Last Updated on Monday, 28 August 2023, 17:31 by Denis Chabrol
President Irfaan Ali and Opposition Leader Aubrey Norton are concerned that Venezuelan state security personnel might be infiltrating Guyana under the guise of being migrants fleeing harsh economic and political conditions in their homeland.
Mr Norton, at the weekend, told supporters of his People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) in Maryland, United States (US) that he was unsure that government was making every effort to ensure Venezuelan agents were not entering the country claiming they were seeking refuge. “We have a territorial controversy with Venezuela. I don’t know that the government does any screening whatsoever so we can very well be bringing agents into our country,” he said.
There are more than 30,000 Venezuelans in Guyana, according to HIAS Guyana, an Israel-headquartered non-governmental organisation that works with refugees globally.
Dr Ali indicated that that concern had been raised with the United Nations International Organisation for Migration (IOM), in light of obligations that require an open approach. At the same time, he sought to assure that there was no reason for Guyanese to be worried. “I want to assure you that, while we are fulfilling our international obligations that those realities are very, very uppermost in terms of our priority and there is a mechanism that we are working on information and ensuring that our borders remain secure and that our national integrity is not infiltrated in any way, shape or form,” he said.
While acknowledging that there were certain realities that the Guyana government was conscious about, he said Venezuelan migrants were not being screened to ascertain whether they are foreign, military or intelligence agents. “I won’t say that people are being screened but wjat I would say is that we have an active information platform, as any other country. We have to analyse internal threats, we have to analyse external threats and that analysis is ongoing…and I believe we have enough information at our disposal to say that we are comfortable,” Dr Ali told Demerara Waves Online News.
The PNCR and Opposition Leader feared that government was facilitating the settlement of Venezuelans by the constructing dwellings for them because the motive was to secure votes. “I think the government concern is that they are trying to get people to vote for them and that is the one we have to monitor and work assiduously on because there is no holds barred for Jagdeo. He does anything for power and so we have to keep an eye on that,” he said.
The opposition A Partnership for National Unity+Alliance For Change (APNU+AFC) had in the National Assembly expressed concern that the People’s Progressive Party Civic administration was laying the groundwork for electoral malpractices by registering Venezuelans as Guyanese that would make them eligible to vote here.