The GHK Lall Column…
The media has been awash with the visit by US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, to Guyana. Earlier, Guyana’s Foreign Minister, Hugh Todd, said that Venezuela was not on the agenda. Contrastingly, in an article dated September 16 in the Miami Herald titled, “Pompeo makes history as first U.S. secretary of state to visit Suriname and Guyana” the position of a political and regional security expert was that “Venezuela will certainly be part of the agenda, there is no way that one cannot see that.” The Guyanese media, on Thursday, confirmed Venezuela features significantly.
Now I bite the bullet for a bold position. This is both encouraging and disturbing. It is encouraging because of assistance the US can provide to Guyana in vital areas where it is severely lacking. A US State Department official spoke of Venezuela “harbouring terrorists, harbouring narco-traffickers” and of continuing efforts to “interdict drugs.”
Guyana has a heavy share of drug trafficking, a national plague with community and institutional wreckages inflicted. Any help to stem this terrible tide-and its white-collar sibling, money laundering-should be welcomed by all Guyanese. There is familiarity with reports of forays by paramilitary criminal squads across our wide-open border with Venezuela, which targets Guyanese engaged in the mining sector, resulting in loss of life and property. If this can be reduced, through American assistance, I can only stand in support of such encouraging actions that help immensely.
Also, according to the Miami Herald, after the conclusion of his Suriname stop Secretary Pompeo “will then head across the border to a volatile Guyana, where he will hold talks with representatives of oil companies.”It is encouraging that Mr. Pompeo’s agenda includes engaging oilmen, which must mean ExxonMobil, the tottering American corporate giant. It holds Guyana in a strangling contractual bind that leaves it in an embarrassing and impoverishing state. It seems that Exxon gets almost everything, while Guyana gets next to nothing, in what is one of the most one-sided oil contracts anywhere. I have always believed that the Venezuelan monster is what compelled surrendering to Exxon, and paying through the nose, as part of the protective bargain against Guyana’s powerful neighbour. I still think so. Exxon had us over a barrel, and the chokehold followed.
But the point to be emphasized is that wherever Guyanese turn, Venezuela features prominently, and even more so with oil making the news in one discovery after another. It is enough to make even the most benevolent neighbour covetous and harbour hostility to the interests of the Guyanese people. Meanwhile, the US and Venezuela are locked in this struggle over ideology and governance, capitalist visions and priorities, and American geopolitical and geostrategic interests. These cannot be made to disappear under the cover of celebrating democracy in Guyana; though, I am heartened to hear that “inclusive and transparent governance” is to be tabled. I hope for reception and traction. Hopefully, the foreigner would fare better than locals in what disturbs intensely.
But I return to this touchy reality: the enemy of my sworn enemy is among my stronger and better friends. It comes with a price over which Guyana labour and agonizes. How much is too much to give up? How to pay electoral debts due? It had to be known then, and as is surfacing now (no matter how sanitized), that payback had to come. Here is where I am: if my neighbour desires with unswerving keenness to seize two thirds of my rich homestead, then I would welcome any strong friend, who helps level the scales in my favour. This is what both encourages and disturbs.
(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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