Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro visits Guyana

“No one will come between us” – Venezuelan leader tells Guyana

SEPTEMBER 1, 2013 | BY  |

Guyana and Venezuela have recommitted to stronger ties and increased cooperation in areas of transportation and trade.
In his first official visit since becoming leader of neighbouring Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro Moros also joined President Donald Ramotar in opposing possible military strikes by the US against war-torn Syria. The Venezuelan leader said that nothing gives US the right to be the judge and decide the future of another country. Yesterday, US President Barack Obama held off decisions on ordering a strike, saying he wanted Congress’ approval first.

President Donald Ramotar holds aloft a portrait of Simon Bolivar presented to him by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, yesterday, at the International Conference Centre.

Picture: President Donald Ramotar holds aloft a portrait of Simon Bolivar presented to him by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, yesterday, at the International Conference Centre.

Maduro’s visit comes at a time when Guyana would want reassurance about the PetroCaribe agreement – an oil-for-rice deal that was forged by former Venezuela leader, Hugo Chavez. Under that deal, Guyana buys oil under concessional terms from Venezuela and provides rice in return. Local farmers have been happy over the stability offered by that market.

Also raised during the meeting was the issue of Venezuela’s claim on a part of Essequibo which Maduro committed to have addressed under a United Nations process. Jamaican, Norman Girvan, has been appointed since 2010 as the “Good Officer” to deal with the claim.

The visit also cements Maduro’s intent to carry on the legacy of Chavez ,who wanted a strong regional integration.
Venezuela has an age-old claim on a significant part of Essequibo, a claim that Maduro insisted was fostered by oligarchs of his country. A Maduro administration, he stressed, wants none of that, and will follow the path laid by former President Chavez, who believed in the integration of South America.

Guyana, currently pushing to find oil, would be more than glad for the reassurance, as it has applied to the United Nations for an extension of its continental shelf. The extension would take Guyana’s territory into what Venezuelans considers as theirs.
Maduro was elected President in April following the death of Chavez the previous month.
He was previously the Vice-President of Venezuela and a former Minister of Foreign Affairs under Chávez.

A former bus driver, Maduro rose to become a trade union leader, before being elected to the National Assembly in 2000. He was appointed to a number of positions within the Venezuelan Government under Chavez, ultimately being made Foreign Minister in 2006.
He played a key role in the PetroCaribe deal.

Prior to President Maduro’s arrival yesterday, a Venezuela team met with Government and other stakeholders to hammer out new trade and other agreements. Also in the country was Ascobal Chavez, Vice Minister of Oil and Mining and Secretary General of PetroCaribe.
The PetroCaribe arrangement, which has a special developmental fund, has also seen benefits for Guyana in areas of agriculture, politics, transport and education. Guyana had used some of the funds to buy engines for Wartsila.

Several Government Ministers, including Prime Minister Samuel Hinds, were also present during the meetings yesterday [August 31, 2013] at the Guyana International Conference Centre.

According to President Ramotar, Venezuela’s cooperation has been critical to Guyana’s development. But he admitted that there is still room for improvement.
Maduro made it clear that his government was intent on improving food security for his country and the region, a message that Guyana can play a critical role and benefit. He regretted findings contained in declassified US documents which spoke of a plot by the Americans to divide Guyana and Venezuela at one time, with the intention of even causing war.

That division is all part of the past and the countries will now strive to create a new “brotherhood”, Maduro told reporters through an interpreter.

Venezuela and China’s increased trade cooperation with Guyana and the region have been seen as a major shift from dependence on the US.The Chinese, especially, have been pouring monies into a number of large-scale projects in Guyana.

Maduro, who was also accompanied by his wife, Cilia, had lunch at State House with President Ramotar being ending his visit.
Security was tight for the visit with several city streets closed off.

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