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Dec 15, 2012 Features / Columnists, Peeping Tom
Guyana has had genuine international friends. And all of them have been socialist leaders.
First in line has been Fidel Castro. The Cuban Government has sent medical doctors and sports coaches to Guyana and has over the years offered hundreds of scholarships for our students to study in that country. That country has had friendly ties with Guyana for over forty years.
On the other hand, relations with Venezuela has not always been smooth sailing and in fact got progressively worse in the 1980s when the Venezuelans refused to renew the Protocol of Port of Spain which had shelved the territorial dispute for a period of ten years.
That led to a long period in which Guyana has to be wary of Venezuelan intentions about Guyana. And there were many anxious moments. However since Hugo Chavez took over as President of Venezuela, there has been a dramatic improvement in relations between the countries. Guyana no longer has to fear Venezuelan aggression, at least not as long as Chavez remains alive.
Now that Hugo Chavez is fighting for his life, Guyanese should show their love for this champion of the working class by organizing vigils.
There are of course those within our midst who would like to see the back of Chavez. One particular newspaper cannot accept the fact that under Chavez, Guyana has established a completely new relationship with Venezuela and that under Chavez, Venezuela does not present a threat to this country.
Now that the Venezuelan leader is gravely sick, we can expect this newspaper to once again try to resurrect old fears as to what a post- Chavez Venezuela could mean and how unprepared Guyana is for that eventuality.
Instead of being obsessed with such negative thoughts, it would be much better if the entire nation joins hands and prays that this giant of South America lives because he has been such an inspiration on the continent and further afield.
The people of Venezuela are praying that their president will return home safely to them. All Guyana should join in doing the same because Chavez has been extremely good to Guyana.
Chavez has not tried to impede Guyana from developing the Essequibo Region. In fact, the Hugo Chavez administration had broken with the policies of previous Venezuelan governments and has indicated that it will not oppose developments in the contested area as long as these developments are for the benefit of the people of Guyana.
This is a revolutionary declaration by the Venezuelan Head of State which has already allowed Guyana to undertake massive plans for the Essequibo. Guyana has already drawn down on international resources under an arrangement with Norway and Venezuela has not issued even a whimper of protest.
Guyana is also part of the Petrocaribe arrangement but we are not totally dependent on that arrangement for our fuel needs. Guyana was very cautious about entering the Petrocaribe Initiative no doubt because of tremendous pressure from the United States.
However, other Caribbean countries such as Jamaica and St Vincent are part of that arrangement and if Chavez had lost the election last month to the opposition, those countries would have had real problems. They too should be praying for Chavez.
But by far the greatest beneficiary of Chavez’s kindness has been our rice farmers. Venezuela offers very concessional terms for rice and purchases large amounts of the product from Guyana. If there is a break in that arrangement, then the rice sector is likely to crash.
The concerns therefore are different from the past. The concerns are no longer about intervention from Venezuela. The concerns are about whether the tremendous trade and economic benefits that Guyana derives from Venezuela is going to be affected should Chavez be unable to continue in office.
Given the generosity of Hugo Chavez over the years, all Guyanese should join hands in praying for his recovery because had it not been for him it could not have been certain what benefits Guyana would have derived from its relations with Venezuela.
Tomorrow should be designated a Day of Prayer and Support for the Venezuelan leader. All Guyana should be on their knees tomorrow praying for the recovery of Hugo Chavez. Vigils should also be organized for his health.
Guyana needs him to survive. South America needs his Bolivarian Revolution to continue, and the socialist world needs for that process to be completed under his leadership.
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