The Guyana government has received an explanation from St Vincent and the Grenadines’ Prime Minister, Dr Ralph Gonsalves about his appearance in a picture with the map of Venezuela that includes Guyana’s Essequibo County, Foreign Affairs Minister Hugh Todd said Wednesday night.
Ahead of an expected official statement by the Vincentian leader, Mr Todd said the Guyana government has been informed that that picture was taken in December 2022 at a celebratory event.
“The photo is dated and we expect clarity on the event itself,” Mr Todd told Demerara Waves Online News.
Mr Todd said he also spoke with the Foreign Affairs Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Keisal Melissa Peters, who is also featured in the picture.
Well-placed sources said the Guyana government has been informed that the Vincentian Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister had been unaware that the Venezuelan map had reflected that Guyana’s Essequibo County was annexed by its western Spanish-speaking neighbour.
The Guyana Foreign Minister said Dr Gonsalves was expected to issue a statement about the image which has drawn comment from Antigua and Barbuda’s Permanent Representative to the Organisation of American States (OAS), Guyana-born Ronald Sanders. Mr Sanders on Wednesday expressed strong belief that the Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines was unaware that the Venezuelan map indicates the annexure of Essequibo.
“I have known and highly regarded Dr Ralph Gonsalves for over 40 years. I cannot be convinced that, when he held up this map, showing the Essequibo incorporated into Venezuela, he was made aware of the image.
The Ralph Gonsalves, I know and respect, would not consciously do such a one-sided thing while the world awaits a decision on the Guyana-Venezuela controversy from the International Court of Justice, and while he, himself, is playing the role of CELAC’s honest broker,” said Mr Sanders.
Prime Minister Gonsalves, already widely regarded as a close ally of Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro-led administration, is also the Pro-Tempore Chairman of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) that played a major role in brokering a peace declaration between Georgetown and Caracas on December 14.
Dr Gonsalves, even after he demits office as CELAC Chairman, is named in the accord titled the Argyle Declaration as continuing as an interlocutor even after his term expires. Brazil’s President Luis Inacio ‘Lula’ Da Silva and the Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) are also expected to pay close attention to the relations between Guyana and Venezuela.
The Argyle Declaration was brokered after weeks of rising tension stoked by Venezuela to press its claim for the Essequibo Region and for a return to bilateral talks instead of the International Court of Justice to settle the validity of the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award of the land boundary between the two neighbouring South American countries.
Venezuela had deployed troops on its side of the border with Guyana, and after the December 3 referendum had declared Essequibo one of its defence zones, and announced that its state oil and mining companies would search for hydrocarbons and gold. Mr Maduro had also issued a three-month ultimatum for companies that had been awarded concessions by Guyana to leave. (Denis Chabrol, Demerara Waves)