Gov’t hiding Venezuelan threat

- Jagdeo

The People’s Progressive Party (PPP) believes that government is keeping an “enhanced threat” from Venezuela a secret and is calling on the David Granger government to come clean with the nation.

“There has been an enhanced threat to our borders and the government has not been forthcoming,” PPP General Secretary and Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo told a press conference yesterday at Freedom House.

Efforts to contact Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Greenidge and Minister of State Joseph Harmon were unsuccessful as up to press time calls were not immediately returned.

Jagdeo said that he has been saying that there is a threat to our borders but persons have taken that to mean that he was speaking of the reported `Syndicatos’ gang.

However, he wanted to make clear that while the gang activities should be looked at swiftly, there was an even more important matter brewing.

“I think the government has at its disposal all the analyses—I don’t want to speak about it because I have received some of the [information] not from our government—but I have received quite a bit of information from other sources that leads me to believe that there is a real and enhanced threat to our nation and its sovereignty but I don’t think I should be the one informing our people,” he said.

“If Guyana suffers from any act of aggression, then it will be the people of this country not just our military. Our military may be at a disadvantage with Venezuela, not in spirit but in size, equipment and so forth. It is the people with our military that would have to face down any acts of aggression and that is why I believe that the president needs to address the nation and tell us about the threat. Not by stealth, travelling around the country to various communities, etcetera,” he added.

President David Granger recently visited a number of border communities, where he told residents that frontier communities are guardians of the country’s territorial integrity and national security.

“They are our first line of defence against any attempt at incursions and invasions,” Granger told residents of the border village of Kaikan, in the Cuyuni-Mazaruni, at a community meeting held at the Kaikan Primary School.

According to a media release from the Ministry of the Presidency, the residents of Kaikan, who have had a number of terrorising encounters with the notorious ‘Syndicatos’ gang, welcomed the Head of State’s visit, as well as the boosting of security in the area by the Guyana Defence Force (GDF). The community now benefits from 24-hour security, which is necessitated by the situation in neighbouring Venezuela and “escalated by the age-old border controversy,” the release said.

“Venezuela is claiming that the boundaries are wrong… but that is not true. If you go to Mount Roraima, you will see the markers; if you go in the Barima-Waini, you will see the markers… The markers were put down there 110 years ago… the International Court will decide…but believe me, you are safe,” Granger was quoted as saying in the release, as he assured the villagers of their safety.

According to the Ministry of the Presidency, Kaikan, in Region Seven, like the village of Whitewater in Region One, which the President visited last week, has been seeing an influx of Venezuelans, particularly traders and persons seeking healthcare. During a briefing with GDF ranks deployed in the area, the President was told that Venezuelan civilians and even military personnel come over to the Kaikan Health Post to seek medical attention for malaria and other diseases, while the traders come over to sell or to barter their goods with villagers from communities like Kaikan, a stone’s throw from the Venezuela border, and Arau.

The GDF has also pledged to eradicate the alleged activities of illegal smuggling of substances such as marijuana and cocaine, as reported by the Toshao of Kaikan.

President Granger said that while the army and the police will intensify their efforts to ensure safety, the villagers have a significant role to play, as they are the eyes and ears on the ground, the ministry statement said.

The president added that in weeks and months to come, he is asking them to join the People’s Militia so that they can be prepared to protect themselves and their families and their communities from people who bring illegal guns into the country.

While hinting that Granger’s visit to the border regions was linked to the threat, Jagdeo urged government to inform its citizenry so that they are aware and thus can be prepared.

“This is a vital matter for me and for our country and I don’t want to make it political. So I just would urge that we have more information to our people, coming directly from our President and his Cabinet,” he said.

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