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– Pompeo says US presence will protect Guyana’s sovereignty
United States (US) Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo did not mince words on Friday when said that controversial Venezuelan President, Nicholas Maduro must be removed from power and the US Government will go to lengths to achieve this.
“We know that the Maduro regime has decimated the people of Venezuela and that Maduro himself is an indicted narcotics trafficker. This means he has to leave. For the people of Venezuela to have the democracy that they need, the Cuban security forces must go and Maduro must leave. So, the efforts to do that and to put diplomatic pressure and to support the Venezuelan people, we desperately want that same objective,” Pompeo admitted to the media at a press conference at State House on Friday, as part of his visit to Guyana.
Since Guyana announced its oil find in 2015, the neighbouring Spanish-speaking country has resurfaced its claim to Guyana’s Essequibo region and Guyana has since resorted to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to settle its ownership based on the 1889 Arbitral Award.
Venezuela’s armed forces have around 515,000 personnel, including roughly frontline 130,000 troops. On land, Venezuela has 696 combat tanks, along with 700 armored fighting vehicles. At sea, the nation has roughly 50 naval assets, 3 frigates, 4 corvettes and 2 submarines. In the air, the country has 280 aircraft, including 42 fighter jets.
Needless to say, Guyana, with a population of less than 1 million and a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) worth approximately $US4.28 billion in 2019, cannot compete. Currently, the only tensions between the neighbouring countries is the awaited outcome of the ICJ border controversy case, though Venezuela does not believe the Court has jurisdiction.
The US, however, has its own contention with Venezuela as it recognises Opposition Leader, Juan Guaido as “interim president” and considers the Venezuelan National Assembly, which he currently leads, to be the only legitimate federal institution.
Its position is that the Maduro regime’s irresponsible intervention in the economy has facilitated widespread corruption and stoked hyperinflation leading to negative economic growth and a humanitarian crisis.
After consistently lobbying for a declaration on Guyana’s elections, previously stalled, Pompeo was pleased to see that the People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) was elected into office and offered his congratulations to President Dr. Irfaan Ali in person.
This visit to the country, just over a month later, saw Pompeo offering US “resources” to Guyana to combat the Venezuelan threat. Amid differing public and political views, President Ali accepted the offer.
“It is not only from a maritime perspective because we would have raised also, with the Secretary, radar coverage of our Exclusive Economic Zone which is critical at this time. We have had various difficulties and I think we welcome any help that would enhance our security, that would enhance our ability to protect our borders and, importantly, to enhance our capability and ability to ensure that we go after criminal elements and this allows us to do that,” he said, when media pointed to the concerns of Guyana’s sovereignty being at risk.
Responding to the same concerns, Secretary Pompeo assured that the United States is only here to protect Guyana’s sovereignty. He pointed to the agreement signed between the US and Guyana on Friday, a Growth in the Americas Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), stating that this will help the two countries to achieve their goals.
“The two agreements we signed this morning are not disconnected. They’re for greater security, greater capacity to understand your border space, what’s happening inside your Exclusive Economic Zone, those are all things that give Guyana sovereignty, that capacity to control its space and the rule of law, property rights, the things that you all value, and democracy. These things are connected,” he said.
Pompeo also stated that it was encouraging to hear President Ali’s request for more foreign direct investment across Guyana’s sectors, although there is a taboo about the same in many countries. However, he told the media that the private sector businesses which will come to Guyana are disconnected from the US Government and are only seeking mutual benefit.
He assured Guyanese: “Sometimes I hear ‘we don’t want foreign direct investment, we’re concerned about our sovereignty’. I would posit this for everyone watching today, the United States model is to build out on the best things of your country. We’ll show up, we’ll bring capital, we’ll bring resources, we’ll often bring technological capabilities that are much needed to develop resources, develop infrastructure for your country, but we don’t do so with political strings tied to them, we don’t operate the way other regimes do.”
Pompeo and his team now head off to neighbouring Brazil and Colombia where the Secretary of State will hold similar discussions with their leaders. Prior to coming to Guyana, he stopped off in Suriname. These are all countries strategically close Venezuela, where the US has made clear its intention to see a regime change.