BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, CMC – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders ended a three-day summit here on Saturday night warning Venezuela that its action regarding the border dispute with Guyana could “poison relations” with the regional integration grouping and also condemned the action of the Dominican Republic in deporting people of Haitian descent and making them stateless.
Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, who is also the CARICOM chairman, acknowledged that the leaders had not agreed on a candidate for the position of Commonwealth Secretary General, but said moves are afoot to have that matter settled as quickly as possible.
“There is no doubt that we have had a most successful and productive engagement over the past three days. We focused on policy positions and strategies for getting the best out of the negotiations in the three major policy setting global conferences, how to ensure our education system bolsters our efforts at building our social and economic resilience, securing our energy future (and) border issues, in particular recent actions of one of our neighbours as they affected Community,” Stuart told reporters.
He said the decree issued by Venezuela in May, which laid claim to much of the coastline and most of the exclusive economic zone of Guyana and a number of member states, had been discussed at the meeting.
“This decree has created great concern for us and could poison relations between the Community and Venezuela,” Stuart warned.
Stuart confirmed that a delegation of regional heads of governments had met with the Venezuelan delegation that was headed by Executive Vice President, Jorge Arreaza and included Foreign Affairs Minister Delcy Rodriquez, on Thursday and that while “CARICOM stands very firmly behind Guyana” it is also aware of the “good relations” Caracas has with the region.
“We aren’t about to disrupt that relationship or to pollute it in any way by anything that we as a Community say or do. At the same time we have to insist that Venezuela plays by the rules and there is no evidence available to us that Venezuela is not so committed,” Prime Minister Stuart said, adding that Venezuela “has committed itself to maintaining peace and tranquillity in this region.
He said both Venezuela and Guyana belong to regional organisations “so there are a number of organisations, membership of which both Venezuela and Guyana share, so we think there is scope for an amicable resolution of present difficulties….”
President David Granger, who at the start of the conference on Thursday night called on his regional colleagues to send a strongly worded message to Caracas, said he was pleased with the position arrived at by CARICOM on the matter.
He said he would be informing the Guyana population that CARICOM “is committed to ensuring that the region remains a zone of peace and will do everything possible to ensure nothing happens to disrupt peace in the region.
“I compliment the chairman of CARICOM, Prime Minister Stuart, who actually led a small team and engaged the Venezuelans last evening and demonstrated leadership in stating CARICOM’s position to the Venezuelan team.
“So I would tell them (Guyana population) that CARICOM is united, is solidly behind ensuring that there is no disruption to the peace and stability of the region, that it is in support of the sovereignty of states of the region, and that as far as the specific decree is concerned that is the fly in the ointment that is what has brought us to the present situation…”
“I think the news will be good and I will take it back to Guyana, I think the Guyanese people could be satisfied in the solidarity of the Caribbean Community,” Granger said.
Maduro issued the decree on May 26 that includes all the Atlantic waters off the Essequibo Coast.
The purported annexation of the waters off Essequibo now takes in the oil-rich Stabroek Block, where American oil giant Exxon Mobil in May found a “significant” reserve of high quality crude oi.
ExxonMobil said the discovery was made in one of the two wells it dug, in the Liza-1 drill site, which realised more than 295 feet of high-quality oil-bearing sandstone.
Prime Minister Stuart had also taken an opportunity to review the situation in the Dominican Republic, adding “we are very concerned at the actions of the Dominican Republic government which have resulted in a looming humanitarian crisis in our region”.
He said the regional leaders will issue a full statement on the matter, but St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves told reporters that CARICOM would maintain the pressure on the Spanish-speaking Caribbean country to reverse its policy of deporting people to a country where they have no links.
Gonsalves said he was also disappointed that commitments made by the Dominican Republic during a meeting in Brussels had not been kept, and said the Caribbean had also been under pressure by the European Union not to have a political discussion on the matter during the meeting in Brussels.
But he said the region did not adhere to such a request.
Prime Minister Stuart said that the regional leaders had also discussed the decision by the European Union to name 13 Caribbean countries on a blacklist, labelling them tax havens, saying “this is a most unfair decision which is damaging to our economies which had been pointed out to the Commission in a letter by Prime Minister Perry Christie (of the Bahamas).
“We are demanding that the EU rescind that decision immediately,” Prime Minister Stuart told reporters.