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Opposition Leader Godwin Friday in an October 2023 photo.
Opposition Leader Godwin Friday in an October 2023 photo.
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Leader of the Opposition Godwin Friday says his New Democratic Party (NDP) welcomes any effort to bring a long-lasting resolution to the Venezuela-Guyana border conflict amidst Caracas’ threats of annexation of two-thirds of Guyana.

He said that while he is not naïve about the talks between both countries that are slated to take place in St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Thursday, he is hoping that, at the minimum, Venezuela would accept the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to resolve the border dispute.

“My view and the view of the New Democratic Party is that any discussion that has the possibility, or the hope, the intention, the purpose of seeking to bring a peaceful resolution to this dispute is to be pursued,” he said on his party’s radio programme on NICE Radio on Monday.

Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves announced on Saturday that Guyana’s President Irfan Ali as well as Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela have agreed to face-to-face talks in SVG on Thursday.

He said that Ali has requested the presence of President of Brazil, Lula da Silva, and Kingstown has sent an invitation to da Silva, whose country shares a border with both Guyana and Venezuela.

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Friday said:

“And we are not starry eyed and thinking that this is an easy process or that the talks that have been initiated on Thursday here in Kingstown, in St. Vincent, that those talks have to have clear objectives as to what is to be achieved.”

The Vincentian opposition leader noted the history of the conflict, which dates back to the 19th century, and the fact that Ali has stated that Guyana’s borders are not up for discussion and the conflict will be resolved by the ICJ.

Friday said the majority of countries in the world, including CARICOM, a regional bloc of nations of which SVG and Guyana are members, also support that position.

“… and that is the position certainly of the New Democratic Party. We want to see a peaceful resolution to this dispute,” he said and urged Venezuela to accept the jurisdiction of the ICJ in the matter.

“We have heard much talk about this area of the world being a zone of peace. And it is something that all of us, in the Caribbean and in Latin America would wish to see continue,” Friday said, in the context of Venezuela’s declaration of the annexation of the disputed Essequibo region.

“But it takes a lot of effort on the part of both parties, to be patient, and not to do anything that will escalate the situation, as presently it has been done by Venezuela,” Friday said.

“Nobody should want to see this matter descend into violence and conflict. There are too many wars in the world right now,” Friday said, adding that the agrees with the statement by Brazil that there needs to be good faith on both sides and for all the parties involved to seek to bring a peaceful resolution to the dispute.

“I am not going to in any way diminish or take away from efforts to seek a peaceful resolution to this,” the opposition leader said.

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

“I may have my own views and doubts as to how successful or how these efforts may pan out. But ultimately, any effort that seeks to bring a peaceful resolution to this dispute, those are the efforts that should be pursued,” Friday said.

“Violence and conflict is not the way to go. We know of an established procedure that has been given the blessing of the Secretary General of the UN, that’s the International Court of Justice, CARICOM has also urged the use of that process, that is to say use the International Court of Justice as the means of resolving this conflict.

“Guyana has said that they are willing. Now it is our hope and our urging that Venezuela will adopt a similar course. And if that is achieved, at very least at their meeting this week here in St. Vincent, that would be a good thing.”

The opposition leader was hopeful that there will be “a positive outlook” on the conflict after the meeting this week.

“We have to. As people who are committed to the peaceful resolution of conflict, to the use and the integrity of the international system, the enforcement of the rule of law and international law and all of those for us as small countries, we rely on the multilateral agencies to ensure that there is fairness and justice in the international community. And this is why I believe that any talks that have as its intention a peaceful resolution of the conflict are to be pursued.”

He noted that Guyana has stated its position, adding that he had not heard much regarding the expectations of the Government of Venezuela going into the discussion on Thursday.

“What I have heard are the statements that were made by the president of Venezuela, to his domestic audience, I suppose, and to whomever else in the world that may favour that position, about annexing a portion of the Essequibo region, of imposing a system of government there, of exploiting the resources and giving license and treating it, essentially, as its Venezuelan territory. That is not the case. It is the territory of Guyana, as it is now established.”

Friday said anything else that says otherwise or any actions by Venezuela that is contrary to that “is a violation or with intent to violate the sovereignty of Guyana, and the territorial integrity of Guyana.

“And that is something that we in the New Democratic Party will not, cannot support and will condemn.”

He said the problem is “delicate”, adding, “If you listen to the speeches of President Ali, you see the concern expressed around the world for the way in which this problem, this dispute, has escalated so rapidly and really at the main source of the escalation has come from Venezuela.

“And so, the pressure has to be there, the advice has to be there, the good offices wherever they are and they exist have to be brought to bear to ensure that they do not escalate the situation any further and that the matter is dealt with in a peaceful and legal way according to international law, according to accepted international practice.”

Friday said CARICOM must be resolute in supporting Guyana “because that is a legal position as it is now established, that the territory of Essequibo is part of Guyana.

“And I don’t know how else we can look at it in a fair and just manner,” the Vincentian opposition leader said.