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As Guyanese and foreign policy experts continue to mull the hurriedly put together visit of United States (U.S) Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo, to Suriname, Guyana, Bolivia and Colombia some things are becoming clearer. Usually small nations like ours don’t attract the attention of such high-profile diplomats, and when this happens it is something usually bigger than the nation.
There is generated excitement that the U.S came to Guyana and the Government was able to get some needed goodies, promises of cooperation, and the bilateral Shiprider Agreement. Conversely it cannot be ignored that the Government prefers attention to everything else other than their support for the U.S removal of the Nicolás Maduro government. If Foreign Affairs Minister, Hugh Todd, thought his insistence to another newspaper, prior to the visit, that Mr. Pompeo’s presence “has nothing and should not be interpreted as anything to do with Venezuela,” Guyanese are more clear-eyed after the visit.
How can this small nation with no significant military might, relative to Venezuela, push for Maduro’s removal? Where is our might? Certainly, the U.S could not be expecting Guyana’s single vote at the United Nations (UN), the world’s largest body, to make any material difference. Last October, Venezuela, by secret ballot, was elected to the UN Human Rights Council amidst applause from other countries and in spite of fierce lobbying against it by the U.S.
Guyana has no strength to serve as any pressure to Maduro other than allow others to use our airwaves and waters to target Venezuela. The Shiprider Agreement could take care of the waters. Last April the Coalition Government turned down the U.S’ request to use Guyana’s airwaves to target Venezuelans. U.S Ambassador Sarah Ann Lynch’s response was that the U.S no longer has an interest. Time will tell.
Guyana and Venezuela have always shared bilateral relations even as Venezuela makes false claim to two-thirds of our territory. Guyana has the case before the International Court of Justice, awaiting a ruling. Guyanese have reason for concern at this precarious time.
Those who thought the secret agreement would have remained secret got a rude awakening. Pompeo wants Guyanese, Venezuelans, CARICOM countries and the world to know his interest in Guyana’s election has paid off. He was not going to be quiet about the new hemispheric alliance to further his administration’s interest. It makes no sense to be silent when most of the world does not support the U.S’ position on the Maduro issue and the U.S is seeking alliances.
Guyana, Suriname, Brazil, Colombia and Trinidad are Venezuela’s neighbours. Trinidad is the only country not in the alliance. Some political watchers believe this is because Prime Minister Keith Rowley was re-elected. They refer to the loud disagreement between PM Rowley and Opposition Leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar. Last May, the Opposition Leader accused the Prime Minister of putting Trinidad & Tobago in “grave danger” for allowing Venezuela Vice-President, Delcy Rodriguez, to enter the island and had since called on the U.S to sanction Trinidad for selling oil to Venezuela.
Gabriel H.K. Lall said what many feel about Secretary Pompeo’s visit. In his Radio programme, ‘National Outlook,’ he said had “Mr. Granger acquiesced to allowing Voice of America…to take up shop in the interior to destabilise Venezuela the election would be totally different. Make no mistake about that, that is how my fellow Americans operate.” This view also recognises the U.S’ interest in our election was primarily about putting in office a government that will grant their wish. Pompeo came to collect.
His visit to CARICOM to congratulate Secretary-General Irwin LaRocque for CARICOM’s role in our election should also attract attention. It would help for the government of CARICOM member states to clear the air on their role, if any, in supporting the U.S’ desire. The peoples of the Caribbean region deserve an answer from their leaders. Was our nation used as a bargaining chip for power?.