For decades, neighboring Venezuela has laid claim to almost two thirds of Guyana’s land space, threatening to take the mineral-rich area by force all because it believes that a colonial era boundaries commission had cheated it out of the large swath of territory back in 1899.
On more than one occasion since the 1960s, soldiers from both sides were alerted and prepared for possible action as tensions rose largely because successive Venezuelan governments have taught locals to believe that Guyana’s Essequibo Region belongs to the huge, oil and gas-rich South American nation. And depending on who is in power and which ideology a Guyanese government embraces at a particular time, the US would quietly and covertly rachet up the border issue, providing major diplomatic and other headaches for authorities.
Buy as Guyana struggles to cope with what officials say are more 50,000 mostly Venezuelan economic migrants, government says it is sure that Caracas is sending in dozens of secret agents to gather intelligence on Guyana under the guise of being poor and needy migrants.
National Security Adviser Gerald Gouveia told a recent forum that authorities are uncomfortable with the situation as the border issue remains a key aspect of relations with Venezuela.
‘You could understand the security dilemma we face that in the migrants could be embedded Venezuelan agents and so this is not something that we don’t appreciate, that we are looking at as well as we open our arms with compassion and with humanity. They are creating enormous problems for Guyana. A lot of non-state actors, for example, on our western border that are terrorising our business people, challenging our security force–whether it is orchestrated or not,” said the retired air force pilot.
Several retired army officers have written social media commentary on this very issue, warning authorities not to believe that the growing number of Venezuelans coming across various western border points each day are indeed genuine migrants, in need of help to settle while Venezuela recovers for more than a decade of economic hardship, thanks in part to runaway corruption and crippling economic sanctions imposed by American administrations.
Thousands have also headed to Trinidad — separated from Venezuela by the seven-mile Gulf of Paria straits — as the two CARICOM countries battle to give Venezuelan migrants a new life.
Gouveia says that Venezuelan “non-state actors” are not only exploiting Guyanese hospitality but are also engaging in illegal activities on the border and nearby communities. This is even as he contends that Venezuelan navy vessels and warplanes have “engaged in a lot of incursions and are entering our airspace” and marine economic zone.”
Tired of being bullied by its more powerful neighbor and frustrated that investors have stayed away from the so-called disputed area over the decades, Guyana has taken the issue to the World Court in The Netherlands for settlement even as Venezuelan has objected to this, suggesting bilateral talks are a better means of settling the row.