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News Americas, WASHINGTON, D.C., Weds. Jan. 27, 2021: The Organization of American States (OAS) is demanding the prompt release of two Guyanese registered fishing vessels and their crew that were detained by Venezuelan authorities over the weekend.

In a statement moments ago, the OAS General Secretariat condemned “the illegal detention” by Venezuelan authorities of the two Guyanese vessels that were located within the Cooperative Republic of Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

The General Secretariat also reiterated its support for the rules and processes set by international law regarding ongoing territorial conflicts.

“The resolution of the territorial dispute between Venezuela and Guyana is a matter that lies under international jurisdiction, and cannot be settled by unilateral actions,” the statement added. “Any attempt to derail this international legal process, such as the decree issued by the (Nicholas) Maduro regime, is contrary to international law and standards, and has no legal bearing or significance.”

The statement follows condemnation from regional governments across the region as well as from the Guyana government and opposition.

Guyana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Hugh Todd held a virtual meeting with his Venezuelan counterpart, Jorge Arreaza to discuss the status of Guyanese-registered fishing vessels – the Lady Nayera and the Sea Wolf – and crews which were detained by the Venezuelan Coast Guard.

According to a statement from the Ministry, the meeting specifically focused on the welfare and release of the crew, their catch, and the vessels.

The Minister also called in the Chargé d’Affaires of the Embassy of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Moses Chavez, to transfer a protest note from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Guyana to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Venezuela.

The protest note firmly condemned the illegal detention of the captains and crews of the Guyanese-registered fishing vessels and called for their immediate release. The Foreign Affairs Ministry also stated that the Government is using all diplomatic channels to ensure the safe return of the 12-member crew and vessels to Guyana. In a statement issued, Minister Todd took the opportunity of the meeting with Chavez to voice his concerns on the matter. The Foreign Minister also highlighted the regional zone of peace and called for Venezuela to operate in a manner consistent with international rule of law.

“The action coming out of Caracas is distasteful,” Todd said in the note, while the statement also listed the coordinates that the two vessels were intercepted at by Venezuelan naval vessel Commandante Hugo Chavez GC 24, while operating off the coast of Waini Point.

Minister Todd also met with the owners of the two vessels, Prem Kumar Lallbachan of the Lady Nayera and Trevor Daniels of the Sea Wolf. Late Saturday evening, the Foreign Affairs Ministry had revealed that the two Guyanese-registered fishing vessels were operating off the coast of Waini Point in Guyana’s EEZ when they were intercepted by the Venezuelan naval vessel, Commandante Hugo Chavez GC 24.

In fact, the statement said that the Venezuelan vessel was illegally sailing within Guyana’s EEZ and contiguous zone when it intercepted and boarded the vessels, whose captains were instructed to chart a course to Port Guiria, where they were detained.

According to the Ministry, the Guyana Government was not notified of the detention of its nationals, in contravention of established norms. The crew of the Lady Nayera include Captain Richard Ramnarine and his crew members Ramlakan Kamal, Nick Raghubar, Javin Boston, Michael Domingo and Joel Joseph. On the other hand, the Sea Wolf was captained by Captain Toney Garraway, while the crew members included Errol Gardener, Orland Roberts, Christopher Shaw, Shirvin Oneil and Randy Henry.

The detention of the two vessels comes on the heels of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s recent presidential decree which reinforced his country’s illegal claim to Guyana’s Essequibo region.

Additionally, the Venezuelan President had announced that he has written to Secretary General of the United Nations (UN) Antonio Guterres, to lead direct negotiations between the two countries, as opposed to the binding judgement of the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

That option has been exhausted, however, as the UN tried to mediate discussions between Guyana and Venezuela for years as part of an ultimately futile good offices process until Guyana activated its right to take Venezuela to the ICJ in 2018 to get a final ruling on the border issue.

In the wake of Maduro’s decree, condemnation has flowed from President Dr Irfaan Ali, Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon, the United States and Canada, as well as the Caribbean Community (Caricom).

Venezuela said Monday that two Guyanese fishing vessels captured by its navy last week were caught “red handed” fishing illegally in Venezuelan waters, a claim rejected by its smaller neighbor.

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