TRADE: Brazilians protest, unfair practices at Lethem crossing – Block traffic

Lethem Guyana – Bonfim Brazil

– Uproar is leading to shortage of supplies in Lethem

Sep 17, 2021 – Kaieteur News – Residents of Bonfim – a small town located in Brazil just opposite the Takutu River from Lethem, Guyana – have been protesting over the last two days against what they are calling an unfair practice by the Guyanese authorities at the Lethem/Brazil border crossing. Trucks with supplies bound for Lethem stuck at the road block set up by Brazilian protestors.

They have blocked the main highway leading to the Takutu Bridge, preventing the trucks laden with basic supplies from entering Lethem.

According to the President of the Rupununi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI), Daniel Gajie, their action is leading to the shortage of essential goods in the Region Nine Town.

Trucks with supplies bound for Lethem stuck at the road block set up by Brazilian protestors

His exact words in a Facebook Post he made yesterday were, “Shortage of essential goods looms in the Rupununi, as protestors block the main highway leading to the Takatu Bridge.” Residents and businesses in Lethem depend on goods from neighbouring Brazil because it is much cheaper to transport from there than Georgetown.

In light of the ongoing protest, Gajie noted that Lethem could suffer shortages of basic items, such as cooking gas, chicken, beef, fruits, vegetables and household groceries. He added that there could also be shortages of cement, stone, and other construction materials.

Kaieteur News was told that, the protestors began the protest on Wednesday and continued all day yesterday with their roadblock. As a result, some trucks, loaded with supplies destined for Lethem, have returned to Boa Vista, while others have remained.

Gajie explained to Kaieteur News that the drivers of the trucks that remained decided to “stick around” in the hope that protestors would desist from their actions and they will be able to pass. However, based on other information reaching this media house, the protestors might remain there indefinitely until their demands are met.

The Brazilians are demanding that they be allowed entry to Lethem, just like how Guyanese are being allowed to enter into their country to conduct business.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Guyanese and Brazilian Governments had both agreed to close the Lethem/Brazil Border Crossing. That agreement was made since last year.

Nevertheless, noting that Lethem is heavily dependent on Brazil for supplies, a decision was made for the crossing to be opened at least one day per week to allow the entry of trucks with supplies.

The Brazilians are alleging that they have noted that the authorities at the crossing are allowing Guyanese businessmen and other residents of Lethem to cross over into their country to purchase goods from Boa Vista, or conduct other business.

Yet, when they attempt to do the same by entering Lethem to conduct their business in Guyana, Guyanese authorities would deny them entry and tell them that the border is closed.

he Brazilians further alleged that if they continue to insist on crossing over into Lethem, then the police ranks stationed at the crossing would ask them to pay a bribe.

As a result, the residents of Bonfim decided to protest what they have labelled, as an unfair treatment by Guyanese authorities.

The Brazilians had initially begun protesting on Thursday September 9, but had stopped after the Lethem Mayor, John Macedo, had called a meeting with the Bonfim Municipality seeking a resolution. That meeting was reportedly held on Tuesday. In attendance from the Lethem Municipality were the Mayor, the RCCI President, Gajie and the Regional Democratic Chairman (RDC), Bryan Allicock.

Guyana- Brazil Border map

Gajie recalled that the Bonfim Municipality requested that the crossing be opened three days per week, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and that its citizens be allowed entry into Lethem to transact their business.

The Lethem Mayor had reportedly related to his Brazilian counterpart that, that such a decision is not within his powers, and that he would have to consult with the National COVID-19 Task Force (NCTF) of Guyana before giving them an answer.

An agreement was made for them to meet again on Wednesday with Lethem’s response. Meanwhile, the protestors had threatened that should their demands not be met, then they will again block the highway leading to Lethem.

Kaieteur News learnt that the NCTF had rejected the request made by the Brazilian side, and that this was relayed to the Bonfim authorities during Wednesday’s meeting.

Disappointed that their demands were not met, the protestors followed up on their threat and blocked the road immediately.



Takutu Bridge linking Guyana to Brazil

The Takutu River Bridge, which links the town of Lethem in Guyana with the municipality of Bonfim in Brazil was opened to traffic. Construction of the bridge was a project within the Initiative for the Integration of the Regional Infrastructure of South America (IIRSA); this initiative had been launched in 2000 to promote and facilitate closer ties among the countries of South America.

More than six weeks after vehicles were first allowed to cross the Takutu Bridge, the new structure was officially inaugurated in a ceremony held in Bonfim. Both Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Guyanese President Bharrat Jagdeo attended the event, and they highlighted the economic benefits that the bridge made possible for each country. “This is a dream come true after more than a generation of anticipation,” proclaimed Jagdeo during his remarks.

The Takutu River Bridge is one of just a few junctions in the world in which people behind the wheel must quickly shift from driving on the left side of the road to driving on its right side in order to comply with the law and avoid potential head-on collisions. (In Guyana, people drive on the left side of the road while those traveling through Brazil must drive on the right side; the Takutu River Bridge, as a matter, of fact, marks the only land border in the Americas where vehicular traffic does need to change sides.) At the Takutu River Bridge, this conversion is accomplished not on the structure itself but rather the access road on the Guyanese side.  The road there divides in such a way that the right-hand-lane crosses over the left-hand-lane, making possible a readjustment that enables drivers in each direction to safely change sides.


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