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Guyana a country with Indian diaspora seeks UN help to resolve border dispute with Venezuela

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Photo: BBC

Guyana, a small 214,970 sq km Caribbean nation located towards the north-eastern end of South America, has a population of less than 750,000 — of whom 43 percent are of Indian origin.

It has a long standing boundary dispute with Venezuela.

President David Granger of Guyana has appealed to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to resolve his country’s dispute with Venezuela, which claims two-thirds of its land and a large area of oil-rich territorial waters.

Granger told reporters here on Friday that the process of settling the dispute on the basis of a treaty signed in Geneva in 1966 did not make headway because Venezuela has “not been behaving properly” and was using dilatory tactics.

Therefore, under the terms of the treaty, it was now up to the UN secretary-general to resolve it, he said. But Venezuela has refused to accept the secretary-general’s intervention, he added.

Earlier in the day, Granger met Ban to update him about the border problem and request the secretary-general to take action under the terms of the treaty. After the meeting, Ban’s office said in a terse statement only that they discussed the Guyana-Venezuela border controversy and political developments in Guyana.

Guyana, a small 214,970 sq km Caribbean nation located towards the north-eastern end of South America, has a population of less than 750,000 — of whom 43 percent are of Indian origin. Granger, a former brigadier who commanded the country’s defence forces and a journalist, was elected president last May succeeding Donald Ramotar, who lost the election.

Venezuela claimed vast areas of Guyana while it was a British colony in the 19th century. The dispute went to an international tribunal made up arbitrators from the United States, Britain and Russia. The tribunal gave most of the disputed land to Britain in 1899.

Caracas continued to lay claim to all of the Guyanese territory west of the Essequibo River and, in 1966, Venezuela, the British government and the government of Guyana, which was on the verge of independence, signed a treaty in Geneva on resolving their disputes.

If the various steps outlined in the treaty for resolving the dispute failed or did not take off, it gave the UN secretary-general final say in setting up a mechanism to resolve it.

The disputed area is rich in minerals and tensions escalated last year after Exxon Mobil said it had discovered a huge oil deposit in the territorial waters off the coast of the territory that Venezuela claims.

Last summer Venezuela, which is in the throes of a dire economic crisis, increased tensions by holding military exercises across the border from Guyana.

Last September, the UN facilitated talks between Granger and Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro which failed to thaw relations between the two neighbours.

The dispute has not come any closer to a resolution because of the refusal of Venezuela, currently an elected member of the Security Council, to cooperate. On the other hand, Granger pointed out that in the 50 years since the Geneva Treaty was signed, Guyana has “cooperated in every instance”.

Regional efforts to bring about a solution have failed. “There is no more juice to be squeezed out of the orange of regional efforts,” Granger said.

“We will work with the United Nations to resolve the dispute in a manner agreeable to the peoples of both Venezuela and Guyana,” he said. (IANS)

 

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1 in 3 People in Venezuela Face Hunger: U.N. Report

UN Study: 1 of every 3 Venezuelans are struggling to get their food

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Hunger venezuela
One of every three people in Venezuela is struggling to put enough food on the table and is facinf hunger. Lifetime Stock

One of every three people in Venezuela is struggling to put enough food on the table to meet minimum nutrition requirements as the nation’s severe economic contraction and political upheaval persists and face hunger, according to a study published Sunday by the U.N. World Food Program.

A nationwide survey based on data from 8,375 questionnaires reveals a startling picture of the large number of Venezuelans surviving off a diet consisting largely of tubers and beans as hyperinflation renders many salaries worthless.

A total of 9.3 million people – roughly one-third of the population – are moderately or severely food insecure and face hunger, said the World Food Program’s study, which was conducted at the invitation of the Venezuelan government. Food insecurity is defined as an individual being unable to meet basic dietary needs.

The study describes food insecurity as a nationwide concern, though certain states like Delta Amacuro, Amazonas and Falcon had especially high levels. Even in more prosperous regions, one in five people are estimated to be food insecure.

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The increasing food insecurity and hunger issues are increasing due to rising price of crops. Wikimedia Commons

“The reality of this report shows the gravity of the social, economic and political crisis in our country,” said Miguel Pizarro, a Venezuelan opposition leader.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has been largely reluctant in recent years to invite international organizations to provide assessments of the nation’s humanitarian ordeal, though the World Food Program said it was granted “full independence” and collected data throughout the country “without any impediment or obstruction.”

“WFP looks forward to a continuation of its dialogue with the Venezuelan government and discussions that will focus on the way forward to provide assistance for those who are food insecure,” the agency said in a statement.

There was no immediate response to the findings by Maduro’s government.

The survey found that 74% of families have adopted “food-related coping strategies,” such as reducing the variety and quality of food they eat. Sixty percent of households reported cutting portion sizes in meals, 33% said they had accepted food as payment for work and 20% reported selling family assets to cover basic needs.

The issue appears to be one that is less about the availability of food and more about the difficulty in obtaining it. Seven in 10 reported that food could always be found but said it is difficult to purchase because of high prices. Thirty-seven percent reported they had lost their job or business as a result of Venezuela’s severe economic contraction.

Venezuela has been in the throes of a political and humanitarian crisis that has led over 4.5 million people to flee in recent years. Maduro has managed to keep his grip on power despite a push by opposition leader Juan Guaidó to remove him from office and mounting U.S. sanctions.

Maduro frequently blames the Trump administration for his nation’s woes, and his government has urged the International Criminal Court to open an investigation, alleging that the financial sanctions are causing suffering and even death. The nation’s struggles to feed citizens and provide adequate medical care predate U.S. sanctions on the Venezuelan government.

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Dugleidi Salcedo complains to a neighbor about the high price of food as she prepares arepas for her three sons in her kitchen in the Petare slum, in Caracas, Venezuela. VOA

In addition to food, the survey also looked at interruptions in access to electricity and water, finding that four in 10 households experience daily power cuts. Four in 10 also reported recurrent interruptions in water service, further complicating daily life.

Noting that the survey was done in July through September, Carolina Fernández, a Venezuelan rights advocate who works with vulnerable women, said she believes the situation has deteriorated even more. While it was once possible for many families to survive off remittances sent by relatives abroad, she said, that has become more difficult as much of the economy is dollarized and prices rise.

“Now it’s not enough to have one person living abroad,” she said.

Fernández said food insecurity is likely to have an enduring impact on a generation of young Venezuelans going hungry during formative years.

“We’re talking about children who are going to have long-term problems because they’re not eating adequately,” she said.

Those who are going hungry include people like Yonni Gutiérrez, 56, who was standing outside a restaurant that sells roasted chickens in Caracas on Sunday.

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The unemployed man approached the restaurant’s front door whenever a customer left with a bag of food, hoping they might share something. He said he previously had been able to scrape by helping unload trucks at a market, but the business that employed him closed.

“Sometimes, with a little luck, I get something good,” he said of his restaurant stakeout. (VOA)