Washington, DC– Jamaica’s Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Anthony Hylton has assured Guyana that it could expect a strong statement of support from the other Caribbean Community (CARICOM ) member states on the issue of the recent decree by Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro when CARICOM heads meet this week in Barbados.
The Jamaica Minister’s remarks came in response to questions posed on the Guyana/Venezuela border controversy by former Guyanese diplomat Wesley Kirton during the Caribbean American Legislative Forum held here last week as part of the national celebration of the 10th anniversary of Caribbean American Heritage Month. The Venezuelan President issued a decree May 27 which claims ownership of Guyana’s territorial waters in the Atlantic Ocean off the country’s Essequibo coast.
Kirton, who chaired the forum on US Caribbean relations, questioned the Minister about CARICOM’s support for Guyana in light of the participation of several CARICOM nations in Venezuela’s Petro Caribe program under which they buy oil on concessionary terms. But Minister Hylton made it clear that CARICOM’s support for Guyana on Venezuela’s claim has been longstanding and there would be no wavering on this position especially with the recent signing of the decree. He said CARICOM wants to see a final resolution of this controversy soon so as to allow for Guyana’s ongoing development. He said that he has every confidence that Guyana’s new Foreign Minister, Carl Greenidge, whom he knows personally has the capacity to deal with this matter so as to ensure a process that would lead to a resolution of the controversy once and for all.
Participants in the legislative forum voiced their support for Guyana and the maintenance of its territorial integrity and urged that Venezuela refrain from attempting to frustrate Guyana’s development efforts as well as threatening the use of military force to advance its claim.
US Congresswoman Yvette Clark said that the issue was brought to her attention by Guyanese Americans in her congressional district and that a strong CARICOM statement of support for Guyana would help shape a US position on the issue. Kirton outlined at the forum as well as at a White House briefing the history of the Venezuelan claim to some two thirds of Guyana’s maritime and land area. Kirton said he also briefed a number of Members of Congress including the chair of the Black Congressional Caucus on the current situation regarding Venezuela’s decree.
At the White House Briefing on Caribbean/US relations at which US Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson was the keynote speaker, Kirton pointed out that Venezuela’s recent action followed closely on the heels of the announcement by US oil company ExxonMobile of its discovery of significant oil resources within Guyana’s territorial waters. In response to Kirton’s intervention, Jeffrey Salai, Director for Central America and the Caribbean at the National Security Council (NSC) said the US Administration was aware of the recent developments.