Venezuela Border Controversy: No “sinister plan” between Guyana, US to fuel aggression

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
President Dr Irfaan Ali and US Ambassador Nicole Theriot

President Dr Irfaan Ali has dispelled assertions that the strong bond existing between Guyana and the United States, especially in the area of security, is to fuel aggression against anyone. He said it is rather aimed at maintaining peace and security within the region.

Speaking at a reception held on Thursday evening in Georgetown to celebrate the US’ 248th Independence Anniversary, the Guyana Head of State made it clear that the current military cooperation between Guyana and the US is rooted in ensuring peace and stability is maintained in South America and the Caribbean.

“We have no apologies for the strong bond and relationship that we have with SOUTHCOM (US Southern Command), because we believe that we share common values and we share the same interests in ensuring that this zone remains in a zone of peace, and this zone and our sovereign right is protected,” he stated.

President Ali’s remarks come on the heels of heightened tensions between Guyana and Venezuela over the ongoing border controversy, wherein the Spanish-speaking nation is laying claim to more than two-thirds of Guyana’s territory, and a portion of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in which almost 11 billion barrels of oil have been discovered over the past nine years, and wherein oil production activities are being carried by US oil giant ExxonMobil.

In fact, there have been several reports in recent months of Venezuela increasing its mobilisation of troops at the border with Guyana, and this is a development that has sparked unease not just among Guyanese, but in the region as well.

The Nicolas Maduro regime has also accused Guyana of being a puppet of the US, and further, has criticised the growing Guyana-US military partnership as an aggression against Caracas. As recently as in April, the Venezuelan President alleged that the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Southern Command are establishing secret military bases in Guyana – something that has been refuted by both the Guyanese and US authorities.

While security cooperation between Guyana and the US continues to be strengthened, President Ali on Thursday declared that this is in no way an aggression to anyone.

“I want to make it very clear, because the propaganda can be different: there is no conversation between the US and Guyana in our security architecture that seeks to fuel any act of aggression or anything in this region. Every single conversation in this relationship is about keeping this region safe and peaceful, and keeping the people of this region in an environment in which they enjoy the rule of law. So this propaganda of a sinister plan between Guyana and the US has no place anywhere. There is no sinister plan; the only sinister plan is to ensure peace remains in this region, and we are not going to deviate from that plan,” the Guyanese Leader stressed.

Meanwhile, US Ambassador Nicole Theriot has renewed her country’s longstanding support for Guyana in the defence of its sovereignty and territorial integrity.

“We keep our friends close. In the face of bullies and tyrants, the United States will always stand with Guyana. We will continue to grow and prosper together, and enjoy peace and security in this critically important region,” the US diplomat has asserted. According to Ambassador Theriot, the military partnership between the two countries is the strongest it has ever been.

“Our law enforcement partnership is stronger than ever,” the US diplomat noted.Guyana has so far hosted Tradewinds, which brings over 1,000 personnel from partner nations for exercises aimed at promoting regional stability. There have also been countless military-to-military engagements, and the US has allocated significant foreign military financing to support the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) Coast Guard under the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI).

The US has also worked with the local army on institutional strengthening, air domain awareness, cyber defence, and in many other areas.

This partnership has also been further solidified through cooperation with the Guyana Police Force, which had supported US law enforcement to apprehend five fugitives last year.

Additionally, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) team has worked with the local Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU) and other agencies of the Guyana Government to seize thousands of kilogrammes of illegal drugs.Recently, there has been increased collaboration between the two countries, as evidenced by several high-level visits from senior security officials of the US to Guyana. In addition to engagements at the Government-to-Government level, cooperation has been strengthened between the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) and the US Army, with several exchange programmes being undertaken for training and knowledge-sharing exercises.

President Ali on Thursday further lauded the work between the two sides, especially by the respective intelligence agencies in tackling issues such as transnational crime.

“There has never been a time in the history of our relationship that we have had this level of integration, this level of trust, this level of sharing, and this level of common platform through which our security architecture is operating and integrating itself,” he noted.According to the Guyanese Leader, the success of this enhanced cooperation is evident in the training programmes and information-sharing platform, among other things, between the two nations.

“This has brought tangible results in every aspect of our security architecture. Whether it’s our fight against illicit drugs, whether it’s our fight against money laundering, whether it’s the fight against criminal activities, movement of arms, we are seeing tangible results as a result of the work we are doing together,” the President said.

“And we’re looking forward for this relationship to be expanded. We’re looking forward for us to integrate in a greater way…The help that you’re giving us and the support that you’re giving us in acquiring greater assets and having greater assets to support our security architecture is also critical. The transfer of technology and use of technology, especially for a small population like ours, [wherein] our security architecture requires the use of technology to aid us and help us, and we are having tremendous collaboration on this front also,” the Head of State noted.