President Nicolas Maduro and Venezuela now understand that Guyana cannot be bullied. We are a small and peaceful country, never threatening our neighbours, and always cherishing the fact that we live in a zone of peace. But as Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo reiterated last weekend, President Maduro should not mistake our love for peace and our commitment to a continental destiny to miscalculate and think we are weak. Our President has, on numerous occasions, emphasised that Guyana is not seeking a war with anyone. At the same time, in the face of open and reckless warmongering from President Maduro and his army generals, Guyana is not going to leave itself at the mercy of those who openly threaten annexation of our territory.
President Maduro has foisted a referendum on his people, asking them to agree to the annexation of two-thirds of Guyana’s territory. He has done so knowing full well that, in accordance with the 1966 agreement with then Prime Minister Burnham and the exhaustion of the UN Good Officer mechanism for dialogue, Guyana has approached the International Court of Justice to determine the legality of Venezuela wanting to use a hearsay document from someone who died in 1949, and who alleges some wrongdoing among those who determined the Guyana-Venezuela border, to reopen the discussion on the border.
Guyana has maintained there is already a legally binding determination of our borders, which came into effect in 1899. In view of the fact that the ICJ is dealing with the matter, while Venezuela has a right to call any kind of referendum, it is breaching the rule of law by asking the people to make a judgement that an international court already has as its mandate. In effect, the referendum is to refute the legitimacy of the ICJ. This is what dictators do.
President Maduro and his government have used the fact that Guyana’s President, Vice President and Cabinet have been present among our people to reassure them they are safe, and the presence of the President and his cabinet among our soldiers, as a testimony of our preparing for war with Venezuela. This allegation is sheer hutzpah and arrogance. Maduro has openly threatened us, and expects us to smile and leave our borders and our people defenceless. It will not happen. We will not be bullied. It would be sheer recklessness for Guyana to ignore Venezuela’s threat. While we might think that Venezuela is just flexing muscles like any bully, but would not carry through with its plan, Guyana is also aware that we are dealing with a madman and a dictator, who is looking for any way to prevent a free and fair election in 2024. Any such election in Venezuela would end up with a total rejection of Maduro and his clique.
While he has rigged elections in the past, and has every intention of rigging both the referendum on December 3, 2023 and the elections which are due in 2024, he is aware that the world, led by the US, will not make it easy for him to rig the general elections in 2024. Already, he has set the stage by banning the person the Opposition has overwhelmingly nominated as their presidential candidate for the 2024 elections. In an acknowledgement that rigging will be no easy task for him in 2024, he is in desperation mode. The referendum, therefore, is nothing more than a political ploy to distract his people.
Some misguided persons have been clamouring that we should simply ignore Maduro, given that we all understand this is a political ploy. But we are also dealing with a madman and a desperate dictator. Look at what President Putin is doing in Russia. To distract his people from the economic woes of Russia, Putin entered into a useless war with Ukraine. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost on both sides, and billions of dollars of destruction have occurred. Look at the Israel-Palestinian War. While Hamas terrorism on October 7 was a horrendous crime, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s declaration of war and his response calling for the total annihilation of Gaza and the annexation of Gaza have been driven mostly by the Prime Minister’s desperation to stay in power, thinking that the disproportionate response would enable him to win back the support of the Jewish people.
These are the kinds of reckless behaviours that political dictators resort to when their backs are against the wall. President Trump wanted to seize the voting machines in the USA when it became apparent that he had lost the elections. The PNC under David Granger tried to change the election results in plain sight of the world when it became apparent that they lost the elections. Madmen and dictators, when desperate, will resort to madness. Venezuela actually entering Guyana with soldiers, while highly unlikely, is not out of the question, because Maduro is a madman and a desperate dictator.
Guyana does not want war. Guyana is hopeful that some sanity exists among Maduro’s advisors. We are confident that Maduro has seen the solidarity of the regional forces and the whole international community behind Guyana. We are hopeful that Venezuela realizes how lonely it is at present, with none of the handful of countries who had provided solidarity in the past with them having supported them in their warmongering with Guyana.
But Guyana is itself not a reckless country. We will not be unprepared. We will stand in total unity in our country, and we will defend our country, no matter what it takes. We are confident that in the face of war threats from Venezuela, our allies are ready to back us up. Guyana is ours, and we will not give up a blade of grass.