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I have the honour to address you, in your capacity as President of the Security Council of the United Nations, the body responsible for ensuring the maintenance of international peace and security, to denounce recent events that both endanger and threaten the peace and security of Venezuela and of the Latin American and Caribbean region.

On 30 September 2020, the government of the United States of America positioned, without prior notice, the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS William P. Lawrence of the United States Navy at a distance of 16.1 nautical miles from the coast of Venezuela, in what is legally part of the contiguous zone of our territorial sea.

This episode does not represent an isolated incident, on 15 July 2020 the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Pinckney (DDG-91) of the United States Navy entered the Venezuelan contiguous zone and positioned itself at 15.9 nautical miles from the main airport in Venezuela, in waters very close to the limits of our territorial sea and only 40 km away from the Venezuelan capital, Caracas.

These operations take place in the context of over three years of recurrent threats of the use of military force against Venezuela by President Donald Trump and officials from his government, thus constituting an escalation in hostile acts aimed at provoking an incident of a military nature.

In letters previously sent to the Security Council, on 6 August 2019 (S/2019/641), 20 September 2019 (S/2019/765), 3 April (S/2020/277) and 13 May 2020 (S/2020/399), we denounced the threats by the government of the United States of America to use military force against Venezuela, which represents a clear violation of the purposes and principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations and of the norms of international law.

On 10 July 2020, within the framework of his electoral campaign, President Donald Trump affirmed that “something will happen in Venezuela” soon, while adding that the United States would be “very much involved”. On that very same day, President Donald Trump, the Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, and the Commander of the United States Southern Command, Craig Faller, referred to Venezuela as an outlaw State that represents a threat to the national security of the United States of America, while the United States National Security Adviser, Robert O’Brien, said that “the United States will continue its maximum pressure campaign on the Maduro regime (…) This operation is part of that effort”. These statements are proof of the policy of military adventurism that the current government of the United States is executing against Venezuela.

The government of the United States of America uses an alleged “excessive claim” of territory by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela as an excuse for its hostile operations in the contiguous zone of the Venezuelan territorial sea. This excuse is both absurd and false. The authority of Venezuela is in accordance with the provisions of article 24 of the Geneva Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone, of 29 April 1958, which has been recognized and ratified by Venezuela and the United States of America, and establishes the following:

“1. In a zone of the high seas contiguous to its territorial sea, the coastal State may exercise the control necessary to:

a) Prevent infringement of its customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary regulations within its territory or territorial sea;

b) Punish infringement of the above regulations committed within its territory or territorial sea.

2. The contiguous zone may not extend beyond twelve miles from the baseline from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured.”

It is clear, then, that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela does have a limited authority in this contiguous zone. It is the government of the United States of America that does not have any sort of authority and refuses to recognize its international obligations, established by virtue of the Geneva Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone, of 1958, fabricating a non-existent “excessive claim” of Venezuela for the sole purpose of positioning military equipment a few miles from our shores.

Even more, up until 2017 the government of the United States of America had made no reference to the non-existent “excessive claim” of Venezuela. Only with the presidency of Donald Trump does the fabrication of this excuse begins, as part of the plans to intervene our country politically and militarily. This is proven in the “Freedom of Navigation” documents of the United States State Department. The position of Venezuela with regards to article 28 of the Geneva Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone, of 1958, it is worth noting, has not changed; what did change was the aggressive attitude assumed by the current government of the United States of America. For the purposes of greater clarity, please find below the relevant provisions of the Aquatic Areas Organic Act, in force in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela since 2014:

“Article 9. The breadth of the territorial sea adjacent to all mainland and insular coasts of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela shall be 12 nautical miles, which shall ordinarily be measured from the low-water line as marked on large-scale charts officially published by the National Executive, or from the baselines established in this Decree with the rank, value and force of organic law.

Article 43. For the purposes of maritime surveillance and the protection of its interests, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has, contiguous to its territorial sea, a zone that extends up to 24 nautical miles from the low-water lines or the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured.”

The second excuse used by the government of the United States for positioning military equipment in the contiguous zone of our territorial sea is the alleged fight against drug trafficking. In this regard, we must reiterate that Venezuela carries out all the operations necessary to prevent and combat said scourge, in accordance with its national legislation and with its international obligations, and does not need, nor has it requested, the belligerent presence of the government of the United States of America.

Similarly, the use of a naval guided missile destroyer, capable of effectively reaching ground targets, and loaded with anti-aircraft defense systems, does not correspond to an operation against organized crime, such as drug trafficking. Thus, the fraudulent nature of the government of the United States propaganda for justifying the large-scale military ship positioned off the Venezuelan coasts is demonstrated. The real objective is the threat of use of force, the provocation of a military incident, and the coordination of a plan of aggression against our country.

The Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is a responsible member of the United Nations that has as its main goal the maintenance of peace, security and prosperity for its people and nation. It is unacceptable that, in the midst of a deathly global pandemic, such as the one caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19), the government of the United States of America violates international law and its obligations with the Charter of the United Nations and with other legally binding instruments, through the application of a policy of economic terrorism against our people and now by also escalating operations of a military nature, with the sole purpose of triggering an armed conflict.

To conclude, and the in light of all the above, we request that the Security Council, using the powers conferred by the Charter of the United Nations for determining the existence of any threat to international peace and security, establish the nature of the military operations of the government of the United States of America in the contiguous zone of Venezuela’s territorial sea, under the false pretext of a non-existent territorial claim, using non-proportional belligerent equipment, for the purpose of the announced operations, and within the framework of an escalation of the threats of use of force against our country.

I respectfully request your good offices for circulating the present letter among the member States of the Security Council for their due information and that it be issued as a document of that body.