Guyana Politics: Mr. Pompeo’s visit to Guyana – By: Dhanpaul Narine – opinion

By: Dhanpaul Narine

     In 1766, the physician and scientist, Edward Bancroft, found himself in the Orinoco. He marveled at the minerals in the area and said that the native Indians had little interest in them. Bancroft’s findings were widely circulated in America and reached Congress through Benjamin Franklin. Gold was discovered in the Essequibo region in 1850, sufficient enough to attract a British settlement there.

There was also talk of oil. Many people believe that the veins of the oil are in Venezuela but the nest is in Guyana. The Venezuelan archive is replete with maps, drawings and pictures that attest to riches in Guyana. Gold, diamonds, lumber, fishing, fertile lands for agriculture, and the lush scenic beauty, comprise Guyana’s Amazonia, and Venezuela wants them all.       

     Venezuela is a thorn in the side of Guyana. It has little regard for treaties, protocols, or agreements. The United States has been a common factor in Venezuela’s recent history. In 1895, President Grover Cleveland agreed to arbitrate the border dispute between Great Britain and Venezuela. Cleveland invoked the Monroe Doctrine that nearly led to war with Britain. But there was arbitration, and in 1899, all sides agreed that the decision was full, fair and final. The Venezuelans, however, kept pressing to reopen dialogue on the border. Guyana’s Premier, Cheddi Jagan, refused their request in 1962. Was it a mistake to agree to talks with Venezuela that led to the Geneva Agreement?

    As we await the ICJ ruling on the border, it has taken another American, no less than the Secretary of State, to intervene and bat for Guyana. Mr. Mike Pompeo’s visit to South America was motivated by commercial and diplomatic concerns. He made no secret that the people of Venezuela need freedom. The economy of Venezuela has collapsed, inflation is off the charts, and over four million Venezuelans have migrated to other countries, including Guyana. The United States would like to see the back of President Nicholas Maduro and the installation of Juan Guaido as President.  Mr. Pompeo hoped that with his visit, Maduro would be further isolated.

     As far as Guyana is concerned, Mr. Pompeo stated that his visit was to congratulate the people of Guyana for holding democratic elections and having a smooth transition of power. He wanted to discuss the economic opportunities that democracy offers but Venezuela was not far from his mind. Mr. Pompeo said, ‘the United States want the people of Venezuela to have democracy as well, a free and fair election and the respect for human rights. People are fleeing from Venezuela to other countries. We want that to change and for the people of Venezuela to have the same opportunities, as the people of Guyana.’

    The United States has pledged to help Guyana in its Covid-19 response, to help build the economy and to protect the territorial integrity of Guyana. In addition, the US will work with a number of countries in the region to reduce trafficking in arms and narcotics, as part of the Shiprider Agreement. In terms of business, Mr. Pompeo said that part of his job is to help the private sector understand the markets. However, he wants to ensure that the business is fair and transparent, and that the competition follows the rules. ‘We don’t apply political pressure that are connected to our enterprises. We hire locally, respect the environment, and abide by the law,’ Mr. Pompeo said. He singled out China as a country in which the ‘political and the military are deeply intertwined.’ After a decade of construction, the Chinese are still to deliver a new airport terminal in Guyana. The costs have ballooned into billions and President Ali has refused to accept the current project.

   Elections in Guyana are a time of national calamity. Can the United States assist with reforms? Mr. Pompeo promised to stand with Guyana and to help with electoral reforms, citing America’s strong tradition for holding transparent elections, and the quick declaration of results. President Irfaan Ali stated that Guyana is grateful to the United States, and particularly Secretary Mike Pompeo, for the role that was played in the smooth transition of power in Guyana. He sees the United States as a ‘steadfast partner that would strengthen and stimulate investment in Guyana.’

    President Ali affirmed the importance of democracy in the hemisphere, including that of Venezuela. He called for cooperation in the areas of shared technology, Covid-19, the lessening of restrictions on catfish, and support for territorial rights. He wanted to leverage the talents and skills in the diaspora to the advantage of Guyana. Mr. Pompeo also wanted closer ties with Guyana. He said that the United States is ready to be a partner with Guyana. He pledged $5million to help with the Venezuelan refugees in Guyana.

   Two important developments have occurred since Mr. Pompeo’s visit to Guyana. The United States Ambassador to Guyana, Sarah Ann Lynch, said that the high-level visit was not ‘a one-time event’ and that the United States is serious about partnering with Guyana. The other development concerns the role of the diaspora. President Ali said in his augural address that he values the diaspora. A government release stated that, ‘the government has reintegrated diaspora and re-integration matters into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.’

    The diaspora has long been recognized as an important cog in the wheel of national development, but no coherent policy has been adumbrated to include it in national planning. The diaspora has to be treated as an extension of Guyana and not separate from it. There are numerous examples where inclusion has happened with much success, including Jamaica, Israel, India and Mexico, among others.

    Mr. Pompeo’s visit has made it clear that the United States sees Guyana as a strategic partner. One can expect Guyana to join voices with others to press for free and fair elections in Venezuela, as the US explores investment opportunities in Guyana. The United States is also aware of China’s expansionism in the Caribbean. A high-profile visit by the US Secretary of State may intend to send a message that the Caribbean is still the ‘backyard’ of the United States. But Caricom, and others, could do well to point out that a geo-political power play comes with conditions. It cannot be business as usual.

   Where do we go from here? Dr. Bertrand Ramcharan, a distinguished Guyanese scholar, and a former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and a Chancellor of the University of Guyana, sees Mr. Pompeo’s visit to Guyana as historic, and an opportunity for both countries to advance the values of human dignity and democracy.

  According to Dr. Ramcharan, ‘As Guyana navigates its journey into greatness, harmonizing the human dignity of its different peoples into one people, one nation, and one destiny, it must enhance its international cooperation, especially with the Great Powers, with the United Nations, and with regional partners. Seen from this perspective, the visit of the United States Secretary of State is an historic occasion. Guyana and the USA are both, in their essence, idealistic nations, believing in human dignity, democracy, the rule of law, and respect for fundamental human rights. Both countries can cooperate to advance these values on the regional and world stages. It would be important to build stronger ties in the aftermath of the visit.’

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  • Yvonne-K  On 10/03/2020 at 10:45 am

    “Guyana and the USA are both, in their essence, idealistic nations, believing in human dignity, democracy, the rule of law, and respect for fundamental human rights. Both countries can cooperate to advance these values on the regional and world stages. It would be important to build stronger ties in the aftermath of the visit.”

    Wish the above was true but it’s not. America has no respect for other countries who stand in the way of their ultimate goals. No respect for fundamental rights or human dignity…i.e. BLM, no respect for the rule of law as they constantly bend it to suit the outcome they desire. Guyana under this government is no better.

    Pompeo’s visit to Guyana is to secure a strategic location to go after Venezuela. Guyana is quite capable of sorting out its border issues through the legal channels at its disposal. They don’t need to literally destroy Venezuela to do it. Then there’s Exxon and those oil disputes. Who do you think America will support? Based on facts that we’ve witnessed on a global scale, Guyanese should know how destructive America can be when they have their sights set on countries that have what they need.

  • Dennis Albert  On 10/03/2020 at 11:25 am

    I’ve read that flame war thread on Venezuelan refugees, and several people were complaining that mixed race Guyanese who lived abroad, but returned for a vacation or for remigrating were treated inhospitably by the same PPP supporters who claim that they are for democracy and respecting the Diaspora who comprise mainly of mixed race and Afro-Guyanese.
    The PPP has no issue with a Roger Khan coming to remigrate and setting up a drugs empire though.

    • Sher Singh  On 11/05/2020 at 2:36 am

      I agree with the comment above about America just trying to secure a way to get to Venezuela. Don’t trust Pompeo. He and Trump are just crooks trying to use Guyana. America has no respect -Trump would describe Guyana the way he described Haiti. Half of the US objects to fairness and equality for all – they are proving it their elections. All of this led and fed by their cult leader Trump and minions like Pompeo!

  • Jo  On 10/03/2020 at 1:03 pm

    Liked Yvonne-K’s remarks. The US is no example to the world on anything..certainly not human rights, voting rights, equality. “Free and fair elections?” Are you joking? It only mouths those shibboleths but there are for those who are white and male. And if there’s trafficking in “arms and narcotics” ..guess where that started? It’s a country that believes that guns settle issues and it devotes a good part of its foreign policy to the sale of arms..setting an example for other countries to do the same. Further, the 1% take most of the wealth and the laws are set up for this highway robbery to go on daily. Pompeo who lacks integrity and ignores the behaviour of Trump, takes time to visit a nonentity of a country like Guyana only to place us in the line of resistance against Venezuela and socialism and shore up his friends at Exxon. The USA will only be happy if business i.e. the top 10% own most everything and those at the bottom get nothing. He represents a clown who regards Africa has consisting of “shit hole” countries. Has Pompeo gone to Africa to support anything there? Give me a break. Don’t drink the kool-aid.

    • Dennis Albert  On 10/03/2020 at 2:08 pm

      Dhanpaul Narine has to give a big up to those who back him financially whether directly or indirectly, which is the US government and the Department of State of the USA.
      Venezuela is a thorn, yet Hugo Chavez gave free oil and provided a market for the rice farmers when we didn’t have oil. The PPP supporters are not going to expect the GDF and GPF to do America’s bidding and create havoc in Venezuela. The PPP supporters who high and mighty should walk with dem cutlass to the Sindicato controlled territories near the border and show dem democracy! (sarcastic)

  • Clyde Duncan  On 10/03/2020 at 4:21 pm

    Elections in Guyana are a time of national calamity. Can the United States assist with reforms?

    Mr. Pompeo promised to stand with Guyana and to help with electoral reforms, citing America’s strong tradition for holding transparent elections, and the quick declaration of results.

    Doc Narine: You could have easily omitted the above question and save yourself. The United States of America cannot conduct proper elections in their own home land ….. in 2020!

    If you ask me: Guyana is only following the example the USA set.

  • dhanpaul narine  On 10/04/2020 at 1:43 am

    There is a lot to unpack here and I shall be brief. But first, I thank the indomitable Cyril Byran for publishing this article. Guyana might be capable, but it cannot sort out the border problem by itself. It needs US support, together with Britain, and other like-minded countries. When a country is weak and its neighbor is ten times stronger it is in the interest of the weak country to seek the help of the strongest country around, especially if the stronger and the strongest do not get along. It is called diplomacy. I have traveled in Venezuela and spoken to a cross-section of people there and almost all Venezuelans believe that the Essequibo is theirs. Why? Because it’s in the school books and children learn this from an early age. Do Guyanese children learn in their reading books that all of Guyana is theirs? So, when Chavez and Maduro provided Guyana with markets for rice and they gave fuel, they were sending the message that they were helping people in the Essequibo, that belonged to Venezuela.
    Jo says, ‘The US is no example to the world on anything..’ That can’t be true. For one thing, it is Guyana’s biggest trading partner for many years. But apart from this, if you want to find advances in science, technology, the arts, education etc, they are all in the US. Don’t judge the US by its politicians. It is still the greatest country in the world. And yes, there are problems with arms, guns, crimes, race relations, and so on, but that not detract from its greatness and its democratic tradition. If you have doubts, try going to China and google the word ‘democracy.’
    Can the US help Guyana with electoral reforms? The answer is yes. The elections in Trinidad and Suriname were declared within days and you know the debacle in Guyana. We can debate this for a long time but the Guyana situation must never be allowed to happen again.
    Does the US hold transparent elections? The answer is that in the majority of cases the elections are transparent. There are times when there are problems but the independent media picks up on them and exposes them for the world to see.
    Finally, Dennis says that I have to give a big-up to those who back me, ‘financially, whether directly or indirectly, which is the US Government and the Department of State of the USA.’
    You make me more important than I am. This church rat is trying to keep his head above water! Thanks for your comments. Please keep them coming.

    • Dennis Albert  On 10/04/2020 at 2:32 pm

      So you’re not a PPP mouthpiece who is urging the GDF to start a war with Venezuela?
      Check the FB comments on the APNU and Mark Benschop pages. Many PPP supporters want to start war with Venezuela.

  • dhanpaul narine  On 10/04/2020 at 4:41 pm

    I am my own mouthpiece. The GDF starting a war with Venezuela? You can’t be serious. Please do some homework on Eteringbang in 1970.

    • Dennis Albert  On 10/05/2020 at 12:39 am

      I went there a few years ago. It’s now a Spanish outpost and nuff nice gyal coming in to get paid at the clubs.

      Check the comments that are from the PPP supporters on the various media comments and FB pages. They are acting with hubris and they think that they can win a provoked war with Caracas.

      • Winston  On 10/05/2020 at 9:15 am

        Maybe they’re counting on U.S. support as I don’t see the GDF as a force to be reckoned with.

      • Dennis Albert  On 10/05/2020 at 8:25 pm

        They have been fooled into thinking that the whiteman is on their side. Useful as pawns. Trump will get richer when the US army takes Venezuela’s and our oil.

  • brandli62  On 10/13/2020 at 6:26 am

    “The United States has pledged to help Guyana in its Covid-19 response, to help build the economy and to protect the territorial integrity of Guyana.”

    From my perspective, the statement that the US has pledged to protect the territorial integrity of Guyana, if true, is the most important outcome of Secretary Pompeo’s visit to Georgetown. Will the US be ready to sign a treaty with the Guyanese government to fix this point in stone?

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