US wants “free, fair, peaceful” 2020 elections — Embassy
…as analyst says Guyana’s security sector hampered by lack of resources
In the wake of a report written by a United States scholar, who is an employee of the State Department, positing that the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) is likely return to power, the United States, through its local embassy in Georgetown, has reiterated that its sole interest is in free, fair and peaceful elections.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the embassy noted that the outcome of the elections scheduled for March 2, 2020, is entirely in the hands of the people of Guyana.
“The outcome of the election is for the people of Guyana to decide. In this regard, the only interest of the United States is in free, fair and peaceful elections on March 2,” the embassy noted.
However, Ellis himself, a research professor and author at the Institute of Strategic Studies of the US Army War College, expressed his belief that the PPP would win the next elections, Dr Ellis made a number of other observations including the fact that Guyana is beset by territorial threats on two of its borders, as well as a troubled hinterland. He also highlighted the fact that lack of resources continues to be a major hindrance.
Ellis made these observations in his publication Journals of America, 3rd edition. Ellis specialises in China and its engagements with non-Western nations.
According to Ellis, Guyana’s borders with Suriname and Venezuela present different challenges. While Suriname claims the New River Triangle — a remote and sparsely populated piece of land in the interior— Venezuela has laid claims to two-thirds of Guyana’s territory.
In his journal, Ellis then went on to speak about the narco-trafficking and the presence of criminal gangs from neighbouring countries within Guyana’s borders. In particular, he cited the Corentyne River delta and the fallout these issues have had on innocent fishermen, including over a dozen fishermen who were murdered last year off the coast of Suriname.
“Under the administration of David Granger, the Government has made tangible, albeit limited steps to respond to the security challenges facing the nation. In general, the Government response has been hampered by a combination of a lack of resources available to the security sector and a deeply entrenched culture of societal corruption,” Dr Ellis noted.
“Guyana’s security challenges are compounded by a domestic political crisis which has not only impeded the Government’s ability to respond but also has the potential to generate significant internal unrest and invite opportunistic challenges to Guyana’s sovereignty by neighbouring Venezuela and Suriname”.
Dr Ellis also noted that a number of unlicensed gold mining occurs in the interior of Guyana, particularly in the Cuyuni and Mazaruni River basins west of Bartica. He observed that these mining operations cause severe environmental damage owing to the toxic chemicals used during the process.
“Such informal mining also attracts a range of illicit activities such as prostitution. Moreover, in the relatively lawless context of remote mining communities, the combination of gold, cash, alcohol and other factors also contributes to high levels of violence and crime among those participating in the mining economy of the area”.
“The desperation and lawlessness in neighbouring Venezuela have led armed criminal groups, loosely referred to as sindicatos, to rob or extort those engaged in such mining, including extracting tolls along the rivers delimiting the Guyana- Venezuela border, and extorting and robbing those in Guyana itself”.
Ellis noted that while the Guyana Constitution specifies the role of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) and other security institutions and there is a nominal document for National Defence Strategy, there is no overall national security policy document. As an example, he pointed to Guyana’s Coast Guard.
“Although Guyana is known as the “land of many rivers” for the number of waterways covering the interior, the Coast Guard has almost no riverine craft to patrol them, save the aforementioned Metal Sharks. In recent years, it has acquired two “mobile bases”, essentially barges with living spaces, command and control, and fuel and supplies for operating smaller boats”.
“One of these has been given to the Coast Guard and deployed on the Waini River near the Venezuelan border, while another has been given to the Police. Neither, however, can maintain a sufficient number of boats available to be effective”.