Sulfurous Fumes Detected over Guyana: Latin America’s Ominous New Geopolitical Scene Involving Georgetown, Washington and Caracas

To Our Readers

This is the first in a short series that COHA will be publishing on the subject of U.S. relations with Guyana as well as U.S. presence in Latin America

With much of Latin America demonstrating a decisively distinct air of autonomous behavior when it comes to responding to U.S. regional policy initiatives, Guyana appears to want to emphasize that it should not be counted in their number. A high-level security conference between the U.S. and Guyana was kicked off on Tuesday December 11, just after the recent revival of a long simmering territorial dispute between Guyana and the Bush Administration’s arch nemesis, Venezuela. The conference was organized by the Guyana Defense Force and the U.S. Embassy’s Military Liaison Office, and is being held against a backdrop of heightened tension between Venezuela and Guyana over the November 15 incident in which the Guyanese government claims that Venezuelan soldiers used explosives and helicopters to destroy two dredges along the Cuyuni River. The Venezuelan government maintains that it was doing nothing more than expelling illegal miners from Venezuelan territory.

This incident comes at a time when Venezuela may be signaling that it isn’t prepared to let the Essequibo territorial dispute be settled unilaterally as a result of Guyana emitting a claim of sovereignty based on granting licenses to foreign companies wanting to do business there. The sequence of events in the past few months, ending up with the destruction of the extractive equipment on the Cuyuni, is not likely a coincidence. The U.S., Venezuela, and Guyana have been engaging in almost unfathomable triangular interchanges for quite some time now, and they may be about to expand, with a little bit of good or bad luck.

In a related matter, on December 12, the U.S. was the center of the latest development in the scandal that had arisen weeks before when Guido Antonini Wilson was detained in Buenos Aires with $800,000 of undeclared cash stuffed into his luggage. The intended destination of the money was widely speculated upon and seemed to involve the corruption of several officials in the soon-to-be functioning administration of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s husband’s out going government. However, U.S. prosecutors now claim that four suspects detained in Miami on December 12 have provided information that supports the argument that the money was intended as an illegal campaign donation from President Hugo Chávez to Mrs. Kirchner, which, if true, could be enormously embarrassing to the new leader as well, of course, to Chávez, and could provide the U.S. with leverage over her while at the same time tarnish Chávez for purportedly trying to buy influence by means of his petro dollars.

The U.S.-Guyanese conference also comes at a time when, like elsewhere in the hemisphere, street crime in Guyana is markedly rising, specifically the type of which is associated with the peddling of illegal narcotics. In his opening remarks at the security conference, U.S. ambassador to Guyana, David Robinson, reportedly praised the strong U.S.-Guyanese military relationship over the years. He also counted Guyana among those hemispheric countries fortunate enough to be receiving augmented U.S. military training. He also cited Argentina, Colombia, El Salvador and Guatemala as being on the list.

It seems that the U.S. is in fact taking on a more assertive stance against the rising pink tide countries in a traditionally forgotten corner of South America. It will also be of interest to know what card Brazil will play in reaction to these developments, given that it will be the regional power most affected by Washington’s trifling with Guyana and the possibility that this could lead to a regional U.S. base in Guyana in which U.S. forces will be quartered. Such a facility might be aimed at replacing those forces now in Manta, Ecuador, once the lease expires for the base in 2009.

One thought on “Sulfurous Fumes Detected over Guyana: Latin America’s Ominous New Geopolitical Scene Involving Georgetown, Washington and Caracas

  • December 17, 2007 at 11:20 am
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    Dear [Ms.] James,

    I have just read your article entitled “Sulfurous Fumes Detected over Guyana: Latin America Ominous New Political Scene Involving Georgetown, Washington and Caracas” with considerable interest both because I live in Guyana and because I have been a Guyanese Diplomat for the better part of 30 years.

    I am intrigued by the fact that you seem to have reached the conclusion that Guyana is opposed to the anti-Washington axis being forged by Venezuela and other like-minded states in the Latin American region and may be part of a Foreign Policy decision by the United States to counter this growing threat to its perceived interests. You even say that an American base might be established here.

    I will tell you why I am intrigued. The PPP in its last Congress Declaration indicated in no uncertain terms that it supports Mr. Chavez’s “revolution.” You should recall also that the Venezuelan President’s visit here was almost a love-fest. Moreover, after the November 15th incident on the Cuyuni, when the PPP clearly had the right of International law on its side, it showed a marked reluctance to robustly oppose Caracas’s violation of our territory. Nothing, it seems, will be allowed to disturb the PPP’s belief that it has good relations with Caracas.

    On the other hand it is a well known fact that influential circles within the PPP are very anti-American and that is why no agreement can or could be reached on the establishment of a DEA Office in Guyana. Add to this the ambivalent nature of the US/Guyana relationship with respect to drugs and one would have to conclude that any close relationship with the US under this administration is at best problematical, even if military exchanges have expanded.

    Reply

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