President Dr Irfaan Ali on Sunday met with two senior security officials of the United States Government who are in Guyana to continue dialogue on a number of areas between the two countries, including regional security.
Principal Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer and the White House National Security Council’s Senior Director for the Western Hemisphere, Juan González travelled to Georgetown on Sunday to continue cooperation with the Guyana Government on issues of mutual interests, including democratic governance, economic stability and regional security, the US Embassy here said on Sunday.
President Dr Irfaan Ali along with senior officials met with the two visiting US officials Principal Deputy National Security Advisor, Jon Finer, and the White House National Security Council’s Senior Director for the Western Hemisphere, Juan González, at State House on Sunday afternoon
The US national security aides met with President Ali on Sunday afternoon at State House in Georgetown.
According to a brief statement on the President’s social media, the discussions focused on areas of mutual interest between Guyana; the Caribbean Community (Caricom) and the United States.
“Issues of democratic governance, economic stability, and regional security, and other pressing hemispheric matters were discussed,” the post detailed.
US Ambassador, Nicole Theriot; Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, Mark Wells and National Security Council Senior Advisor Laura Updegrove were among the US officials present during the meeting.
President Ali was joined by Foreign Secretary Robert Persaud; Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), Brigadier Omar Khan and National Security Advisor, Gerry Gouveia, along with GDF Colonel Sheldon Howell and former Army Chief, Brigadier (Retired) Godfrey Bess.This visit by the two senior security officials comes on the heels of a series of similar engagements between the Governments of Guyana and the United States over the past weeks. In fact, last month, there were two high-level visits of US officials to Guyana.
On January 9, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for the Western Hemisphere at the US Department of Defence, Daniel Erikson, was in Georgetown to meet with President Ali and other officials, including the GDF Chief.
Those discussions were based on areas of mutual interest, including regional security, food security, climate change, information sharing, narcotics monitoring, and disaster risk management.
Days prior, former US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo was also in Guyana and met with President Ali. Pompeo had first visited Guyana in September 2020.
In addition to engagements at the Government-to-Government level, collaborations have been continuing between the GDF and the US Army, with several exchange programmes – the most recent being last month when a team of US Army advisors assigned to First Security Force Assistance Brigade visited Georgetown to facilitate knowledge exchange and leadership training with the Guyanese military.
Moreover, just last week, the US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) Air Force Commander, Major General Evan Pettus was in Guyana on a three-day visit to continue discussions on strengthening the GDF’s air domain awareness and collaborating to advance Guyana’s airspace awareness capacity.
During a media briefing, Major General Pettus was asked about the narrative being peddled by Venezuela that the US is setting up a miliary base in Guyana, which he dismissed.“That’s an interesting rumour. It’s not one that I’m aware has any foundation,” the SOUTHCOM Commander stated.
According to the Air Force Commander, the US military, especially through SOUTHCOM, has had a strong bilateral security partnership with Guyana, dating back several decades, which spans a vast spectrum of areas.Similar sentiments were expressed by the GDF Chief of Staff, who pointed out that Guyana not only has military cooperation with the US, but with other Western nations as well as those within the Region.
Collective regional security
Asked whether the Army is concerned that the GDF’s continued military engagements with various partners could be viewed by Venezuela as aggression, Brigadier Khan contended that these collaborations are geared towards not only ensuring Guyana’s security but the collective security and the stability of the region.
Back in December 2023, the UK sent a Royal Navy patrol vessel to Guyana’s waters as part of a series of engagements in this region – a move which was viewed by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro as a threat to the peace and sovereignty of his country by the UK. He also said the deployment of the British warship to Guyana’s waters violated the spirit of the December 14, 2023 Argyle Agreement between the two South American neighbours signed in St Vincent and the Grenadines and called for the vessel to be withdrawn.
However, President Ali had argued that, “Guyana has long been engaged in partnerships with regional and international States, aimed at enhancing internal security. These partnerships pose a threat to no one, and are in no way intended to be aggressive or constitute an offensive act against any State.”Britain’s Ministry of Defence had said the HMS Trent, a river-class patrol vessel, would take part in joint exercises with Guyana after Christmas.
In response to the deployment of the British naval ship, Maduro ordered “the activation of a joint defensive action of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces” off the coast of Guyana’s Essequibo region, to which the Spanish-speaking nation is laying claim.
Those tensions were eventually calmed following the intervention of St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, in his role as interlocutor between the two nations following the Argyle Declaration.
In that declaration, Guyana and Venezuela agreed, among other things, to not threaten or use force against one another, and to continue dialogue in Brazil.
A first meeting was held on January 25 in Brasilia between the Joint Commission of Foreign Ministers and Technicians of Guyana and Venezuela. Guyana’s delegation was led by Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister Hugh Todd, who described the meeting as a “good start” to creating a better future of good neighbourliness for the next generation.