While emphasising that Guyana is not a war-mongering nation, Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo also sent a strong message to Venezuela that Guyana will defend its territory by all means necessary, including fostering military cooperation with its international allies.
The Vice President made these remarks while addressing a public meeting in Anna Regina, Region Two (Pomeroon-Supenaam), on Venezuela’s threats to Guyana’s territory on Sunday. His comments also come against the backdrop of his announcement last week, that officials from the United States (US) military are expected in Guyana this week.
“They (Venezuela) claim they do not want to do anything, but we can’t trust the Venezuelans, particularly given the rhetoric that is coming from there. We’re not a belligerent nation. We’ve not invaded anyone. We don’t have any design on anyone’s territory. We’re not a trojan horse to invade other countries,” Jagdeo told the mammoth crowd.
“But we will have military cooperation, defence cooperation, with all of our allies, including the United States of America, that we’ll be prepared for any outcome. That is important for us. So, I want to reassure you here in Essequibo, that you will remain Essequibians and citizens of Guyana… they want to annex our territory and give you Venezuelan ID cards. We don’t want their ID cards! It’s useless!”
Pointing to the outpouring of support Guyana has been receiving from the international community compared to Venezuela – only one country, Nicaragua, has voiced support for Venezuela’s claims on Guyana’s territory – Jagdeo emphasised that Guyana will continue to pursue a settlement of its border before the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
“Venezuela is not as strong as it thinks it is. Because it has no external support. We have to recognise that when this border issue is settled, and it will be settled by the International Court of Justice (ICJ), it will be settled. And that’s the only place for it to be settled.”
“And we’re not moving out of that jurisdiction, because it was provided for by the Geneva Agreement. We’re not withdrawing from the International Court of Justice, as Maduro wants,” Jagdeo further said.
The Vice President had firm words for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, warning him not to mistake and miscalculate the resolve of the Guyanese to defend their territory or the support Guyana will garner from the international community.
“We’re firm in the defence of every inch of this territory. And don’t ever question our resolve, Maduro. Don’t ever question the unity of our people and the solidarity we will get abroad on this matter. Don’t question that. Don’t miscalculate,” Jagdeo said.
Last week, the Vice President had said that Guyana is working on its defence cooperation with several countries amid Venezuela’s aggression to annex Essequibo and that the United States Department of Defence has stepped up to offer a high-level presence this very week.
During his weekly press briefing on Thursday, Jagdeo had affirmed that the country’s allies have been engaged to plan for any outcome amid heightened tension in the border controversy with Venezuela. From this week and leading into December, the US teams are scheduled to make several visits here.
“We are going to be working with our allies to ensure that we plan for all eventualities. I know that we’re going to be working on greater defence cooperation with a number of countries. We have the US Department of Defence with two visits to Guyana next week by two teams, and then several other visits in the month of December,” he told media operatives.
Jagdeo had reiterated that Guyana’s position has always been one of peace and diplomacy, but his Venezuelan counterparts should make no mistake that the country will succumb to their aggression.
“We have never been interested in having military bases here but we have to protect our national interest. At the diplomatic level through the ICJ, we have been working openly because we are a law-abiding, democratic country. Can’t say the same thing about Venezuela but we will continue to do so.”
In an effort to stop Venezuela’s December 3 referendum aimed at annexing Guyana’s Essequibo territory, the Guyana Government presented its case before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) last week by urging the Court to not only protect Guyana’s rights but also its own authority which Venezuela is trying to undermine. The Court was also informed of Venezuela’s mobilisation of its military on the border with Guyana.
Guyana’s Spanish-speaking neighbour has laid claim to more than two-thirds of Guyana’s landmass in the Essequibo region, and to a portion of its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in which nearly 11 billion barrels of oil have been discovered largely by United States oil giant ExxonMobil.