November 9, 2011 | By | Filed Under Features / Columnists, Peeping Tom 


One of the side effects of globalization has been the increasing tendency of legislators, prominent individuals and corporations to engage governments without the knowledge and consent of their governments.
We have for example in the past seen US congressmen engage foreign governments to secure the release of their nationals being held prisoners. We have witnessed in the past, prominent US individuals try to wrest political concessions from foreign governments, and in one instance, former President Jimmy Carter has attempted to end the crisis that had developed over North Korea’s nuclear capabilities. The United States government made it clear that Carter’s role was by no means official.
The actions of former statesmen are just a small portion of the intricate network of persons who are involving themselves in matters that are normally the responsibility of sovereign governments.
When there are federal governments, when countries are divided into self-governing states and when these states have their own elected heads and their own local legislatures and judiciary, it is all the more difficult for national governments to control the actions of the heads of these states.
This is exactly what we are dealing with in the case of Brazil. The Governor of the State of Roraima is not a representative of the Brazilian government. He is an elected official and he heads an executive that administers his state. He has powers under the law in relation to taxes and relative autonomy of how those taxes are to be spent. He is his own master and is answerable only to the people. He could from within or from without the ruling party. As such he is free to make any political alliances that he sees fit, just as how the PNCR in the run-up to the 2006 elections entered into an agreement with the then major opposition party in Suriname. At that time, the government accused the PNCR of trying to determine Guyana’s foreign policy from the opposition benches.
The Governor of the State of Roraima is therefore free to make any agreement with politicians in Guyana, just as the PNCR had signed an understanding with their opposition counterpart. This cannot count for meddling in the internal affairs of Guyana, because the Governor of the State of Roraima does not represent the government of Brazil.
Those in the opposition that have been making noises about Brazilian interference in Guyana’s internal affairs do not, therefore, do so from a position of full understanding of the federal system in Brazil. Had they done so, they would have understood that the Governor of Roraima has autonomy in the way he advances the interests of his state, but he does not make foreign policy for his country.
State governments usually have wide powers and they are free to pursue commercial ventures. But when it comes to matters of foreign policy they have to defer to the government of Brazil.
This past week there were reports that the Governor of Brazil met with President Bharrat Jagdeo of Guyana in Lethem, a town in Guyana on the border with Brazil.
It is well known that the state of Roraima has over the years been cultivating close ties with Guyana. They do also do not need the authorization of the government of Brazil to do this, providing that they do not violate any treaties of laws of the country.
Roraima knows that trade between Guyana and Brazil will grow and that their state will be the centre of commerce when it takes off. As such they have been pushing cooperation between their state and Guyana.
Roraima also has number of pressures. In the North of Brazil there is growing hunger for land for agricultural purposes and the state of Roraima therefore wants to get into the cultivation of crops in Guyana using large farms. This is their primary economic interest even though there are a number of miners that pass through the state en route to work in Guyana.
It is ill-advised of the Governor of Brazil to speak on a political platform of the ruling party, but he must have sensed where the winds are blowing in Guyana and decided to speak so as secure his state’s future.
The opposition parties in Guyana should be more concerned about Brazil’s interest in Guyana and whether the Guyana government is going to allow for the establishment of plantation-style agriculture in Guyana in a commercial deal with businessmen from the state of Roraima.
Instead of being concerned about this, they are making claims about interference in Guyana’s politics when in fact the actions of the Governor is not controlled by the Brazilian government nor does it represent the actions of the Brazilian government.

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