The Venezuela-based Syndicato gang has a long history of attacks on Guyanese in border locations. And according to Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Chief of Staff, Brigadier General Godfrey Bess, the gang remains a threat owing to the breakdown in law and order in the neighbouring country.
Chief of Staff Bess was at the time addressing the media following the signing of an agreement at State House on Tuesday. According to Bess, the Syndicato gang remains very much a threat to Guyana’s border security.
“The Syndicato threat, it’s still there, because we all are aware of the situation in Venezuela where the country, it’s poorly led and their economic and social issues that force non-State actors to survive,” Bess said.
He noted that Guyana’s proximity to Venezuela meant that non-State actors such as the Syndicato gang persisted as a threat. However, he assured that it was a threat that the GDF continued to address.
“Because of our border with Venezuela, we definitely are affected by that, but I must say that we, the Guyana Defence Force, we are ever vigilant and we continue to work to ensure that the citizens of Guyana are safe,” the Chief of Staff added.
Only in September of 2020, a joint patrol comprising ranks from the GDF and the Guyana Police Force (GPF) came under fire by members of the notorious gang while they were conducting a routine joint patrol in the Cuyuni River, Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni).
It was reported that the gang had been terrorising persons on both sides of the border, including miners, demanding payment for safe passage.
The Joint Services ranks had returned fire. None of the ranks had been injured.
Owing to the increase in attacks on Guyanese, especially gold miners, by the Syndicato gang over the past few years, the Police had increased their presence in several areas along the Cuyuni River.
And it paid off, because in 2019, Police ranks nabbed five persons in boats travelling along the Cuyuni River and unearthed grenades, several weapons and narcotics. Among the men were Syndicato gang members.
In October 2020, four Venezuelan nationals who were suspected to be members of the gang were arrested in Port Kaituma, Region One (Barima-Waini). The GPF, in a statement, said the Venezuelans claimed to be miners in Venezuela.
The Force said the foreign nationals were arrested for failing to present themselves to immigration officers upon entry to this country while the Guyanese were arrested for aiding and abetting them to illegally enter Guyana. Two All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) along with $100,000 and a quantity of raw gold were confiscated.
In addition, back in 2019, a man suspected to be a member of the Syndicato gang was killed after security officers held off an attack that lasted for over an hour and a half at a mining camp at Black Water, Cuyuni, Region Seven.
In 2018, the Syndicato gang struck horror in the hearts of many when a video emerged of the gang beheading a young Guyanese man in Venezuela. At the time, the matter reached the level of the National Security Committee.
The GDF’s admission that the Syndicato gang remains a threat comes in the wake of heightened tension over a decree issued by embattled Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, unilaterally purporting to lay claim to Guyana’s territory.
This decree has been condemned by President Dr Irfaan Ali; Opposition Leader Joseph Harmon; the United States; the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the Caribbean Community (Caricom). (G3)