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.


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

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.


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.


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 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.


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.
Further reading:

Details on Aves Island – How Venezuela Controls the Caribbean Sea

Venezuela and Bird Island

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.


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.



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

August 14, 2007

Third Petro Caribe Summit

The recently concluded Petro Caribe summit in Venezuela sounded very positive and very nice.

 Hardbeatnews, CARACAS, Venezuela, Mon. Aug. 13, 2007: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has vowed to cater to the long-term oil needs of the Caribbean.


Chavez, meeting with several Caribbean leaders at the third Petro Caribe Summit in Venezuela, said “the Caribbean shouldn’t have problems this century and beyond.”

“Venezuela puts this oil wealth at the disposition of our peoples of the Caribbean,” Chavez said.

Maybe those of us on the margin are getting cynical in our old age but the question that we have to ask is

“What’s The Catch?”

 There are so many things about Venezuela that we would urge careful examination of any deal.:


1. What effect does Petro Caribe have on Venezuela’s claim on Bird Rock, that ffects the territorial claims of a number of Caribbean Countries?

2. What effect does Petro Caribe have on Venezuela’s claim on more than half of the territory of Guyana?

3. Does it involve the Caribbean in the upcoming pissing match between Venezuela and the US?

4. What happens when the Caribbean wants to express an opinion that Mr. Chavez doesn’t like?

5 . Given that there’s no discount, are the signatories just mortgaging their children’s future even more?

6. What effect does that debt burden have on a signatory’s overall credit rating?


We could go on….


What’s particularly troubling is how those who have expressed reluctance about the deal have been branded. Even our former opposition leader advised from the opposition side of the house that the Government should “Ignore the geo-political issues and just sign”  (I believe his opinion has changed along with the side of the house he’s sitting on 🙂 ). There is an old saying “He who pays the piper calls the tune”,  one day Venezuela is going to present their playlist.





July 27, 2007

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


The UNLOS dispute tribunal has come and gone and it’s decision has been made, however one of the root causes of the dispute stems from a treaty between Venezuela and Trinidad agreeing a maritime border.  This treaty (if you are interested in the details) is available on line Here:

Now the reasons for a treaty between Venezuela and Trinidad are perfectly logical.  The treaty would allow the exploitation of the oil expected to be found in the area. And the successful exploitation of these resources is what underpins much of today’s Trinidadian economy. The boundary agreed by the treaty is shown in the graphic.

However have a look at where the Guyana Venezuela border is…..

The only way that Venezuela could lay any claim to the eastermost part of the line set out in the treaty would be to operate on the basis of it’s claim of all of Guyana west of the Essiquibo River. Now the Venezuelans were consistent in their claim on this, but what is surprising here is that Trinidad would have known full well that in signing this treaty they were validating the Venezuelan’s claim, but they agreed anyway.

Now this treaty opened the door for offshore exploration of the offshore oil fields, and the Trinidadians pushed their claim further to the north to what is indicated as a purple line on the chart. This apparently went unchallenged by both Barbados and Guyana at the time. However the chain of events that started the whole UNLOS dispute, has it’s genesis in the Venezuelan/Guyanese border dispute.

And I bet that you always thought it was about fish….


July 24, 2007

Hugo Watch

Filed under: Capitalism,Hugo Chavez,Petroleum,socialism,Venezuela — notesfromthemargin @ 2:40 am

While we’re at it tonight there were two interesting points about Mr. Chavez in the news today.

Chavez to expel foreign critics

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has vowed to expel foreigners who publicly criticise him or his government.

“No foreigner can come here to attack us. Anyone who does must be removed from this country,” he said during his weekly TV and radio programme.


The second article was about the idea of removing term limits which are presently mandated by Venezuelan Law.

Venezuela term limits for others, not president, says Chavez

Chavez said during his regular Sunday broadcast that allied political parties had asked that the move to lift the two-term limit on elected office apply to lower-level posts as well.

“No, no, no, no and a thousand times, no,” said Chavez. “If there is to be continuous re-election, or whatever they call it, it should only be for the president of the republic, not for governors and mayors.”


Man that Duck is really starting to waddle!



July 21, 2007

Details on Aves Island – How Venezuela Controls the Caribbean Sea

In a previous article (Venezuela and Bird Island) I talked about Venezuela’s claim on Aves Island. Now Aves Rock (or Island). This island is about 2 meters above sea level at it’s highest point, and is at times completely submerged. However Venezuela has gone to great lengths to make sure that the island is continually inhabited (In a facility built on stilts). We’ll get into the details of why in a minute. But after some careful checking I found some pictures of the “island” that truly give an idea of how big it is.

First, a view of the island from the side of a ship.

Then a shot of the “Permanent Human Habitation” – Note the rubber dingies on the right for scale.

Finally the reason why Venezuela has gone to all of this trouble. The yellow area shows the Venezuelan Economic space, with the effect of Aves Island/Rock.


Under the International Law Of The Sea Aves Island is classified as a rock which does not get the 200mile economic zone, however Venezuela hasn’t signed the UNLOS treaty. This rock effectively removes a significantly removes most of the OECS’ economic zone. The irony is that if Venezuela finds oil in those waters, they’ll sell it to the OECS on REALLY EASY finance terms under Petro Caribe (but at full cost of course!)

So once again…., What does Mr. Chavez get out of Petro Caribe?


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