Venezuela releases Guyanese fishermen, vessels

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By Kurt Campbell

After almost two weeks of being detained in neighbouring Venezuela on a false claim that they were fishing in that country’s maritime space, Venezuela will allow the men to travel home on Wednesday.

This was confirmed Tuesday night by Guyana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Hugh Todd.

Speaking to the News Room via phone, Todd said he spoke with his Venezuelan counterpart, Jorge Arreaza, earlier on Tuesday and was informed that the men have been released.  He said the 12-member fishing crew is expected to be charting their course home using the two vessels they were detained with.

Asked about what prompted Venezuela to finally release the men and the latest with the investigation, Minister Todd declined to comment.

He promised a full statement shortly. In addition to the false claim that they men were in their waters, Venezuela also accused the crew of having among their catch the protected species of the hammerhead shark, a fish that is prohibited from being trawled.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hugh Todd at a press conference [News Room photo/October 16, 2020]
Venezuela has been under mounting regional and international pressure to release the men.  Just over a week after Venezuelan President, Nicholas Maduro issued a decree and laid claim to the Essequibo, Guyana received distressing reports on January 21, 2021, that a Venezuelan naval vessel seized two Guyanese fishing vessels and detained its 12-member crew.

The two vessels were intercepted by Venezuelan naval vessel Commandante Hugo Chavez, while operating off the coast of Waini Point, in Guyana’s waters.

Guyana sprang into action issuing a formal protest against the illegal act with growing support from the international community calling for the release and return of the vessels and crew.

Guyana continues to maintain that the men were arrested and detained while fishing in waters well within its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and that the borders between the two countries were settled by an 1899 Arbitral Awards.

Venezuela’s rejection of the award has led to Guyana seeking a judicial settlement to the matter which is currently before the International Court of Justice.

Those who were detained are: Toney Garraway, Errol Gardener, Orland Roberts, Christopher Shaw, Shirvin Oniel, and Randy Henry from the Sea Wolf crew; those who were detained from the Lady Nayera crew are Richard Ramnarine, Ramlakan Kamal, Nick Raghubar, Javin Boston, Michael and Joel Joseph.

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