

Guyana’s President Irfan Ali and Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro will meet face-to-face in SVG even as the Guyanese parliament has ordered the government not to discuss the border issue with Caracas.

At the same time, Venezuelans voted in a referendum on Sunday to reject the International Court of Justice (ICJ) as the adjudicator of the matter, even as Georgetown has gone to the ICJ for a resolution.

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The decision to meet was communicated in a letter Gonsalves sent to Ali and Maduro on Saturday.

“This discussion would relate to matters consequential upon the border controversy which exists between Guyana and Venezuela,” Gonsalves told an extra-ordinary press conference, in which he said he had not intended to address the matter until Monday but noted that the Guyanese government had released the letter.

“Today, I can’t answer what is going to be the outcome. What I do know with certainty, that it is better for people in conflict to be talking,” the prime minister said.

“You can resolve misunderstandings — agent provocateurs can create challenges also. And if you’re talking, and you’re respectful, and you’re mature and understanding and wise, and you take your populations along with you in that particular process, you are less likely to end up with threats of force or the actual use of force,” Gonsalves said.

“Now, anyone who’s studied very carefully, discussions to end conflicts, there’s a prolonged period in which it may appear as though you’re not making any progress. And there are several issues on which for them to devise modalities as to how they would proceed.”

He pointed out that at the discussions in Paris in the early 1970s to end the Vietnam War, a long period of time was spent discussing the shape of the table and the seating arrangements for the disputants.

“The point I’m making is that yo you in answer, we just have to be mature and wise, respectful, patient and calm,” Gonsalves said.

“And I have confidence that the leadership’s in Venezuela, and in Guyana, all of these things, but each side has its own sets of national interests to look at and for,” he told the media.

One journalist asked about the value of the meeting, given that Guyana was insisting that the border controversy must be resolved by the ICJ and Venezuela was maintaining a bilateral solution.

“…  there are many things to be addressed. And the matter of the commitment to international law, the commitment to peace, to maintain the region as a zone of peace, and not to go to open conflict,” Gonsalves said.

“All those things are of great importance. And I’m sure when leaders sit down, they will search for and find modalities to continue to maintain a peaceful coexistence. They are neighbours. Guyana and Venezuela are neighbours. You can’t take up either of them and carry them to Vladivostok,” Gonsalves said.

“… it is not beyond the leaders to help to save the region from intense conflict which will bring about lots of pain and suffering, and would set back this region more than a generation. And that’s why I also framed the issue in terms of the interests of Caribbean and Latin American civilisations.”

Also on Saturday, the parliamentary opposition coalition of A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) welcomed the decision by Ali and Maduro to meet next week in St. Vincent but said the border controversy must not be the subject of those talks.

“The opposition believes that there must not be any discussions of the territorial controversy between our two countries as this matter is properly before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and this process must be allowed to take its course so that it is settled within the confines of international law,” APNU+AFC said in a statement.

In addition, the Organization of American States is scheduled to debate in Washington on Monday a “particular resolution” on the border conflict,” Gonsalves said.

“… and there is some hope or even expectation that perhaps we can see a shelving for a period of time, at least for the time being, of this particular resolution,” he told the media.

“Of course, we don’t have any control over that,” Gonsalves said, adding, “But that is something which I express in a hopeful way but we must not allow anything to derail this initial face-to-face dialogue or subsequent ones.

“Because not to be talking is very dangerous and it is something which I believe this matter would weigh in the way in which I’m presenting it, to the people of the Caribbean and Latin America, it will weigh very heavily on people’s hearts and minds.”

In the letter to Ali and Maduro, Gonsalves said that both leaders have agreed to meet face-to-face in St. Vincent at 10 a.m. on Thursday under the under the auspices of the Community of States of Latin America and the Caribbean (CELAC), of which SVG is the pro tempore, and CARICOM, whose current chairman Prime Minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit.

The letter said that Ali and Maduro have requested the presence of President of Brazil, Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, adding that an invitation had been sent to da Silva.

“Given the recent events and circumstances attendant upon the border controversy, the leadership’s of CELAC and CARICOM have assessed in the interest of all concerned, including our Caribbean and Latin American civilisations, the urgent need to de-escalate the conflict, and institute an appropriate dialogue, face to face between the presidents of Guyana and Venezuela,” Gonsalves wrote.

He said Alia and Maduro “concurred with this assessment in the quest of peaceful coexistence, the application and respect for international law and the avoidance of the use or threats of force.

“Both of you are on public record of committing to the Caribbean as a zone of peace and the maintenance of international law.”

The Vincentian leader said experience has taught humanity that it is “mature, wise and preferable for leaders of nations which are in conflict to speak to each other calmly, respectfully, and with patience in order to avoid an escalation into threats, or the use of force.

“To be sure, the resolution of old controversies in challenging contemporary times is never easy for leaders. It is strenuous, but the strenuous life pursued in peace is to be preferred to one of ignoble ease in perpetual conflict or violent encounter.”

Gonsalves noted that Guyana is seeking to resolve the controversy through the ICJ, which is currently seized of the matter.

He also noted that Venezuela has rejected the path of the ICJ as the modality for resolution.

“The parliament of Guyana has unanimously instructed the president of Guyana not to discuss the border controversy with the Government of Venezuela. The people of Venezuela, have advised overwhelmingly in a consultative referendum on December the third 2023 their government not to accept the jurisdiction of the ICJ in the matter of the border controversy,” Gonsalves wrote.

He said each of the two leaders “has to summon the proverbial wisdom of Solomon, the patience of Job and the foresight of all the ancient prophets to engender good neighborliness in peace, justice, security, and prosperity for all concerned”.

The prime minister said there was much for the two leaders to raise and or discuss “on matters consequential to the border controversy, even as you respect the advice or more of your respective peoples and parliament or National Assembly”.

He told the two presidents that they are each free to suggest “requisite modalities of the face-to-face dialogue, inclusive of the role of any named interlocutor or interlocutors”.

Gonsalves said he and Skerrit are “available to assist in whatever constructive way each of you may suggest or require…

“Time is of the essence. Let us all resolve to make this historic gathering a successful one. So much is at stake for Caribbean and Latin American civilization,” Gonsalves further wrote.

The prime minister told the media that he had been seeking since Sept. 29, in his capacity as pro tempore president of CELAC to have a dialogue between Venezuela and Guyana.

He said that both presidents are his friends and the countries are also members of CELAC.

“Of course, there’s a time and season for everything,” he said, echoing the Bible.

“… there’s a time to keep quiet, there’s a time to talk. And there is a time for peace, and there is a time for fighting. And all the circumstances have made it possible for us to have this dialogue,” he said.

Gonsalves said CARICOM leaders “have played an important role in assisting to bring this venture together”.

He mentioned particularly Skerrit, da Silva, Cuban President Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel Cuba and “several of the leaders whom I consider important in this exercise to assist in facilitating this dialogue, this meeting.

The Vincentian leader also noted that CARICOM heads of government met on Friday, adding that “certain matters were crystallized” during those talks.

“And I was accorded a particular role in this particular venture,” he said, noting that he had travelled to Caracas a few weeks ago “to address precisely this matter with President Maduro.

“And I’ve had several conversations, too, with President Ali on the phone and face-to-face.”

Gonsalves said he held discussion with the Venezuelan foreign minister, who came to SVG on Friday to see him on the border conflict.

“And this morning, before I sent out the letter, I had discussions with President Ali and vice president Jagdeo from Guyana and with President Maduro,” he said, adding that he has also been in communication with the  Cuban government, the Offices of the Secretary General of the United Nations as well as the President of Honduras, who will take over the pro tempore presidency of CELAC at the beginning of March, as well as the immediate past pro tempore president of CELAC, the president of Argentina,

“And sometime this afternoon, I spoke with the foreign minister of the Federative Republic of Brazil to see if we could ascertain the presence of President Lula here on Thursday. But a formal letter has already been sent to President Lula,” he said.

7 replies on “Venezuela, Guyana leaders to meet in SVG amidst heightened tension ”

  1. So why doesn’t Venezuela respect the ICJ ruling that been there for many years?
    Nicolas Maduro is looking for a fight because he has an army and Guyans has none.
    I don’t believe all these people having these meetings can persuade Maduro to leave Guyans’ lands alone.
    Maduro knows the US is occupied in several world fights and cannot get involved in this new dispute. I don’t see Cuba, Brazil and other nations talking him out of his plans to invade Guyana.

  2. The only person or issue that will show any success from this meeting is the raising of PM Gonsalves’ stature as a statesman, thereby raising his prospects of success in the next election.

  3. The master of division is talking about peace. You have no shame Ralph! You talk down to Vincentians with disgust and here you are attempting to fool the world that you are an angel. GTFOH!!

  4. This invasion of Guyana by Venezuela in the same as Russia invading Ukraine. Did Ralph intercede there? And if not, Why Not?
    To the people of Guyana, do not allow the bullies Ralph and Nicolas to try to corner you into submission. Not one square millimeter should be handed over.
    Ralph is no stateman and what is his dog in the fight? Remember the PetroCaribe Terminal in Lowman’s Bay. Drive down and see who faces are on the billboard.

  5. Guyana! Guyana! Bee wear of fork town.

    Scores of vincentians who help built this nation from before dey took power was fired from their job because they were concerned of taking an experimental drug in their body not knowing d immediate and long term effects. Until dis day dey still suffering to provide for their families.

    U think dey interest dey patriot is genuinely?
    Check it out, I don’t kno.

    Especially dare ideology is not of dine. But of dares.

    Don’t fall for any deception hold your ground no matter what

    Somebody must stand up against tyranny.

    And we stand wid u.

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