November 23, 1998

           Venezuela reiterates claim to territory in Guyana

                  SANTA ELENA DE UAIREN, Venezuela (Reuters) -- Venezuelan
                  President Rafael Caldera, in a rare public mention of a long-standing border
                  dispute with Guyana, said on Monday Venezuela would not renounce what
                  he called a rightful claim.

                  Venezuela claims almost two-thirds of Guyana. The dispute revolves around
                  the Essequibo region, a 56,000-square-mile (146,000-square-km) area
                  thought to be rich in minerals, including gold and diamonds.

                  At a meeting with Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso to
                  inaugurate a $186 million dollar cross-border highway, Caldera, looking at a
                  map of an area where the borders of Brazil, Guyana and Venezuela meet,
                  said it did not include the disputed zone "where Venezuela has rights to

                  "We claim our rights peacefully, through consensus and dialogue, but we will
                  not forego this demand for rights that were usurped by the British empire,"
                  he added.

                  Britain and Venezuela argued over the boundary between what was then
                  British Guyana and Venezuela for much of the 19th century before accepting
                  the decision of a Tribunal of Arbitration in 1899.

                  Venezuela formally raised the issue again in 1962, four years before Guyana
                  won independence from Britain, and the United Nations in 1989 named a
                  mediator in the dispute.

                  Caldera, who ends his five-year mandate next February following
                  presidential elections set for Dec. 6, said Guyana was "a friendly country,
                  which we esteem, but had unfortunately inherited a big injustice."

                  The dispute, usually seldom mentioned in Venezuela, has popped up again in
                  recent weeks in the local media as one of the presidential campaign's foreign
                  affairs' issues.

                  Guyana's President Janet Jagan paid an official visit to Caracas in July,
                  during which she said she had reached common ground with Caldera on all

                  She was noncommittal on the border issue, however, saying only that the
                  U.N. commission seeking "mutually accepted solutions" had been working

                   Copyright 1998 Reuters.