Jagdeo: Guyana negotiating peace but ready for war

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Bharrat Jagdeo –

Guyana’s vice-president Bharrat Jagdeo says he is still hoping for peace amid the ongoing dispute with Venezuela over the Essequibo region.

Jagdeo, speaking at news conference at the Office of the President in Georgetown, noted the anxiety of people in the region, and by extension the country.

Jagdeo, who assured citizens the government was working behind the scenes to de-escalate the dispute, said, “Diplomacy is most effective when it is done quietly.

“We are not going to give a ball-by-ball blow of every meeting that we have, every discussion we have, every phone call we make. That’s not going to happen, because that’s not how you pursue diplomacy.”

Jagdeo said that did not mean the government was not prepared to defend the country’s borders at all costs, including deploying the army, despite the difference in military resources.

Jagdeo said that was where he believed diplomacy also played a part.

“The size of the Venezuelan army is probably 30 times that of ours, because they have a large population and they’ve had more border conflicts with other countries and they have been a more belligerent nation than we have ever been in the past…

“But one thing is important in this world, and that is forging relationships with allies that have greater capabilities and share your strategic interest.

“We have allies who share our strategic interests.

“They want peace in this region, the entire Caricom and the entire of Latin America, including Brazil, are prepared to defend peace in the region.”

He added, “We have to extend our capabilities on the basis of the defence co-operation with these allies, and we have done so, so that we can really fulfil what we have said.”

Jagdeo said companies operating in the disputed region should heed the government’s example and ignore any ultimatums issued by Venezuela’s president Nicolas Maduro.

“If we pause any of our development, Maduro succeeds. Maduro has no right in international law to tell the people of Guyana, a sovereign country, how to pursue its affairs.

“And that is why we are forging ahead with our development. In all, 83,000 square miles of this country, we are forging ahead. We are working to enhance our programme. We are deep in budget preparation. If we get paralysed by this as government, then we will fall prey to what he (Maduro) is trying to achieve.”

Jagdeo said there would be an emergency Heads of Caricom meeting on Friday where the matter will be discussed and said Guyana was also preparing to have the matter discussed before the United Nations Security Council.

“Tomorrow (Friday) the United Nations (UN) Security Council will be considering the request from Guyana. That meeting will take place at 3pm.

“We’re extremely pleased that they have taken up this matter with this sense of urgency and that the UN Secretary General has sent the provisional measures announced by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to the Security Council. So clearly the entire Security Council will have available from the Secretary General the full ruling of the ICJ and the provisional measures…So we expect the Security Council to deal with this matter swiftly.”