GEORGETOWN — The Guyana Government yesterday said it would continue to provide assistance to the people of Venezuela, even though it acknowledged that Caracas has not approached it for assistance as a result of the internal disturbances in the South American country.
“Guyana, as a matter of routine, stands ready to assist or support all CARICOM [Caribbean Community] states and immediate neighbours, where appropriate, when asked,” said vice-president and Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Greenidge, indicating that the Venezuelan Government has not approached Guyana for help with its current internal crisis.
He said further, in spite of the difficulties that the two countries had experienced with regards to the border controversy due to Venezuela’s continuous claim to two-thirds of Guyana’s territory, the two governments routinely utilise direct diplomatic channels to communicate, through ambassadorial exchanges or the use of notes verbale to send messages and requests.
In 2016, Guyana convened a meeting of non-governmental organisations and the private sector in the country to consider the deteriorating conditions in Venezuela. However, at the time, the Venezuelan Government was not open to receiving any material assistance that was being offered.
Caracas has seen almost daily demonstrations in recent weeks, some of which have turned deadly and violent.
President Nicolas Maduro has denied claims by his critics that he is moving the country towards a dictatorship, calling on him to resign. He said the demonstrations are part of an Opposition-led conspiracy with foreign entities, specifically the United States, to destabilise the country.
Maduro is pressing ahead with a plan to create a popular assembly with the ability to rewrite the constitution, but the Opposition-controlled National Assembly has promptly rejected Maduro’s plan.
Earlier this month, CARICOM foreign ministers called for non-interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela, where at least 40 people have been killed in street demonstrations.
Even as they “decried the violence taking place and deplored the resulting loss of life and property”, the foreign ministers said they had “deliberated on the changes taking place in the international environment as well as in their wider regional environment, and on their implications for the coordinated foreign policy positioning”.
Earlier, St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves cautioned CARICOM to refrain from allowing a small group of powerful nations to dilute the “collective strength” of the 15-member regional grouping on the Venezuela issue.
Gonsalves, in a three-page letter to his colleagues, warned that a wedge is being driven through Caricom over a plan for “regime change” in Venezuela, and the group of powerful nations with the Organisation of American States (OAS) has an “agenda of naked self-interest”.
A statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs here said that Georgetown’s position was outlined following a statement made by Venezuela’s Ambassador to Guyana Reina Diaz, during a recent press conference.
The ministry’s statement noted that in a bid to determine the seriousness of the Venezuelan request for assistance, the Venezuelan diplomat was invited to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs last week “where she stated that her country could benefit from Guyana’s support . . .”
The statement noted that Greenidge had given an assurance that he would communicate Venezuela’s request, and that he was certain it would be given the level of attention it deserved by the Guyanese Government.
“He observed that Guyana’s Ambassador to the OAS Dr Riyad Insanally, was the current chair of the Caricom group. Guyana was of the view that it was both desirable and appropriate to discuss the crisis at the OAS. Moreover, Minister Greenidge urged dialogue among all stakeholders in Venezuela, including the Government and Opposition,” the statement noted.
It quoted him as saying also that Guyana was one of the members of the Community of Caribbean and Latin American States that met to try to resolve Venezuela’s deteriorating situation as well as the one between its Government and Opposition. Guyana had done the same with another regional body, the Union of South American Nations.
But Greenidge warned that any support from Guyana to the Venezuelan people should “not indicate automatic agreement with the Venezuelan Government’s policies and its mode of implementing those. Rather, Guyana could provide more effective assistance if it dealt fairly with all sides.
“The Government of Guyana has no desire to compound the problems of Venezuela by joining one or other of the protagonists,” he added.