Published 16 March 2018
8 March 2018
To the attention of The Honourable Juán Arias
Minister of Basic Industries of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela
Re. Monomeros Colombo Venezolanos SA’s imports of phosphate rock from Western Sahara
We have the honour to present you with our compliments. We are writing to seek comments with regard to the 2017 imports by Monomeros Colombo Venezolanos from occupied Western Sahara.
In the coming weeks, WSRW will publish its annual “P for Plunder” report, documenting the phosphate trade from Western Sahara during the previous calendar year. As Monomeros will be featured in that report, we would be grateful for your answers and comments to the questions included below.
According to our calculations, an estimated 17,000 tonnes of phosphate rock from Western Sahara was purchased by Monomeros in 2017, worth approximately US$ 1.5 million. That constitutes a significant decrease in comparison to the previous calendar year, when 58,000 tonnes was observed being shipped to Barranquilla, Colombia, and an additional 68,000 to Puerto Cabello, in Venezuela – the two ports where Venezuelan state-owned fertilizer producers take in their phosphate rock.
With its policy on Western Sahara firmly grounded in international law and rooted in a deep sense of solidarity which is exemplified by its support to the Western Sahara refugees, it would be a small step for the Government of Venezuela to disengage from importing phosphate rock from occupied Western Sahara. In fact, its recognition of Western Sahara as a country in its own right, has recently been supported by the Courts of Africa and Europe.
The case of the NM Cherry Blossom, a bulk carrier transporting 55,000 of Western Sahara phosphate rock that was detained on 1 May 2017 in South Africa, resulted in the ruling by the South African High Court of 23 January 2018, concluding that the Saharawi Government was the rightful owner of the cargo aboard the vessel, and that Morocco’s state-owned phosphate company OCP SA or its subsidiary in Western Sahara Phosphates de Boucraa were never lawfully entitled to sell the phosphate rock.
The case echoes the principles underpinning two recent judgments by the Court of Justice of the European Union, which conclude that Western Sahara is a territory that is “separate and distinct” from Morocco, and that it would thus be unlawful for the EU to conclude any agreement with Morocco for Western Sahara, as that would be a violation of the right to self-determination. The Advocate General of the EU Court of Justice in his Opinion of 10 January 2018 underlines that the right to self-determination is a human right, and that this right is being violated by entering into deals without taking into account the right of the people to consent.
We would be grateful for an answer to the following questions:
1. Can you confirm that Monomeros imported a 17,000 tonnes cargo of phosphate rock from occupied Western Sahara in 2017?
2. Will the Government of Venezuela act to assure that no state-owned companies – including the fertilizer producing firms – import raw materials from Western Sahara as long as the conflict has not been settled in accordance with the applicable principled under international law, notably the right to self-determination?
Thank you in advance for considering our concerns, and we look forward to hearing from you. Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you’d require any further information on any of the above-raised issues: we’d be happy to respond.
Western Sahara Resource Watch
A copy of this letter has been sent to:
- UN Special Representative for Western Sahara and Head of UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara, Mr Colin Stewart
- Personal Envoy of the UN Secretary General for Western Sahara, Mr Horst Köhler
- Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment Affairs of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, The Honourable Jesús Faría