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“Very bad move” to support regime change in Venezuela – PNCR’s Aubrey Norton

People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) executive member, Aubrey Norton has described as a “very bad move” by the Guyana government to support regime change in neighbouring Venezuela, and at the same time activating the now 19-year old Shiprider anti-narcotics agreement with the US.

“If you are operating in a context where you are not attempting regime change in Venezuela, it is totally different from if this is done with a nexus to regime change. It changes the nature and complexity of the agreement and I believe it is because they didn’t want to say they are offering United States a cover. They used the Shiprider Agreement which is the gist and has to be seen as dangerous at this point in time because they are talking about regime change in Venezuela,” he said

Mr. Norton reasoned that democracy in the Hemisphere and the  Shiprider Agreement for joint anti-narcotics operations by air and sea are covers for intervention. He cautioned against Guyana being perceived as an ally against Venezuela which has military and other capacities.

“When you talk about joint opinions with the United States, there is a lot of danger. Since you don’t have the military capability and capacity to deal with Venezuela, it would appear tas if you are preparing the conditions for the United States rather than yourself  and in this case, it would not serve us in good stead,” said Mr. Norton who is the Executive Director of the Opposition Leader’s Office.

President Irfaan Ali has already brushed aside suggestions that Guyana would be facing a risk by allowing American military personnel into Guyana’s maritime and air spaces to engage in counternarcotics and interdiction operations as a cover for covert operations against Venezuela. Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Audrey Jardine-Waddell, in brief remarks at the exchange of notes on the Shiprider Agreement, said the rules would require Guyana’s approval. “Operations will not be carried out in Guyana’s waters unless permission is granted by the Government of Guyana. Similarly, overflight requests for law enforcement activities will be granted once the reasonable notice and communication channels are provided to the appropriate Guyanese authorities,” she said.

Mr. Norton said Guyana has always maintained that there should be non-interference in the internal affairs of other States.

“A country like Guyana is a small, vulnerable country and, therefore, it has to pursue its interests and not allow anybody to put them in a position where they are supporting them in their interests that is in conflict with our interests,” said Norton, a former Political Science and International Relations lecturer at the University of Guyana.

Noting that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) is currently considering Guyana’s case on the border controversy with Venezuela, he said it was “not in our interest” to be involved in the internal affairs of that western Spanish-speaking neighbour. Mr. Norton advised that Guyana should rely on the ICJ to uphold its position that the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award that established the land boundary with Venezuela is valid.

He further suggested that the Guyana government should operate based on the original position of “national interest” but at the same time, he suggested that the Irfaan Ali-led administration was essentially repaying the US for its stance on the March 2, 2020 general and regional election results. “The government, having compromised its itself to get in power, placed its hands in the tiger’s mouth and, therefore, there isn’t much they can do. What they need to recognise is that they are placing Guyana and Guyanese at risk and, therefore, the People’s Progressive Party needs to pull back and ensure it continues to pursue the interest of the people of Guyana rather than any power in the Hemisphere,” he said.

At the same time, he said Guyana should welcome the US$5 million assistance for Venezuelan migrants who have been fleeing the harsh economic and social conditions under the Nicolas Maduro administration.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has welcomed Guyana’s endorsement of positions at the Lima Group, Organisation of American States and other fora against the Nicolas Maduro-led administration. President Ali has said Guyana supports free and fair elections and democratic transition as well as the welfare of people.

The US had been among several countries that had called for the use of the 460,352 valid votes from the national recount to be used as the basis for declaring the results of the March 2, 2020 general and regional elections. Norton’s PNCR-led coalition had contended that that the recount had uncovered massive fraud and other irregularities by the People’s Progressive Party.