The government is sending mixed signals on the issue of foreign military intervention in Venezuela

Dear Editor,

Less than a week after foreign ministers from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Chile, Guyana, Mexico and Peru had met in Lima, the capital of Peru where they condemned the “breakdown of democratic order” in Venezuela and declared that they would not recognize any action taken by its “illegitimate” new Constituent Assembly, President Donald Trump remarked on TV that he was “not ruling out a military option” in respect of US involvement in Venezuela.

The declaration that the Trump administration was not ruling out military intervention in Venezuela was the straw that broke the camel’s back. According to an Indi 100 team put together by the Independent newspaper the prerequisites for what constitutes a US invasion are:

“Deployment of the military to evacuate American citizens, covert military actions by US intelligence, providing military support to an internal opposition group, providing military support in one side of a conflict, use of the army in drug enforcement actions.”

The united front against the Maduro administration that had gathered in Lima just a few days before, collapsed. Almost all Maduro’s foes except Guyana were clear and unequivocal in respect of their rejection of US military intervention in Venezuela. Peru’s President, a close US ally, openly declared that “the military option should be ruled out.”

The Mercosur group which had earlier suspended indefinitely Venezuela’s membership in the regional trading bloc, declared that it “rejected the use of force against Venezuela.” The general consensus across Latin America was that the US call to arms provided Maduro with a “magnificent propaganda victory.”  As was to be expected,  Maduro exploited the remark to the hilt.

Recently, Maduro announced a soon-to-be-convened international solidarity conference to oppose foreign intervention in Venezuela. In the meanwhile, the Guyana government continues to hold to a lukewarm position, knowing it couldn’t do better.

On his return from the Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Peru, Guyana’s Foreign Minister Carl Greenidge declared, “As the only Caricom state to share a border with Venezuela we cannot be unaware or blind to these developments.” Greenidge was referring to the establishment of the 545-member Constituent Assembly whose installation he claimed is “part and parcel of wider concerns.” However, on the vexed question of foreign military intervention in Venezuela Greenidge hedged stating, “You may say what you want to, but you don’t always have a right to intervene.”

One would have expected that the Guyanese Foreign Minister, in light of our own experiences with Suriname and Venezuela, would have been more forthright, first, to denounce the use of force for the settlement of disputes between states and secondly, to uphold as sacred, the right of nations to self-determination, the inviolability of borders and respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of states.

These sacred principles are extremely important for Guyana given its geo-strategic concerns as well as its geo-political location.

Apart from historical antecedents in respect to the controversy with Venezuela and the dispute with Suriname, it is to be recalled that Guyana was called upon to make critical decisions in respect to Britain’s military intervention in the Falkland Islands in April 1982 and Iraq’s military invasion of Kuwait in August, 1990.

As regards the Falkland Islands, the PPP took the position that these were Argentina’s territory and, as a matter of principle, opposed British military intervention there.

The Burnham dictatorship on the other hand viewed the Falkland Islands as British territory and therefore supported British military intervention.  In this way, the Burnham administration sent a clear signal to the international community that it was prepared to support military intervention for the sake of political expediency and diplomatic Machiavellinism.

In respect to Iraq’s military invasion of Kuwait the PNC was ambivalent to say the least. The Commonwealth of Dominica under the late Prime Minister Eugenia Charles opposed the invasion.

In Guyana, the PPP maintained a consistently principled position. It declared its opposition to the military invasion and violation of the territorial sovereignty of the State of Kuwait. The party condemned Iraq’s attack as an act of aggression and called for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

Thus, these two examples demonstrate how on the one hand, the PPP was not prepared to send either the wrong or mixed signals nationally or internationally in respect of military intervention or the use of force for the settlement of disputes between states or to facilitate regime change.

Way back, as far as August 1974, the PPP had opposed Turkey’s military invasion and occupation of Northern Cyprus.

The PNC has always  pursued a foreign policy based on a Machiavellian-based pragmatism aimed primarily at sprucing up its tattered image abroad. We can therefore conclude that based on its lukewarm position in respect of foreign military intervention by one state in another sovereign state, that the Granger administration has opted, like the Burnham administration, to send mixed signals to the Guyanese populace and the international community.

In other words it turns a Nelson’s eye in respect of foreign military intervention in Venezuela because of those things which lead to violence and undermine legislative effectiveness.

Based on Greenidge’s pronouncements, it appears that in so far as military intervention in Venezuela in concerned, the Guyana government is prepared to throw international comity and the UN Charter through the window. Government spokesmen may seek to contradict or disagree with this view, and they are free to do so, but in doing so they must state clearly and unequivocally their  position on the question of foreign military intervention and the use of force to effect regime change in Venezuela.

In closing, none of our neighbours with whom we have either a dispute or a controversy must ever believe that Guyana is prepared to condone foreign military intervention as a preferred option.  Were they to form that impression it is we who would be sending the wrong signal to them.

Were we to act in that way, we would become our own worst enemy.

Yours faithfully,

Clement Rohee  

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