US-Guyana security cooperation not about aggression – Irfaan Ali

Last Updated on Saturday, 29 June 2024, 13:47 by Writer

President Irfaan Ali on Thursday night said the “extraordinary” security cooperation between the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) and the United States Army’s Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) is not aimed at stoking aggression in the region.

“I want to make it very clear, because the propaganda can be different, there is no conversation between the US and Guyana in our security architecture that seeks to fuel any act of aggression or anything in this region,” he said at a US Embassy reception to mark that country’s 248th Independence anniversary.

In apparent reference to the usual flurry of Tweets on the social media platform, X, by top elected officials of the Venezuelan government, he said that was being used as a yardstick to define the motive of the security cooperation between Guyana and the US. “It’s extraordinary in many ways and if you want to measure the impact of that relationship, you just have to look at some of the tweets and some of the statements from those who surround our sovereign territory and you will see the attribution to this relationship,” he said.

However, the Guyanese leader said Guyana remained unapologetic for the strong bond and relationship between the GDF and SOUTHCOM because of their “common” values and interests in ensuring that the region remains a zone of peace including the preservation of Guyana’s sovereignty. “We have no apologies for the strong bond and relationship that we have with SOUTHCOM because we believe that we share the common values and we share the same interests in ensuring that this zone remains a zone of peace and this zone and our sovereign right is protected,” he said.

US Ambassador to Guyana, Nicole Theriot, in her address, said “our military partnership is the strongest it’s ever been.” She said those areas included working with the GDF on institutional strengthening, air domain awareness, cyber defence, support to the GDF Coast Guard, and Guyana’s hosting of Exercise Tradewinds which brought more than 1,000 partner nations’ personnel for exercises in promoting regional stability.

In response to months of Venezuela’s saber-rattling, a questionable referendum that sought to annex Guyana’s Essequibo Region, the Guyana government had constantly referred to its strategic partners such as the US, United Kingdom and France. American and British military naval and air assets had in recent months made their presence felt in Guyana, triggering accusations by the Nicolás Maduro administration that the Ali-led administration was in bed with the American supermajor and foreign military to steal the Essequibo region.

President Ali said all the US-Guyana discussions on the security relationship between the two countries have been focussing on is keeping the region safe and peaceful with respect for the rule of law, contrary to claims of a plot. “So this propaganda of a sinister plan between Guyana and the US has no place anywhere. There is no sinister plan. The only sinister plan is to ensure peace remains in this region and we’re not going to deviate from that plan,” he said.

The US, UK, Canada, Caribbean Community, Commonwealth and the Organisation of American States, among others, recognise the 160,000 square kilometer Essequibo as part of Guyana’s sovereign territory in keeping with the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal Award that settled the land boundary with Venezuela. Guyana’s case on the validity of that award is still before the International Court of Justice which Venezuela does not recognise in this case but still participates in.

Hinting that some of Guyana’s security architecture was integrated with the US’, he said the areas of beneficial security cooperation include fight against illicit drugs, money laundering, movement of arms and other criminal activities. “We have great information sharing platform that we never had access to before. We have greater trust between ourselves and this has resulted in marked improvement. This has brought tangible results in every aspect of our security architecture,” he said.

The US envoy said law enforcement cooperation has seen the Guyana Police Force supporting US law enforcement in apprehending five fugitives last year, and the seizure of thousands of kilogrammes of drugs through cooperation between the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit.

The US recently imposed sanctions on two Guyanese businessman and a Guyana government Permanent Secretary for their roles in allegedly defrauding Guyana of US$50 million in taxes on the export of more than 10,000 kilogrammes of gold, award of contracts, processing of gun permits and the processing of passports.