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Guyana requested the immediate release of the crew of two fishing boats that, according to the complaint, were captured by Venezuela in waters under Guyanese jurisdiction.
This is the most recent incident in the border dispute over the Essequibo, a vast territory rich in natural resources, accentuated once the US company Exxon Mobil found oil in the area in 2015.
Guyana’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Saturday night that Venezuela did not inform it of the arrests, but confirmed reports that the ships were boarded Thursday in waters of the Guyanese exclusive economic zone by crew from the Guyanese vessel. Venezuelan Navy “Hugo Chávez” and seized.
“Guyana condemns in the harshest possible terms this act of senseless aggression on the part of the Venezuelan armed forces,” said the Foreign Ministry.
He added that he was trying to “ascertain the situation and the well-being of the crew” who, according to Georgetown, are being held in the port of Guiria, in northeast Venezuela.
A country has in its exclusive economic zone (space of up to 200 nautical miles -370 km- from the limit of the territorial sea) sovereignty for exploration and exploitation of resources, but third parties have freedom of navigation and overflight.
The incident occurs a month after the president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, decreed “a new marine territory” that, according to Guyana, overlaps with its waters and affects the territory west of the Essequibo River.
Georgetown condemned the decree as a frank violation of its sovereignty and international law.
Maduro’s decree maintains that this territory “does not affect the maritime spaces of other states.”
Guyana defends a limit established in 1899 by an arbitration court in Paris, while Venezuela claims the Geneva Agreement, signed in 1966 with the United Kingdom before Guyanese independence, which established the basis for a negotiated solution and annulled the previous treaty.
In December the International Court of Justice ruled, at the request of Guyana, that it has jurisdiction in the matter and that there will be hearings to hear the parties, a process that can take years and to which Venezuela is opposed.
A hearing, scheduled for Monday, was postponed to February, according to the Venezuelan government.
The Venezuelan Navy has intercepted several research vessels owned by Exxon Mobil and another US oil company, Anadarko Petroleum, in recent years.
Caracas has condemned Guyana’s oil exploration in disputed waters and recent naval maneuvers it conducted with the United States.
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