Kaieteur News – It is very encouraging to learn from a breaking news Demerara Waves article that Presidents Ali, Lula, and Maduro of Guyana, Brazil, and Venezuela respectively are scheduled to meet in St. Vincent in a few days. The ice had to be broken before matters got out of hand, and I am glad that Brazil’s Lula took the lead, and is acting as the broker in this tense situation. There needs to be some urgent defusing, and a meeting of leaders on a neutral venue, with a heavyweight hemispheric leader in the middle, are as good a start as the disengaged and distrustful neighbors could get. I am glad that both Presidents Ali and Maduro have agreed to meet face to face. For if there is no dialogue between hostile parties, then there is no telling how mistakes could be made, and where they lead.
It means that urgent back-channels efforts to tone things down are bearing fruit. It cannot be easy for Maduro to climb down from his shaky straw horse, but the fact that he has done so signals a significant amount of arm twisting, and buttonholing. But considering the range and weight of the international community’s position and in whose favor it is almost unanimously, I believe that the Venezuelan president could have also be looking for a face-saving way to de-escalate out of the disaster that he made for himself. For his part, Guyana’s President Ali is operating and conversing in St. Vincent from a position of strength. He has the winds at his back, and like any good fast bowler, he has to exploit the conditions to his advantage while the ball is new. The US, the UK, the OAS, CARICOM, and the Commonwealth have all made pointed statements, which even in the most critical assessments confirm them leaning more towards Guyana’s direction. To this point, only a treacherous Surinamese sneak development indicates any spiritual identification with Venezuela’s claim, and this is reading very deeply into a reaction or two coming out of Paramaribo.
In keeping with this country’s repeated position, our own President Ali has flatly and quickly punctured any idea about talking about matters related to the tense border controversy. I admit to some difficulty here, for of what meaning would such a Brazil-brokered meeting be about then? With Venezuela marshaling its forces, deploying its strengths, and brandishing its swords, and making no secret of any of these aggressive and disconcerting actions, I am hard pressed to discern what else is left to be discussed in such an atmosphere. A considerable amount of bad blood has been generated by Maduro, and it does not wash away that easily. I fail to foresee how genuine talks can be had about anything, such as bilateral trade, treatment of citizens in the two countries, or working together on joint ventures. Maduro has poisoned the well of Guyanese goodwill, and President Lula is sure to have his hands full.
It is too late now, but it would have been so constructive and strategic for Brazil to have been closely involved in building a deepwater port here, possibly at the proper point in the Essequibo River, or one of those big bridges or projects that are all the rage currently in Guyana. When I think of such a wide Brazilian footprint in Guyana, all I could see is our first line of defense in the face of perennial Venezuelan aggression. Shared interests, such things are called. This is where friendly neighbors with enormous capabilities are the best of friends. It makes for good sense, for any country that lives under the shadow of a huge and grasping neighbor that has an on and off history of stirring up a century old matter that has long been settled, and dressing it up for their own scurrilous objectives. In brief, Guyana needs strong and principled allies, and I cannot think of any better than Brazil, with its proximity and regional superpower weight featuring prominently.
The hope, and it is a faint one, is that St. Vincent meeting of the three presidents will set the stage for more dialogue. Whatever misinterpretations and miscalculations have been made by Venezuela, it is time for them to be put to bed for good. The misjudgments of Maduro and his clique about their own strengths and Guyana’s resolve must all wither away in the shortest possible time. Though he has tried to paint a rosy picture, even his own folks have not been fooled, as the turnout at his December 3rd referendum indicated, so he is grasping for a way out of his self-created predicament.
It is my belief that Maduro has been harboring visions of glory, in seeing himself as the Bolivarian John Wayne on horseback. He certainly chose a tall horse to ride. Now, he has a long way to go in his fall back to earth. The St. Vincent meeting is the first movement in that direction. My expectations are low with regard to any groundbreaking development. My advice to President Ali is to hold to his line, and stand his ground. He must not blink in the face of what has been Maduro’s barefaced brinksmanship all along.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of this newspaper and its affiliates.)
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