Venezuelan authorities have released the two Guyanese fishing vessels and 12 crew members that were detained almost two weeks ago by its navy. Guyana has maintained that the vessels were operating well within its waters at the time of the incident.
The two vessels were intercepted on Thursday, January 21, 2021, by Venezuelan naval vessel Commandante Hugo Chavez GC 24, while operating off the coast of Waini Point at a position of N 80 49’ 06”/ w 590 37’ 40” W.
“We have confirmed that they have been released and will return to Guyana on Wednesday,” Guyana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hugh Todd, said.
Venezuela had become increasingly isolated following the incident with strong condemnation from Guyana and its regional and international partners, including the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Since issuing a new decree on January 7 in what Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro, described as “a new maritime territory”, there has been increased activity in Guyana’s maritime space by Venezuelan Navy vessels and other Venezuelan State assets.
“Such illegal activity continues to undermine Guyana’s development, by threatening Guyana’s sovereign rights of its maritime space and hindering economic activity,” Todd said in an address to Guyana’s National Assembly last week.
The territorial controversy between Venezuela and Guyana is engaging the attention of the international Court of Justice (ICJ) which is set to hear the matter relating to the validity of the Arbitral Award of October 3, 1899 that settled the land boundaries between the two countries.