By GHK Lall
There was this sharp intensity of hard passions, as I absorbed two news developments from late last week. In view of the harsh, unforgiving tones and postures anyone could easily have mistaken the news reports as being about Guyana and its ugly political squabbles. In those two instances, they were not. For it was about powerful Venezuelan political figures, locked in their life-and-death struggles, confronting each other. What should gravely concern all Guyanese is that those deep-seated confrontations are about Guyana.
It has been a while since I have written anything about the Venezuelan factor in Guyana’s oil discoveries or related internal political clashes over them. The endless local disputes have been about percentages, comparisons to other places, and the associated litany of giveaways. I say no more (and no differently) than what I had shared before: it is low and cheap; it is the best that could have been achieved. This is reiterated by the once again surging sinister Venezuelan component. I stand inflexibly by those positions, as I did years ago, and in recent months.
Last week, this nation was reminded, compliments of early Demerara Waves releases, in the most jarring terms, of that Venezuelan presence and posture, as to how Guyana and its land and oil wealth feature in Venezuelan thinking and Venezuelan visions. From what I always understood those visions are nonnegotiable. Fanatical is the more appropriate word. Unfortunately, that neighborly fanaticism, over a lot of land and a whole lot of oil is directed at Guyana. That means us, as in me and you. And this is regardless of where any of us stand relative to the so-called ExxonMobil giveaway.
The anger and virulence in Venezuela are real; so real as to be palpable all the way over here. Both are so real and piercing and driving that no lesser a (potential) leadership figure than Juan Guaidó is faced with a charge of high treason; high treason sounds like a death penalty situation. That is how agitated and committed and unrelenting Venezuelans are about Guyanese territory and Guyanese resource bounties.
What is Senor Guaidó’s crime? This treachery of the gravest sort of which he now stands accused? The media inform us that this national figure was alleged to be willing to relinquish the land and oil. For emphasis: willingness to relinquish the long-standing claims amounts to blasphemy against sacred Venezuelan beliefs, heresy to voice such a readiness, and the ultimate national betrayal. Throughout history, people have lost their heads over less than this; they are those, standing in opposition, who are enraged enough to help with the involuntary parting of such wayward heads.
Tape or no tape about what was said by whom to the Britons over Guyana, Señor Guaidó may not be able to live that one down; or beyond it. And if that could have been the unsparing, unequivocal reaction to the mere mention of Essequibo and the oil and letting go of it by one of their own, then Guyanese need to look at themselves and get real, real quickly. Because any sober reflection should convey the perils involved and what would be the menacing fate of poor, undeveloped, defenseless (somewhat) Guyana should it have the audacity to stand for that land and that oil. Because to stand in the way of Venezuelan visionaries, or to flex muscle, or to wield a single shovel to explore one inch of that land and liquid (by us) is tantamount to high treason, too.
Guyanese who live inside of a vacuum, perfected the great art of mental suppression, or are so limited (purposely) have rendered themselves unable to grasp the whole mineral resources canvas of Guyana and the associated implications. Therefore, only ignorance prevails as to the stark threats, which come with those rich resources. The oil simply raised the stakes and confirmed existential perils. The source of those is in the neighborhood.
As I have articulated repeatedly, this is where ExxonMobil and 2% and America and the rest come into play. Any other way and all Guyana run the risk of being charged with high treason and treated accordingly. I suggest thinking militarily and not otherwise. As an aside, I submit that all those other societies with their more rewarding deals do not have an equivalent set of border circumstances and the dangers that they represent for Guyana.
The huge claim, the overpowering imbalance of power, and the now proven oil reality combine to cut out Guyana’s heart of its claims and its rights. Thus, I reassert that percentage (and the rest) looks like the price of a protection blanket, part of a costly package of aces in the rapacious realm that is of the oil rackets. I challenge anyone to counter that gunboats are going to venture near those mighty capitalist ships. Similarly, I challenge anyone to question if any production could be prohibited from moving out with such a partner at the helm. Guyanese better get some sense. This is what we are paying through the nose today. If not, local citizens could end up like Juan Guaidó. And that’s for harboring thought of ownership and access.
Thus, I have always been publicly scornful of all the wasted energy and time over the nonsense (it is that to me) over elections, while an adversary – an oil fundamentalist, no less – make their own position, visions, and intentions clear. Absolutely clear. The local political foolishness which consumes so many so much should be categorized as high treason here. Because we unsheathe daggers at each other, while bystanders and outsiders make ready a grave for us.
Last, the word from an official and authoritative source is that thousands of Venezuelans are congregated on our Western border. I wish that the peoples and leaders – every one of them – in this country will wake up and appreciate what we have and what interferes with us tasting its fruits.
Mr. GHK Lall is a Guyanese author, columnist and former financial analyst on Wall Street.