Venezuela calls Guyana's launch deal "unfriendly"
CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) -- Venezuela on Monday escalated a diplomatic
rift with Guyana, branding as "unfriendly" the granting of a concession for a
commercial rocket-launch site in an area subject to a long-standing territorial
The South American neighbors have been at odds for decades over the sparsely
populated Essequibo, a 61,500-square-mile (159,000-square-kilometer)
mineral-rich area the size of Florida. Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jose Vicente
Rangel expressed his "firm protest" over the space center deal signed earlier this
month with a Texas-based private company.
In a letter sent to his Guyanese counterpart Clement Rohee and published
ministry, Rangel "rejected this unfriendly act, which hampers a practical and
satisfactory solution to the territorial dispute between our two countries."
Dallas-based Beal Aerospace Technology Inc plans to initially invest at
million in construction of the site and does not anticipate to launch a rocket from
Guyana for another three or four years. Rangel said he hoped Guyana would
"review its policy of concessions in the disputed area," which covers about 75
percent of the territory of Guyana, a former British colony.
He asked Rohee to agree to a meeting as soon as possible to discuss an
which the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry first mentioned last week when it
deplored the Beal deal.
Beal Aerospace Vice President David Spoede said last week that his company
was "very concerned and would have preferred to locate the facility in an
undisputed territory." He explained the Essequibo location was chosen because
of Guyana's sparse population and its proximity to the equator, allowing rockets
to send heavier payloads into space.
Paris-based Arianespace launches its Ariana rocket series from the European
Space Agency Center in Kourou, French Guiana -- a territory that borders
Guyana's eastern neighbor, Suriname.
Venezuela's claim on Essequibo, probably the last major territorial dispute
Americas, is rooted in 19th century colonial history but was revived last year by
President Hugo Chavez's left-wing, fiercely nationalist government.