2020 September 14.

The Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) is very concerned about the motives and the timing behind the visit by US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, to Guyana later this week. A US Secretary of State travels overseas are never arbitrary decisions. There is always an agenda – for good or bad – behind such visits to other states. What then is the US agenda for this visit to Guyana?

It certainly can’t be to get to know the country! Is Pompeo’s visit to Guyana to congratulate the newly installed Government? That can hardly be the reason as a simple letter and/or phone call would suffice. Is it to demonstrate that Guyana is now a firm ally of the US since it was one of just two Caribbean countries to openly endorse Mauricio Claver-Carone, the US Deputy National Security Adviser for Latin America and Donald Trump’s choice to be the new President of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)? The election of someone who is deep in the US security apparatus as head of a “development” bank is truly a contradiction but is this sufficient reason for Pompeo’s visit. We think not.

The major geo-political agenda item for the US in this region is Venezuela. Trump has made no secret of his desire for regime change in Venezuela. It has tried every trick in the book from unilateral sanctions meant to totally cripple Venezuela’s economy to a mercenary invasion.  The US has given extensive backing to Juan Guaido – its choice to replace President Maduro in the event of regime change. Guaido was Trump’s guest at the recent State of the Union Address. He has been given access, quite illegally, to billions of dollars owned by Venezuela’s state oil company – PDVSA and/or its subsidiary – Citgo. Guaido has fomented civil strife, encouraged a mutiny by sections of the military and worked with US mercenaries to invade Venezuela, but none of these have succeeded in the regime change wanted by the US. The last option for Trump is a direct military attack on Venezuela, something that both he and Pompeo have openly touted as being on the table. A military invasion just before the November Presidential elections in the US is perhaps what Trump needs to boost his chances of winning. Indeed, he has spoken of an October surprise. Is this it?

Guyana borders Venezuela. One can easily conclude that a logical agenda for Pompeo’s visit would be to enlist Guyana in a US plan for a military invasion. With Colombia already being complicit with the US plans for regime change and the Bolsonaro government in Brazil being another Trump ally, Venezuela would be completely surrounded if Guyana was to agree to allow its territory to be used by the US for a military intervention.

That would be totally unconscionable! It would run counter to Guyana’s long held position of respect for the sovereignty of nation states and the non-interference in the internal affairs of another state. Let us not forget that Cheddi Jagan, founder and leader of the now ruling Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) was an avowed “anti-imperialist”. It would be an absolute rejection of CARICOM’s position that the Caribbean shall be a Zone of Peace. And it would cause irreparable damage to Caribbean unity and to the institution of CARICOM, not seen since the US invasion of Grenada in 1983.

It must be noted that this is the second visit by Mr. Pompeo to a CARICOM country this year. He went to Jamaica in January and met with a few select Prime Ministers of CARICOM. Notably excluded were the Prime Minister of Barbados who at that time was the Chair of CARICOM, Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (who in July became the CARICOM Chair) and the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda. These PM’s were centrally involved in efforts to bring about a negotiated settlement of the conflict in Venezuela, contrary to the US position which is for regime change – the ousting of the democratically elected President Maduro by any means.

The MSJ calls on regional governments to stand their ground on the well-established principles of international relations and to let the Government of Guyana know that it must not allow itself to be used as a pawn in the US agenda of regime change in Venezuela. We certainly hope that the Government of Guyana will not sell its soul for a mess of pottage, even if that is a “sweetener” in the form of a greater, albeit fairer, share of wealth from the massive oil finds by US giant Exxon.

Nor should the ruling PP/Civic take pride in being supported by the US in the elections imbroglio earlier this year. CARICOM as a whole, as well as individual CARICOM PM’s (Mottley, Rowley, Mitchell, Skerrit and Gonsalves) were central to the eventual negotiated process of recounting the votes that led to the PPP/Civic winning the election. Indeed, Pompeo’s announcement of sanctions against certain persons in Guyana because of their alleged role in the election impasse is nothing short of sheer hypocrisy. The US cannot lecture anyone about electoral democracy – not when the Trump administration and their party faithful in various states are actively engaged in voter suppression of people of colour; and the “demonising” of legally established “mail in ballots” in what is being suggested as a plan to sabotage democracy itself.

This is a moment that will test CARICOM’s resolve and unity. We all need to be vigilant. Let us not be found wanting!

Movement for Social Justice

David Abdulah

Political Leader