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Granger wants US to assist in dealing with border claims

President David Granger shakes hands with newly accredited US Ambassador to Guyana, Perry Holloway.

President, David Granger on Friday openly lobbied the United States (US) for support against claims to Guyana’s territory.

“Guyana looks forward to the support of the United States of America in its legitimate quest to protect itself against terrorism, transnational crime and threats to its territorial integrity,” he told American Ambassador Perry Holloway at the presentation of his credentials as the US’ new envoy to Guyana.

His comments came less than one week after Suriname’s President, Desi Bouterse told his country’s National Assembly that plans were afoot to revive that former Dutch colony’s claim to the New River Triangle in south-eastern Guyana.

The President said Guyana was encouraged the US’ continued interest in the security of small Caribbean states and that Washington’s ’s geopolitical role would be fundamental to addressing the many challenges faced by the Caribbean Region. “We wish to urge the USA to use its influence in the hemisphere and on the international stage to reject the use, or threat of the use, of force between states, to promote development and to preserve the Caribbean as a zone of peace,” he added.

Granger wants the US to be part of an “international system” to help secure the small Caribbean states, in the wake of Venezuela’s recent border aggression against his country.

“The majority of states in the Caribbean are small and they have to be protected. We cannot establish fifteen defence forces for fifteen states in the Caribbean. There must be some international system for protecting small states,” he told a news conference.

He mentioned that Guyana is a member of the US-sponsored Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) whose focus is the fight against drug trafficking and money laundering.

The Guyanese leader said the US was unlikely to become more involved in the security of small states because of its foreign policy thrust at the moment. He believed that both the US and Brazil have moral suasion in North America and South America to prevent conflict.

“They have influence and they can exert that influence to modify the behaviour of small states and they have been able to do that in the past… whether they want to deploy that suasion to restrain Venezuela is another matter,” he said.

Though Venezuela’s claim to the Essequibo Region continues to persist for 50 years now, he believed that influence by larger powers in the hemisphere has helped to prevent an invasion.  “It probably suggests that although there has not been a full-scale invasion, that maybe suasion has worked to prevent the claim from degenerating into violence,” said Granger, a retired Brigadier of the Guyana Defence Force (GDF).

Granger has told the United Nations General Assembly that Venezuela’s military–which had recently deployed troops, missiles and gunboat near the Guyana-Venezuela –border — is more than 40 times the size of the GDF.

Meanwhile, despite Venezuela’s ongoing efforts for several decades now to scale up its influence in the Caribbean by establishing diplomatic missions, cultural centres, assistance and more recently the PetroCaribe oil concessionary scheme and the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas; Granger does not believe that solidarity among the 14 independent Caribbean Community (Caricom) member nations has been broken on the Guyana-Venezuela border controversy. “We are not in a trade-off and I don’t believe any of our Caribbean countries are in a trade-off between Guyana and PetroCaribe,” he said.

The President reiterated that he was convinced that under the chairmanship of Barbados’ Prime Minister, Freundel Stuart the region was fully behind the preservation of Guyana’s territorial sovereignty. “I would say, with confidence that the Caribbean States…have always been on our side, they have never let us down and I don’t expect them to let us down,” he said.

After the American oil-giant, Exxon-Mobil, in May announced the discovery of a significant oil deposit offshore Essequibo, Venezuela almost immediately issued a decree annexing all of the Atlantic Sea off that mineral and forest region which it also  claims.

Weary of the failure of the UN Good Officer mediation process to find a resolution over the past 23 years, Guyana wants the land boundary controversy settled by the International Court of Justice through a legal opinion over whether the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award is a full, final and perfect settlement.