I publicly add my voice because, since early September, I had shared information with certain persons about the following actions Venezuela allegedly plans to execute:
(1) To increase 10-fold its military presence along the border and nearby communities in Venezuela.
(2) To upgrade airstrips in areas close to our borders with Venezuela.
(3) Plans to have military personnel dressed as civilians cross the border, capture Guyanese military and/or Police, and take them back to Venezuela, where they will be forced to read statements condemning Guyana for wrongful occupation of land and maritime space “belonging to Venezuela”.
This action would be condemned by the Venezuelan Government, and blamed on Venezuelan gangs over which it would claim it has no control; but the damage would have already been done.
(4) Pay willing Guyanese residents of Essequibo and the North West District to make public statements in support of Venezuela’s claim.
(5) Acquire Guyanese military and Police uniforms to distribute to Guyanese and others willing to wear these uniforms in Venezuela as a fake attempt at deceiving public opinion that these are defectors from Guyana’s military and law enforcement agencies.
At the time of my sharing this information, there was no public announcement about the December 3 referendum, and my sources did not make mention of any pending referendum.
Given Venezuela’s current extraordinarily aggressive approach on all fronts, what should be Guyana’s response? I recommend the following:
(1) Guyana should immediately formally bring to the UN Security Council’s attention the series of recent actions of the part of Venezuela. Guyana has every right to so do, since much of Venezuela’s threats and actions are not in keeping with the UN Secretary General’s decision to use the mechanism of the ICJ to determine a final and lasting solution to the controversy over the 1899 Arbitral Award.
(2) Guyana should immediately enter in discussions with the US, Brazil, Canada, Britain, South Africa, India, and of course Caricom, about mounting a joint Multinational Military Humanitarian Mission to help guard against any action that may provoke a confrontation, including observation of how Guyana treats the Venezuelan economic migrants crossing the border. Once agreement is reached in principle, the auspices of the UN could be sought to make it a UN Mission, to include UN funding of the Mission that would not require more than 600 troops.
I have been advancing this idea among friends and colleagues, some of whom remind me that there is no precedent for such a Mission. I remind them that for every action for which there is a precedent, there was a first time. And, of course, there were such missions in Haiti, for a situation that was mostly domestic and did not pose as dangerous a threat to hemispheric stability and security as the Venezuelan threat.
(3) Guyana should intensify and implement a more strategic public relations campaign at home and abroad. It should go beyond bumper stickers and utilise public diplomacy as well as state-of-the-art technology.
(4) Government should engage political and other relevant stakeholders on all issues that affect them, and seek to find solutions to legitimate concerns, including making appointments of Town Clerks without allegedly following the prescribed procedure under the law.
(5) Guyanese must refrain from pointing fingers at current and past leaders, such as alleging that Burnham sold out to the CIA in agreeing to the Geneva Agreement (utter foolishness) and Jagdeo is inclined to make a deal with Venezuela to give them part of Essequibo (no credible evidence of this).
Editor, those who feel Maduro is bluffing should rethink their position. This is a real threat, and I urge all Guyanese, including the Government, to take this threat more seriously than it is apparently being taken. Let us use all the expertise, experience, contacts and other resources at our disposal to confront Maduro.
Way back in 2016, at a forum I arranged in Florida, at which Carl Greenidge was the featured speaker, former Grenada Ambassador to Venezuela, Matthew William, said Maduro would never eschew using force in pursuit of the Venezuelan claim. His comments received much publicity, which led Maduro to allege that Greenidge had attacked Venezuela at that forum, when in fact Greenidge had tried to play down the analysis offered by Ambassador William. Maduro delayed granting agreement to have Cheryl Miles accredited as Guyana’s Ambassador to Venezuela.
As I always say when I am asked by media in the US about this controversy, “This Venezuelan claim is based on a jumbie story.” I am told that the reference to jumbie really irks the Venezuelans.