THE relationship between Guyana and Venezuela continues to grow from strength to strength and the upcoming state visit of that nation’s president is an indication of this, Foreign Affairs Minister Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett said yesterday, as preparations continue for a one-day state visit by his Excellency, Nicolas Maduro.
The current Venezuelan Head of State has had a close relationship with Minister Rodrigues-Birkettover the years,
having served as that country’s foreign minister under the previous President Hugo Chavez.
The two countries have had ties for decades, but there was a marked improvement in relations after the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez took office. The minister said that President Chavez and former President Bharrat Jagdeo regarded each other with a sense of brotherliness, and this further helped in both countries to forge closer ties. This relationship has continued under President Maduro, she noted. “This is why President Ramotar felt it was important that we invite President Maduro to make this visit to Guyana, because our relations are very, very good, and we believe that it will be a good gesture to a good neighbour and good friend as well”.
The current bi-lateral agreements between the two nations, such as the PetroCaribe deal is a good and very positive arrangement, one which Minister Rodrigues-Birkett said has drawn recognition from others such as the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group (ACP) of countries. She said that at a recent summit in Equatorial Guinea, the call was made for others to look at the concessionary agreement and the resultant benefits it brought to participating countries.
As part of the PetroCaribe deal, Guyana is supplied with petroleum products at concessionary rates, with an initial up-front payment and a long period to pay the remaining debt over a number of years. This arrangement has been modified with Guyana supplying rice at very favourable prices for petroleum products in a first-of-its-kind deal, said Minister Rodrigues-Birkett. “That arrangement started when President Chavez and President Jagdeo met on the margins of the UN General Assembly”. This move has brought immense benefits to local farmers, their families and Guyana as a whole, she noted.
The two countries are also working to implement what was described as a Cold Chain Project. “It is a project which will look at cold storage facilities for products for export and this is being implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture”.
The recently commissioned Hugo Chavez Centre for Rehabilitation and Reintegration at Onverwagt, West Coast Berbice, is another example of cooperation by the two nations and funded in part by the Venezuelan Government to the tune of US$2 M. These were just two of the major initiatives highlighted by Minister Rodrigues – Birkett who said, “If you notice, they are all intended to benefit farmers, people that are vulnerable, food producers etc, so they are all more social projects, and I think we know that if we invest in social capital, the results can only be good for our country as in these cases.”
The United Nations Good Officer Process which is addressing the border issue between the two countries is still ongoing, according to Minister Rodrigues-Birkett, and both nations are involved in this process.
She added that Guyana is a member of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and The Common Market of the South (MERCOSUR), and as such, also interacts with Venezuela at these forums. “This has helped Guyana certainly in terms of finding itself on the South American continent and our South American destiny, and I might add, this is not to the detriment of our relationship with CARICOM, but rather it complements that. This is why President Ramotar proposed to CARICOM to invite President Maduro to address them. President Ramotar felt that as Venezuela is a neigbhour of CARICOM, many of the countries that benefit from the Petro Caribe are part of CARICOM and so we were very happy that the invitation was extended by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and the president was able to address the Heads of Government of CARICOM…this is the consolidating of a relationship that will continue between Venezuela and CARICOM”.
The Venezuelan President is due to visit Guyana on Saturday, August 31, with a high-level delegation. Bilateral discussions will be held between presidents Donald Ramotar and Maduro, following which local officials and their Venezuelan counterparts will meet. The visit will conclude with a social encounter.