The talks between Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and his Guyanese counterpart, Irfaan Ali, began at the Argyle International Airport (AIA) this morning (Thursday) with local media still awaiting information on the the location of the event or press events.
The Agency for Public Information (API) sent out a memorandum to Vincentian media on Monday asking them to submit the names of media workers covering the event.
Since then, there has been no further communication from the government on the location of the talks, accreditation and how the media are to access them.
iWitness News made several failed efforts to contact the Press Officer in the Office of the Prime Minister, Shevrel “Candyman” McMillan by telephone Thursday morning, trying to ascertain how the media is to access the talks.
iWitness News has been hearing since earlier this week that the meeting would take place at AIA and reports out of Barbados on Wednesday morning, reported this as the venue.
At the same time, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, who was hosting the talks, said that he was not disclosing the venue as yet until all the security arrangements were made.
Reports out of Guyana on Wednesday and Thursday listed AIA as the venue, even as there was silence from the government.
iWitness News was able to confirm with the Communication Director in the Office of the Prime Minister, Rochard “Pitbull” Ballah that AIA is the venue.
He, however, indicated that Mc Millan was directly responsible for media relations in connection to the event.
The Office of the Prime Minister could not offer any information on media passes, when iWitness News called after 8 a.m., about press passes and logistics for media at the event, saying that was being handled by Mc Millan.
When iWitness News arrived at AIA shortly after 9 a.m., about an hour after the announced start of the talks, the police officer on duty said that while he recognised Kenton Chance as a journalist, his name was not on the list.
The officer made several telephone calls trying to get clearance for Chance’s vehicle, before the journalist volunteered to park elsewhere and walk down to the airport.
On arrival at the security area of the airport, the personnel there indicated that there was an area for “general media” and one for media workers taking photographs and videos on the tarmac.
The personnel said there was no one available to escort the arriving media to the tarmac. After some time waiting, Chance and another local journalist were escorted by a government official to the airside, where Maduro, the last dignitary to arrive, had just entered the terminal building.
At the airside of the airport, some other local media workers, including state media workers, were complaining about the lack of information about the event.
Some journalists also complained about the attitude of local security officials, with some media workers saying they were pushed and insulted, while others were issued with threats of eviction from the airport, including for “complaining”.
Meanwhile, Gonsalves, on arrival at the airport, told Searchlight newspaper that he was “filled with optimism”.
He spoke of the symbolism of the airport, which was commissioned in 2017, as the location of the talks.
“In this facility where we are holding this meeting there is the input of Cuba and Venezuela, Mexico, we have here the CARICOM Development Fund,” Gonsalves said.
“You see the choice of location in a symbolic sense,” noting that his government received “important start-up resources” from the Patrick Manning government in Trinidad andTobago.
“So this is a place for us, a place of fresh hope, oneness, a time of respair,” Gonsalves told Searchlight.
He reiterated that he was “a facilitator and an interlocutor”, adding that important roles have been played by Brazilian President, Lula Da Silva, who he said called him Wednesday night.
“My dear brother [Secretary General of the United Nations] Antonio Guetrres whose representatives from the United Nations are going to be here,” Gonsalves said, noting that chair of CARICOM, Dominica Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit also played a role in organising the talks.
“So I am, in a sense, the focal point bringing it together here but this has taken several week to get going and I commend the courage of both president Ali and Maduro, their perspicacity, their foresight and I am relying on their maturity and wisdom and their patience and a calm.”
Gonsalves resorted to a cricketing analogy to illustrate:
“This is not, metaphorically, in cricketing terms a T20 international, it is not a one day international. It is part of a test series, home and away games except to say both home and away games look destined to be played in St. Vincent and the Grenadines with an umpire whom both sides trust and respect.”
Tensions have heightened over the centre-old border dispute in which Venezuela is claiming over two-third of Guyana’s landmass.
Guyana has maintained that the dispute should be solved by the International Court of Justice, whose jurisdiction Venezuela has rejected, saying that it should be resolved through bilateral talks.
The meeting is taking place although Guyana has said it would not discuss the border dispute in keeping with a resolution passed by the legislature in Georgetown, barring the government from discussing the dispute with Caracas.