Notes From The Margin

July 29, 2008

Venezuela Presses Its Claim – The Propaganda War Starts

We have tracked two stories on Venezuela’s claim of Barbados’ waters in the Venezuelan media today. The tone of one is actually quite strident.

The first article:

NGO reports Barbados is bidding oil blocks in Venezuelan waters

The government of Barbados has launched an oil and gas bid for 26 offshore blocks, two of which are allegedly located in part in Venezuelan waters, claimed on Monday Aníbal Martínez, head of non-governmental organization Frente Nacional Pro Defensa del Petróleo Venezolano (National Front for the Defense of Venezuelan Oil).

Martínez said that the government of Barbados put 26 oil and gas blocks for tender stretching more than 70,000 square kilometers. He added that there are two blocks in the bid, called Botton Bay and Crane Bay, 70 percent of whose area would be in Venezuelan waters.

“This amounts to an area of 5,200 square kilometers. It is a hostile act on the part of Barbados, and we have to be on alert. Even if it was one square centimeter, we cannot let this to happen,” said the Venezuelan oil expert.

The second article is a follow up

Claims of sale of oil licenses by Barbados

Venezuelan Minister of Energy and Petroleum Rafael Ramírez reported that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in possession of the evidence attesting to the sale by Barbados of licenses for oil drilling in Venezuelan maritime areas.

“We took the official letter to the appropriate channels; the Foreign Ministry is working on it. This has been the case in the past, where countries, well, awarded licenses for areas that are beyond their jurisdiction and by talking, directly speaking, things are eventually placed where they should be,” said the official.

What will also be interesting to watch is the reaction of Caracas to Barbados claims to the outer continental shelf. What is legally Barbados’ southernmost waters Venezuela considers to be its exit to the Atlantic (hence the Trinidad/Venezuela treaty) However Venezuela never made a treaty with Barbados, and Barbados has no reason to negotiate one as it is a small slice of their territory. The Venezuela/Trinidad treaty has no impact on Barbados or Guyana, so it will be interesting to see where this goes.

It is unlikely that this will go away.  Further Barbados has little reason to take on Venezuela’s claims other than Venezuela has the means to agressively enforce its claims on the area by force of arms.

Hopefully this will not go that far.

Marginal

How Trinidad Recognised Venezuela’s Claim to Most Of Guyana’s Land

Venezuela and Its Claim of Most of Guyana’s Land

Marginal Picks Up His Pen – Venezuela’s Claim of Barbados’ Waters

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June 16, 2008

Marginal Picks Up His Pen – Venezuelas Claim of Barbados’ Waters


After much thought we’ve decided to come out of retirement to blog on the subject of Venezuela’s claim of Barbados’ waters. This is not a full re-opening of NFTM but we felt that given our history of blogging on Venezuela and it’s territorial claims that we might be able to provide some clarity on this issue. This article is freely reproducible (once the source is attributed). In fact we would ask that given the potential seriousness of the claim that members of the blogosphere and other media propogate this story.


Marginal

Like Barbados Free Press we saw the story today in the Venezuelan publication PetroleumWorld entitled “Barbados’ Troubled Waters”

The new government of Barbados opened the bidding process for rights to offshore blocks for oil & gas exploration on Monday and will close it on September 30. The winner announcement will be made on Nov 20th. More than 20 companies were present this week in the bid kick off, including among others, Exxon, Gazprom, Lukoil Shell, BHP Billiton of Australia, Hess Oil Company, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation, Marathon Oil and Murphy Oil, all of the United States, StatoilHydro, Petro-Canada, and Petrobras from Brazil. However, there is an issue that the IOC’s perhaps have not taken in account, that is that two of the block are in venezuelan waters, the Bottom Bay blocks Ad I and Ad II. We expect that the venezuelan government will issue a diplomatic note to the government of Barbados asking for clarification and the Venezuelan oil company PDVSA will issue a warning to the OIC’s on the issue.

The two blocks in question are the two southernmost blocks that are up for bid (Highlighted in red in the illustration). Venezuela’s claim rests on two pillars

1. It’s claim to approximately half of Guyana’s land area.

Venezuela claims everything west of the Essequibo river, the historical reasons for this can be found in our post. Venezuela and Its Claim of Most of Guyana’s Land

2. Venezuela’s Maritime Treaty with Trinidad.

In 1990 Venezuela and Trinidad agreed a treaty delineating their maritime boundary. This treaty can be found on line HERE.  This treaty allowed the development of Trinidad and Tobago’s offshore oil resources. However this treaty had two unforeseen impacts. First it tacitly recognised Venezuela’s claims on half of Guyana, and secondly it pushed Trinidad’s territorial claims north which is what led to the Maritime border dispute between Barbados and Trinidad. The impact of this can be seen in our post How Much Gas Does Trinidad Have? Indeed the main sticking point in the negotiations was the Trinidadian position that Barbados should recognise the 1990 treaty. The UNLOS council held that two countries could not bind a third without it’s consent and hence the 1990 treaty had no impact on Barbados.

The maritime boundaries are currently as seen in the diagram below. The purple line indicates Trinidad’s initial boundary claim and the brown line indicates the claim they put forward to the UNLOS Council. The green line represents the final decision of the UNLOS Council.

The result of the UNLOS is that the 1990 boundary between Venezuela and Trinidad extends into what is (and always was) legally Barbados’ waters.

Venezuela is now seeking to exercise a claim in an area that it has no right to claim. The waters under discussion can ONLY be Venezuelas if you accept that

1. Half of Guyana is actually Venezuela.

2. That two countries (Venezuela and Trinidad) can commit a third and fourth countries (Barbados and Guyana)  to some form of agreement or treaty without consulting them and without their agreement.

In short, the Venezuelan claim is baseless.

Marginal

Other interesting information on this topic.

International Law Environment by Professor Robert Volterra

Venezuela and Bird Island

Details on Aves Island – How Venezuela Controls the Caribbean Sea

Bird Island Again! – Grenada in Maritime Boundary Dispute With Venezuela.

March 16, 2008

A Further Thought on Air One…. and other investments.

A further thought on the AirOne story…. The airone project represented a significant investment project that would have brought considerable jobs to Barbados (or Jamaica for that matter). Because of the upward movement of oil prices, that project won’t be happening now.  If you talk to people in the legal and financial fields there is a feeling of caution in the investment community. There are a number of projects that are still going ahead as their investors are committed, however there are some that have been put on pause as investors wait to see what will happen with the global economy.

If Airone has been put on hold, it does make u wonder what other projects are being put on pause? With Oil at $113 a barrel, it may be sometime before they get considered again.

Marginal

March 9, 2008

A Glimmer of Hope As Enthusiasm For Petro Caribe Dims….

We on the margin have been waging our own little campaign about the dangers of Hugo Chavez’ Petro Caribe initiative for the Caribbean, we have been very concerned about the apparent ease with which a number of Caribbean countries were stepping into what we saw as a debt trap which would be very difficult to get out of. Barbados and Trinidad have been steadfast in their refusal to join (even with a change of government in the former) now signs are beginning to emerge.

Bahamas Minister of Finance Zhivargo Laing pointed out the obvious in an article in the Bahamas Journal.

Yes it has to be paid back! And in the meantime you are on the hook to a country that has shown itself to have a territorial agenda that works counter to many Caricom states’ welfare.

We have often asked the question on this blog, “What is it that Chavez gets out of Petro Caribe?”  Thankfully it seems that other people are asking the same question.

Marginal

February 1, 2008

Bird Island Again! – Grenada in Maritime Boundary Dispute With Venezuela.

Venezuela’s claim to Bird Island seems about to become an election issue in Grenada with opposition parties protesting the length of time it is taking to settle the matter.

Now Dr. Alexis’ assertion is usually true, however the arbitrator for these issue is usually the UN Law Of The Sea Treaty, however Venezuela is not a signatory to that treaty. (unsurprisingly as Bird Island does not meet the criteria under that treaty for it’s massive claim of sea space). It is unlikely that Venezuela will  recant it’s claim, and this does appear to be a somewhat intractable problem.
Of course, Grenada like almost everyone else in the Caribbean signed up to the Petro Caribe agreement. It sounds like they are about to find out exacly how the strings are attached.
We will continue to follow this story.
Marginal
Further reading:

Details on Aves Island – How Venezuela Controls the Caribbean Sea

Venezuela and Bird Island

January 10, 2008

Politicians, It’s One Week Before Elections, Do You Know Where Your Vote Is?

With one week left to go before elections, Barbados is in the grips of one of the most intense election campaigns in recent memory. The two parties’ campaigns appear to be evenly matched, and evenly funded, and to a certain extent evenly supported. We on the Margin have been watching the silly season unfold in all its glory, and we have to admit we are unable to predict a winner at this stage.

Yes, if you listen to Waiting In Vain and Royal Rumble and the other party hacks that inhabit the blogosphere, they all predict a resounding victory for their particular party. But having spent the last week talking to many people, we think that both parties are “Whistling past the graveyard”. For as much bluster as either side makes we’re not sure that either of them has captured the hearts of the electorate.  Barbadians are looking at both parties with a skeptical eye and the hard truth is that this election could go either way.

What we have noted that this campaign has been more about accusations and counter accusations rather than issues. We would like to see some serious discussion about both parties’ visions for the next five years. While we wish that we could say that we thought we would get such reasoned debate in the next next week, we really don’t think so. We think that this next week will get wilder and dirtier with each passing day.

We on the margin would urge Barbadians,  think long and hard about both parties before you go into the polling booth. Whoever you choose is entirely up to you, but be sure to participate, be sure to cast your x. Be sure to treat that decision with the seriousness it deserves.  Hopefully we will all be better off for your doing so.

Marginal

December 11, 2007

BNOC GM Points Out The Obvious – Petro Caribe Is A Debt Trap!

We are applauding a statement by the current General Manager of the Barbados National Petroleum Company on the “gift with strings” that is Petro Caribe.

 Ron Hewitt, Barbados National Oil Company General Manager said on Monday, that Chavez’s Petrocaribe is not helping Caribbean countries, but making their finances worst. ” Petrocaribe is not helping at all to coup with the high oil prices, Caribbean countries are just running a large debt with Venezuela. “

 

Petrocaribe is just a scheme to create an oil dependency from Venezuela, added Hewitt at the two-day Caribbean Energy conference at the Hilton Trinidad in Port Spain.

 

“It doesn’t’t represent what we are looking for in Barbados. You have to pay part of the cost now and get a credit. That credit then goes onto your national debt. It’s not an asset….” Hewitt said.

 It is scary that the other Caribbean countries could not see this from the outset.  What is remarkable is that Barbados has been pilloried in all sorts of regional fora for not signing on. The truth of the matter is that Petro Caribe does NOT help the Caribbean, it is NOT in the Caribbean’s best interest. It simply gives Venezuela power over a key sector of our economies and increases our debt. Further the condition of accessing the “concessions” mean that Venezuela will have power over the supply chain so that it will be difficult for those in the Net to escape it.

Marginal

November 20, 2007

Venezuela Attacks Guyana – Is This A First Strike?

We’ve been monitoring reports of Venezuelan soldiers blowing up mining barges in the Guyana interior.

Venezuela has denied destroying two gold-mining dredges on Guyanese territory following a strong protest from Guyana’s government.Guyana says 36 Venezuelan soldiers used helicopters and Compostion-4 (C-4), a type of plastic explosive, to blow up the two dredging machines on Thursday. It has summoned Venezuela’s ambassador to explain the incident.Venezuela denies using force and said the army was removing illegal miners inside its own territory.

 

Now for those of you who haven’t been following, Venezuela claims about two thirds of Guyana’s territory. Now usually this has been a very quiet border dispute, but there have been incidents in the past.

 

The thing to remember about Venezuela’s statement is that as far as they are concerned Venezuela stops at the Essiquibo, not the internationally recognised border, so their statement does not mean that the miners were actually in Venezuela. (at least as far as the rest of the world is concerned). Venezuela has a vastly superior military (which is being enhanced by recent purchases from Russia) so Guyana has little hope of defending its claim. However most of Guyana’s mineral wealth is to be found west of the Essequibo in the disputed area (or “Zona De Reclamacion” as the Venezuelans call it). Typically in a situation like this Guyana should be able to rely on the global public opinion, and the loudest voices should be the territories of Caricom however that help is unlikely to come. The Petro Caribe agreements will force many of the Caricom territories to toe the Caracas line, otherwise they face the possibility of having debts being called for their presumption to call a spade a spade.

 

 

This blog has asked the question many times “What does Chavez get out of Petro Caribe?” it is our deepest fear that we are about to find out.

Marginal

 

Further Reading:

Venezuela and Its Claim of Most of Guyana’s Land
Details on Aves Island – How Venezuela Controls the Caribbean Sea
Venezuela and Bird Island
How Trinidad Recognised Venezuela’s Claim to Most Of Guyana’s Land
Third Petro Caribe Summit

October 16, 2007

Maybe We Should Look Up The Meaning of “Binding Arbitration”

Filed under: Capitalism,Caribbean,Caricom,Guyana,Law Of The Sea,Petroleum,Suriname,United Nations — notesfromthemargin @ 9:52 pm

Having read the judgement handed down by the United Nations Law of The Sea Council in the Suriname Guyana border dispute it now appears that some parties in Suriname are seeking to find flaws in the ruling.

 

 

According to Naarendorp, the award is not fair and equitable, since Guyana has been awarded 65 percent of the 31,600 square kilometers wide former area of dispute while Suriname received the remaining 35 percent….

…The Surinamese experts, in recalculating the equidistance line, more then doubled that number using 45 points for their computations. As a result a new line emerged situated west of the boundary determined by the UN Arbitration panel.

 

If this line is accepted said Naarendorp, the award will be more equitable and fair, since the area will be partitioned 49 percent for Guyana and 51 percent for Suriname.

Granted the comment comes from a former cabinet minister with a political axe to grind, but one would think that the function of the UNLOS council as a FINAL court of appeal would be self explanatory.

Marginal

 

September 22, 2007

UN Law Of The Sea Announces Decision on Guyana Suriname Dispute

Given our general level of interests in Maritime boundaries on this blog, We thought we would let our readers know that the UNLOS council has handed down a decision on the Maritime boundary between Guyana and Suriname.

 The dispute has been the source of considerable friction between the two countries with a Suriname gunboat chasing off an oil exploration bid authorised by the Guyana Government. It would seem that the tribunal sided with Guyana over Suriname’s claims.


In a unanimous vote, the five-judge panel from the Arbitral Tribunal under the Law of the Sea Convention decided to split thousands of square kilometres of offshore blocs largely on the principle of “equidistance”, but in doing so, it took away a large tract of water that Suriname had claimed as its own for decades from neighbouring Guyana…..

 

…..In June 2000, Suriname’s Ronald Venetiaan administration sent gunboats to expel a rig that was drilling in the disputed area. The rig was leased by Toronto-based CGX Energy Inc, one of the world’s tiniest oil companies, on a concession award granted by Guyana.

The incident brought the two finance-starved former European colonies very close to war, with both massing troops on their borders and allowing military aircraft to over-fly each other’s airspace in a near farcical show of force by two armies with a combined total of no more than 5,000 troops and with less than a dozen planes and vessels under their command.

 We’ve downloaded the judgement (If you are interested its available here)

and we are taking our time going through it.  This border dispute has been the focus of bi-lateral and multilateral efforts under Caricom to resolve it.  Due to the UN it has now been settled once and for all. This clears the way for Oil exploration on both sides of the line. Hopefully this will lead to significant oil finds as few would disagree with me that both Guyana and Suriname are in desperate need of cash.

 

The news story did have one rather thought provoking point to close on….

 

Critics, Caricom experts especially, had noted that the intransigence displayed by Suriname and the failure of the two to reach a bilateral deal have cost them billions in revenues as oil prices continue to soar.

Food for thought there….

 

Marginal

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