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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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As Venezuela’s Healthcare Collapses, Women and Girls Dying Needlessly

The surgeon is one of only three left at the Concepcion Palacios hospital in the Venezuelan capital

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Venezuela, Healthcare, Pregnant Women
Venezuelan girls beg for change where Venezuelans cross illegally into Colombia near the Simon Bolivar International Bridge, April 14, 2019. VOA

In Caracas’s main maternity hospital the blood banks and medicine cabinets are empty, the power and water regularly cut out — and women and girls are dying needlessly, according to one of the few remaining doctors, Luisangela Correa.

The surgeon is one of only three left at the Concepcion Palacios hospital in the Venezuelan capital, where the lifts and most toilets are closed and there are no bandages, sterilizers or X-ray services.

“We are like trapped, kept hostage by this situation … hope is what keeps us here,” Correa, 45, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

“If we haven’t left the hospital, it’s because we hope that things will improve.”

Venezuela, Healthcare, Pregnant Women
A Venezuelan migrant woman holds a baby outside an immigration processing office on the Rumichaca bridge after crossing the border from Colombia to Rumichaca, Ecuador, June 12, 2019. VOA

One in four have left

Millions of Venezuelans have fled the country to escape an economic and political crisis that has left about seven million — one in four — in need of humanitarian aid, according to the United Nations.

Its human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said last week after a three-day mission in March to the troubled South American country that Venezuela’s healthcare sector was in “critical condition.”

A lack of basic medicine and equipment was “causing preventable deaths,” she said — something Correa is witnessing at first hand.

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Infection rates at the maternity hospital are high because cleaners do not have disinfectants to wash away bacteria and there are no sterilizers for doctors to clean their equipment, she said.

“Currently, maternity is a risk for Venezuelan women, as it is for babies … many give birth at home, in the street,” Correa said.

“And there are no blood banks. Any complications from heavy bleeding is a very big risk of death for a patient.”

Correa, the U.N. and women’s rights groups all said unsanitary hospital conditions along with food and medical shortages had led to a rise in maternal mortality rates.

Venezuela, Healthcare, Pregnant Women
In Caracas’s main maternity hospital the blood banks and medicine cabinets are empty. VOA

U.N. findings disputed

The Venezuelan government disputed the findings of the U.N. report and said in a written response that maternal mortality rates had decreased by nearly 14% between 2016 and 2018.

Venezuela’s national healthcare system, once considered a model for Latin America, is now plagued by shortages of imported drugs and thousands of doctors and nurses no longer show up for work, their salaries ravaged by inflation.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has said there is little need for humanitarian aid, blaming U.S. sanctions for the oil-rich country’s economic problems.

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The United States imposed tough sanctions on Venezuela’s oil industry in January in an effort to oust Maduro in favor of opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is recognized as Venezuela’s rightful leader by more than 50 governments.

‘100% shortage’

CEPAZ, a coalition of women’s rights groups, has said Venezuela’s maternal mortality rates have increased by 65% from 2013 to 2016, with nearly 800 women dying.

Bachelet’s report cited a national survey that showed 1,557 people died due to lack of supplies in hospitals between November 2018 and February 2019.

Correa said she was seeing more pregnant teenage girls seeking care because they cannot find or afford contraception and do not receive sex education in schools.

According to the U.N. report, teenage pregnancies have risen by 65% since 2015, and several cities in Venezuela face a “100% shortage” of all types of contraception.

Strict abortion law

Due to Venezuela’s strict abortion law, which only allows the procedure under limited circumstances, some women and girls resort to unsafe abortions.

This has contributed to a rise in preventable maternal mortality, with about 20% of maternal deaths reportedly linked to unsafe abortions, the U.N. said in its report.

Correa says she is determined to continue to speak out about the dire conditions in public hospitals and help women in need. “The only thing we have are the outcries and hope that this will change,” she said. “My people, my country need me at this moment.” (VOA)