It would not be surprising if today or tomorrow it is announced that the visit by the United States Secretary of State has been cancelled. The situation in Guyana as regards COVID-19 and the tense political climate favours such a move.
The United States Secretary of State is the equivalent to a Foreign Minister. But he or she is no ordinary Foreign Minister. The US Secretary of State is considered as the second most powerful person in the world.
The Secretary of State has tremendous authority. A former Pakistan President, General Pervez Musharraf, said that an Assistant Secretary of State warned his government that if Pakistan did not cooperate with the United States in its campaign against Afghanistan, the United States would bomb Pakistan back to the stone ages.
Readers will recall that the PNC/R kept resisting all attempts at having the declaration of the Recount of the ballots of the March 2 elections. But one source has indicated that no sooner had Mike Pompeo called President David Granger that events took a different turn.
That is the power and influence which is wielded by the US State Department. There are few political leaders in the world who can stand up to the pressure that department can exert.
The US Secretary of State is due to visit Guyana this week. The purpose of the visit has not yet been revealed.
The US played a pivotal role in defending democracy in Guyana thus year. The APNU+AFC was prepared to do all within its power to defy the democratic will of the Guyanese people.
It even turned against the Caribbean Community and insulted some of its leaders after the team which came to oversee the recount found that the Coalition’s allegations of electoral irregularities amounted to a “fishing expedition”. Were it not for the United States, the visa sanctions which were ordered and the telephone conversation which was purportedly made by the US Secretary of State, the Coalition may have resisted conceding power.
But Pompeo is not likely coming here to gloat about the United States’ role in aborting the plan to steal the 2020 elections in Guyana. The United States has more vital long-term interests than to have the Secretary of State come here to bask in its role in protecting electoral democracy.
The United States interest in Guyana is economic. ExxonMobil, a US company, has made huge investments in Guyana. It is committed to long-term investments in the oil sector. But it needs the permit for its Payara Field Development Plan. There is fear that Guyana is leveraging this authority in order to extract a better deal from ExxonMobil.
Pompeo, however, is not going to come and pressure the Mohamed Irfaan Ali administration to grant the permit. He is likely coming to secure America’s long-term interests in the country, an interest which goes beyond Payara and beyond ExxonMobil. Guyana has been tagged as the future Dubai of the Region and America would love nothing better than to have friendly relations with a country with such prospects.
The second major interest is security. The US is concerned about the movement of drugs within the region. The US may have information which our intelligence and anti-narcotics agencies may not have. But they do not need to bring a US Secretary of State to try to bring this massage.
So what brings Mike Pompeo to Guyana? Some feel that with the US elections due in November, the US is planning an invasion on Venezuela to boost President Trump’s chances. Guyana is likely to oppose such an invasion and the US may be trying to prevent Guyana from forcing Caricom to come out against any such invasion. But again there is no need for a US Secretary of State to come to tell Guyana to keep its nose out of any planned invasion. One phone call is all it will take.
The government says that so far there is no agenda for the meeting. Well, there might be no meeting. An advance team has already landed in the country and they will be doing their security, political and health risk assessments for the visit.
At present, the situation in all three areas is not disposed towards a visit. The political situation is still volatile. The PNC/R has shown a tenacity to instigate problems in order to obfuscate what it did for five months between March and August this year. It lied to its supporters and now is seeking political redemption by instigating tensions.
The political mood therefore is not right for a visit. This is all the more so since the PNC/R is still slighting from the US’ opposition to its attempt to steal the elections.
The security situation is also not ideal. Two light aircraft were found reportedly crashed in Guyana yesterday. This incident will raise the antennas of the security detail who are part of the advance mission and they may suggest that the visit be put off.
Thirdly, the COVID-19 situation is now a national calamity. The number of cases is rising rapidly, like never before. The number of new active cases is rising more than the number of new recoveries. The death rate is frightening. Jamaica has fewer deaths with double the number of cases. Trinidad has about 1.5 times the number of cases and fewer deaths also.
Do not be surprised therefore, if the visit is cancelled at the last minute. With what is taking place right now, the advance team may well advise the Secretary of State to call off his planned visit to Guyana this week.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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