Jan 26, 2021 Editorial
Kaieteur News – As should be clear to observant Guyanese monitoring the ongoing news reports, Venezuela is serious and slowly, and purposely ratcheting up the pressure on Guyana. The ante in our border dispute is relentlessly being pushed upward, but in a very nuanced manner. The evidence is there for all who are interested and concerned to sift through and arrive at a reasonable conclusion, a single one only. It is our intent at this paper, that ‘interested and concerned’ Guyanese cover and include every single citizen, regardless of where they reside.
The first inkling came out of the blue, but was not any great surprise. President Nicholas Maduro of Venezuela, who is pulling out every stop in his dogged fight for a resurgence of his political fortunes, picked the one issue that was sure to rally his countrymen and bind them to him: his cause, his vision, and his drive. He wrapped himself in the Venezuelan flag, and did so, when he spoke passionately about ‘reconquering Essequiba.’ We do not think, whatever else the Venezuelan leader may be in the eyes of others, that he is less than totally heartfelt and committed on that one. And as issues go, amidst the unending woes lived with by the people in his society, there is none that rises to the significance and urgency of the Guyana-Venezuela border dispute. It is enough to make his people ignore momentarily their troubles and agonies, in the powerful distraction that it facilitates.
Having so spoken and stirred up in different ways a whole lot of his citizens – inclusive of the powerful military establishment, the marauding criminal elements, the company of committed political adversaries, and the vast majority of struggling ordinary citizens – there had to be corresponding deeds. Follow-up deeds that match the fervour of the words shared about a possible and intended reconquest of Essequibo; those began with sending messages, and then continuing through teaching the suddenly smug and upstart Guyanese one lesson by a variety of clever means. The lesson is that this is the beginning of a long campaign that will take many forms, and will not ease up in the future.
This may not be believed, but it is highly likely that part of the full court pressure will be applied on the ground via a channel that allows for ‘plausible deniability.’ Plausible deniability because it has always been there, is a settled fact of normal life, and supposedly functions according to its own interests and on its own. In other words, it is private and independent, totally detached from the apparatus and influence of the state. This would be the criminal gangs operating in Venezuela that target their own people first, and then reach out to the temptingly rich pickings in vulnerable Guyanese borders communities. They go by the name of ‘Syndicato’ gangs, and they provide the perfect cover for state sponsored actions to help destabilize here. A recent incident occurred, and more are sure to follow; as to frequency, that will be confirmed (or lay waste) by the future.
More recently, two Guyanese fishing boats were seized by the Venezuelans, and this has caused a flurry of agitations over here. This is a more concrete signal that things are on the move in the right direction, from a Venezuelan perspective. Fishing boats and the like represent soft targets that are worth their weight in gold for the political and national psychological stresses inflicted. It does not matter where those boats were, the fact remains that the Venezuelans acted, and it is what we believe to be the first sortie.
Then, a ranking official on our side of the border complained about the influx of Venezuelans in his area, which is Region One. That may not be the usual instance of hungry and suffering people rushing through any opening to find relief in a place that has more to offer than home. It is worth expanding our thinking to encircle what a flood of Venezuelans could mean here. We are undermanned, underserved, and under resourced, and a buildup of neighbours, could be about more than the economic and humanitarian. It could be of what is orchestrated from very high councils in Venezuela. For somewhere in there, among the arrivals, would be those that can undermine the fragile underpinnings of this society. On this, too, the expectation of Guyanese is that there is bound to be more, if not for gold and oil alone.
But when all this is considered, it becomes obvious that this country has some serious times ahead of it. Our leaders had better be wise as to how to approach, who must be partnered with internally, and what external forces to tap, and clear pathways for them to operate to our advantage. For, as we sense it, Venezuela has settled for a false peace. Or to put differently, to engage in undeclared conflict and escalate by many subtle means.
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