Friday, November 11, 2005

The Stabroek News runs an incisive editorial today on the question of Bird Rock, a.k.a. Las Aves (a name Stabroek declines to use), the sandbar islet 140 miles west of Dominica that is claimed by Venezuela. Recall that last month Venezuela symbolically asserted its sovereignty over the islet by staging two weddings & three baptisms there, on the stilted platform that houses a small crew of sailors--a move that worries some Eastern Caribbean states. Stabroek considers the matter in the context of Hugo Chavez's PetroCaribe initiative as well as Guyana's own longstanding border dispute with Venezuela.

All those bedazzled by President Hugo Chavez's seeming generosity towards Caribbean states after he made available the PetroCaribe payments' facility, should perhaps pause for a moment's reflection to consider the full context of the accord. That context is a spurious claim on our Essequibo region, on the basis of which he has prevented us, among other things, from pursuing off-shore oil exploration, and a claim on Bird Rock (also called Bird Island) belonging to Dominica which interferes in a fundamental way with the maritime rights of a number of Caricom states.

I've long thought that the tricky question of maritime boundaries in this corner of the Caribbean--imaginary lines on the map that determine ownership of known & suspected oil & gas fields--could be the spark that starts real trouble, & increasingly unfriendly relations between Chavez & the US government bring the whole mess into starker relief. I look at the volatile state of things here in Trinidad these recent months & the little conspiracy wheels begin to turn in my head. What if we're just too close to discern the bigger pattern?

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