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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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Health System Failure for Cancer Patients in Venezuela

Last year, about 4,700 women in Venezuela became ill with breast cancer, according to the Anticancer Society of Venezuela

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Cancer
Cancer Patients are not just afraid of the disease itself, but they also fear dying because they cannot find or afford the necessary treatment. Pixabay

A breast cancer diagnosis is terrifying enough at any time. But for 49-year-old Grecia Solis, the arduous choices faced by all cancer patients were complicated by the crippling decline of Venezuela’s public health facilities.

After her diagnosis two years ago, doctors recommended surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Before the oil-producing nation’s steep economic decline of recent years, those services would have been available free of charge or for a nominal fee at a state-run public hospital.

But trained staff, medicines and equipment are in such short supply at those facilities today that a public hospital was no longer an option. Instead, Solis was forced to borrow money from family and friends to pay for her operation at a privately run, for-profit clinic.

Her operation, performed in May 2018, cost her $500, a modest amount by U.S. standards, but a huge sum in Venezuela where hyperinflation has ravaged most people’s savings. With additional financial help from a sister in Ecuador, Solis was able to pay for the recommended eight sessions of chemotherapy, which were completed in December.

Solis’ story is a common one among cancer patients in Venezuela. Patients are not just afraid of the disease itself, but they also fear dying because they cannot find or afford the necessary treatment.

Last year, about 4,700 women in Venezuela became ill with breast cancer, according to the Anticancer Society of Venezuela, although the nation’s health ministry has not produced official figures since 2012. The society reported 2,300 women died last year from the disease, one of the leading causes of cancer deaths among Venezuelan women.

Cancer
A breast cancer diagnosis is terrifying enough at any time. Pixabay

Senos Ayuda, an NGO that supports breast cancer patients, estimates the number of patients are even higher, at almost 7,000 a year. And it stresses that treatment, medicine and doctors are becoming ever less accessible with the deepening of the nation’s humanitarian emergency.

The problem is part of a wider crisis in public health facilities. According to several Venezuelan doctors’ organizations, 73% of the country’s operating rooms are out of service or lack supplies and have unsanitary conditions.

A survey conducted by the organization Doctors for Health indicated that 90% of radiotherapy facilities are inoperative, 94% of health centers cannot take an X-ray, and 88% of hospitals have insufficient supplies and medicines. The Anticancer Society of Venezuela has reported that 80% of public radiotherapy equipment has been inoperative in the last year.

Solis says she is frustrated the government of President Nicolas Maduro does not accept that Venezuela is in a humanitarian crisis and has done little to address the problem, leading to avoidable cancer deaths.

Cancer
Since 2018, 400,700 women in Venezuela have been diagnosed with Breast Cancer. According to the Anti-Cancer Society in Venezuela, getting an accurate numbers of patients is unlikely. Since 2012, the Ministry of Health does not offer official figures. VOA

Another patient, 58-year-old Algeria Dias, was diagnosed with a breast tumor in August 2017. She was able to afford treatment with the help of family, donations, some government help and the sale of the family car, but she says she now she spends every day “going from clinic to clinic, public and private, and see if they have the space or equipment I need to monitor my disease.”

For her part, Solis says she is running out time. She has until December to raise $5,000 to pay for more than 30 additional radiotherapy sessions to prevent the likely return of her cancer.

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“Cancer does not wait. Cancer does not warn and when you have it, it overtakes you. It hurts having the uncertainty of not knowing if you can say, “I am a cancer survivor,” she said. (VOA)