Recently I saw one of the most ridiculous comments on social media regarding the threat to Guyana’s sovereignty. It was posted in response to an article carried by caribbeannewsnow.com, captioned “Venezuela edges closer to armed conflict over resource-rich territory”.
The individual to whom I refer, commented that – it appears to be drawing attention from local conflicts to foreign affairs. Upon reading that comment, I became more aware about the damaged psyche of certain persons in this country. Why would a matter as important as the threat to a country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity not capture optimum attention? Why would the escalating threat from an aggressive foreign nation be construed as a distraction from a politically manipulative local event?
The unfolding development of the Venezuelan Navy’s incursion into Guyana’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is no hoax. On January 8, 2019, Venezuela’s Vice President – Delcy Rodriguez – presented to Venezuelan media what she described as evidence that two Exxon Mobil seismic research vessels contracted by Guyana had allegedly trespassed into Venezuelan waters. Rodriguez went on to play recordings of what appeared to be radio communication between Captains of the respective Exxon Mobil vessels and the Venezuela Navy, culminating with the latter ordering the Exxon research vessels to leave the area in question.
So, this issue is separate and a great hazard to our nationhood, whether we embrace the APNU, AFC, PPP or others.
In a previous letter, I had suggested that Guyana seek external military support to assist in securing its territorial integrity at this critical juncture when the stakes and potential for its development is at an all-time high. Coincidentally, within the same week, the newly elected Brazilian President – Jair Bolsonaro – voiced similar sentiments, saying he is open to hosting a United States (US) military base to counter Russian influence in the region. While Bolsonaro may have different motives, Guyana has a real threat that can be deterred by a superior military presence.
Venezuela is cognizant of the socio-economic benefits that will be derived once Guyana’s production of oil advances unhindered, since projections indicate superior comparative per capita growth to theirs over time.
Therefore, it is fair to say that Venezuela’s latest heightened aggression is deliberate. Unlike our inattentiveness and perhaps nonchalance, Venezuela pays keen attention to developments in Guyana. Venezuelans fleeing economic hardship in their native country continue to flow into Guyana.
Venezuela’s latest aggression came one day after a controversial no-confidence motion against the sitting Guyana government in this country’s parliament. Guyana’s sitting government is openly disliked by Caracas. The PPP would be much favoured by Maduro.
One would recall the Venezuelan reaction to Guyana in September 2015, shortly after the election of the incumbent government here. The Venezuelans amassed an extraordinary deployment of military personnel and equipment in border areas close to our Essequibo. Intuitively and prudently, the David Granger government went on an immediate diplomatic crusade internationally to whip up support for Guyana’s cause. Our subsequent move to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) was a precise and effective move, pegging back the Venezuelan aggression temporarily. We must, however, be aware that some countries do not respect international laws and rulings. Therefore, preemptive measures against military aggression are often the best forms of communication.
This recent Venezuelan incursion is one which, I believe, helps to solidify Guyana’s appeal to the ICJ for our territorial controversy to be resolved in a timely and judicious manner. It is also the basis for Guyana to seek the United Nations or our bilateral allies’ assistance in providing the necessary maritime support to help us secure our borders, since our own defence force lacks the technology and equipment to do so.
It is no secret, that national sovereignty for some countries are mere formalities. Unfortunately, Guyana at this juncture, is one of them. We simply do not have the capability to resist the military might of a real Venezuelan offensive. We also have persons in our political sphere who are dangerously flirtatious with the Venezuelans and even prepared to cede portions of our territory to them because of socialist sentiments.
Also, of great concern is Venezuela’s immediate alliance, military cooperation and partnership with Russia. The Russians, who are seeking to expand their political and military influence globally, have demonstrated that they do not always respect international laws nor the sovereignty of countries. Two examples that come to mind are Russian’s 1979 to 1989 invasion and war with Afghanistan, and their annexation of the Ukrainian Crimea region early in 2014.
Venezuela, with their recent decision to have Russia set up a military base on La Orchila – an island just off Caracas, may very well feel empowered to make bolder military moves, perhaps even seeking to annex our Essequibo region either prior or subsequent to any ruling by the ICJ, which is highly anticipated in Guyana’s favour. Venezuelan nationalism would be energized and used to bolster domestic support for the Maduro regime, which has been given a recent mandate to govern until 2025.
Guyana would do well to encourage its key allies of Brazil, the United States and the United Kingdom to similarly increase military cooperation and the establishment of a permanent presence here, as counter measures to discourage any further Venezuelan ambitions and solidify Guyana’s territorial security.
If this suggestion sounds farfetched, consider what was done in Djibouti.
Djibouti is a small Franco-Arab country in the horn of Africa with a population with a few thousand more than that of Guyana. Djibouti recently permitted the Chinese People’s Liberation Army to establish a military base in that country as part of their bilateral and military cooperation.
Djibouti also has an ongoing territorial claim against it by Eritrea. Eritrea had seized territory from Djibouti in 2008. Djibouti temporarily relied on Qatari military presence in 2010 to help occupy and recover their territory. Djibouti’s hosting of foreign military bases earns it over US$2.5 Billion for lease payments from the establishment of those bases in that country.
After the unfortunate event on December 21, 2018 in the National Assembly, the Guyana government would do well to take nothing for granted or chance, but rather, be pro-active and preemptive in embracing the need for improved defence capacity and territorial protection against a persistent and determined aggressor.
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