By Carlos Camacho in Caracas.
Nicolás Maduro issued a dialogue offer to Guyana after detaining two Guyanese fishing boats and their crews. Maduro has been using force to induce dialogue against the Venezuelan opposition since 2003 when he was a cabinet minister for Hugo Chavez.
You must read Maduro regime admits to holding Guyana vessels and crews
The stakes this time are gigantic: while forced dialogue has traditionally been used to stall for time until a new electoral event can be organized, in the case with the Guyanese Maduro hopes to forces Guyana into relinquishing at least some of its claim on the 160,000 square-kilometers area known as the Essequibo, a resources-rich, strip of jungle traversed by mighty rivers.
This Monday, February 1, Guyana indicated that it was willing to engage the Maduro regime in dialogue. The declarations got offered by the Foreign Affairs minister of that country, Hugh Todd, who accused Maduro of kidnapping yet another boat, Miss Annie, with its crew of seven, fish haul, and 500 liters of diesel.
Here, El Pitazo sums up the most salient point in the first, and most serious, Guyana-Venezuela border clash ever:
- January 7: Maduro goes before one to the National Assembly his regime controls to present a plan to develop Venezuelan Northern Façade, including the Essequibo. Verbal attacks against Guyana, US oil giant Exxon (which is developing offshore deposits there), and the International Justice Court, which has said would rule on the Essequibo case, predated and followed this seemingly innocuous announcement.
- January 21: The Lady Nayera and the Sea Wold, two Guyanese fishing boats and their crews (totaling 12 men), are detained by the Venezuelan Navy in an area Venezuela says is not part of the 120-years old Essequibo dispute between the two countries. Guyana initially said the Venezuelan cutter entered Guyanese waters to capture the trawlers.
- On January 25: the government of Maduro accused Guyana of misrepresenting the detention of the two Guyanese fishing boats and reiterated its offer of dialogue to the authorities in Georgetown. As in every Maduro dialogue offer, the other party is verbally attacking: “Venezuela rejects and denounces the false accusations and misrepresentations proffered by the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, while ratifying its offer of sincere dialogue, without hidden agendas, to create an environment conducive to understanding,” the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry said in a statement. After the governmental statement of both nations, relatives of the fishermen demanded their release on January 27, anxious for the return.
- On January 28: the Secretary-General of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, rejected and criticized the detention of the Guyanese boats and crews, which he termed illegal. Almagro is one of the strongest critics of Maduro; at one point in 2019, he argued that outside intervention was needed to solve the Venezuelan crisis. Panama, the Caricom Caribbean trade, and governments also called for the immediate release of the detainees.