Last Updated on Saturday, 18 November 2023, 19:59 by Writer
President Irfaan Ali on Saturday hinted that Guyana has received commitments from its “strategic partners” to respond to any military aggression from Venezuela after the December 3 referendum that seeks to annex the 160,000 square kilometre county of Essequibo.
Asked whether Guyana would be seeking military support from the United States (US) or its other strategic partners in countering any Venezuelan military aggression against Guyana, he said Guyana has been in contact with a number of them and has been assured that assistance would be provided if necessary.
“We believe that Venezuela would not act in a reckless way. However, if they do act in a reckless way, we have already, as I said before, engaged our strategic partners,” he said. The President, who is also Commander-in-Chief, pegged his confidence on the fact that the Chief-of-Staff of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), Brigadier Omar Khan and his senior command officers were continuously engaged with partners across the region and outside of the Caribbean.
“We are assured that Guyana’s territorial integrity and sovereignty will not see our development partners, standing aside and allowing anyone to take advantage of us,” he said.
The President said that Guyana’s strategic partners included a number of members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), only opting to say that “I would not want to specify which partner said what will do what or to elaborate on the type of engagement.” “You would all appreciate that we have to respect the type of relationship that is being developed and the type of commitment that is being pursued,” he added.
Dr Ali said Guyana was committed to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) process and hoped that Venezuela would abide by any provisional measures concerning the December 3 referendum. Venezuela earlier this week told the court that next month’s vote would go ahead.
In addition to assurances from the country’s strategic partners, the Guyanese leader said government was strengthening Guyana’s capability “because we have a responsibility to do so.”
The President also signaled that foreign military help would include the protection of offshore oil operations in the Stabroek Block where ExxonMobil is producing oil from three of its more 20 discoveries. “I will not elaborate on strategy and the depth or fullness of what constitutes that support. But what I will say to you is that I’m confident that our partners will be alongside us should Venezuela opt wrongly to act recklessly,” he said.
Government also plans to intensify its public awareness and education strategy to reach to border communities, as part of a multi-faceted approach. “Every possibility is being analysed and strategically looked at,” he said. He said Guyana has been using a “robust” intelligence gathering system to ascertain whether military or security personnel from Venezuela were entering Guyana. The President and Police Commissioner Clifton Hicken said “someone of interest” was held for questioning after he was found with a radio communication device that seemed to have been connected to a community policing group in Venezuela.
Venezuela has deployed large numbers of military personnel along its border with Guyana and the construction of a landing strip, prompting Prime Minister Retired Brigadier Mark Phillips to formally raise that development at the Permanent Council of the Organisation of American States (OAS).