As the influx of Venezuelan migrants here continues to grow, President Dr Irfaan Ali said that the Government of Guyana is concerned about the growing number of people from the Spanish-speaking nation here, especially the possibility of military ranks sneaking into the country.
During a press conference on Saturday, the Head of State pleaded with Guyanese to have faith in the Government’s efforts to bring closure to the border controversy matter with Venezuela, as this national effort is bearing fruitful results for a peaceful resolution.
However, President Ali acknowledged that there are more Venezuelans coming into Guyana on a daily basis after escaping harsh social and economic conditions in their country, in search of betterment here. But there have been concerns that amongst these migrants are fringe elements with ulterior motives.
“I would say that the possibility of that is of concern to us… But we have had a very robust system, in as far as possible, monitoring those who are entering [Guyana]. There can be cracks, but we are also using a lot of intelligence gathering to find out and to have a constant flow of information in relation to this. But that is something that I know we are monitoring – domain awareness, you know, understanding who is coming across the border who is coming,” the President noted.
According to Ali, he is very confident in the type of work that they are doing, especially in the face of these challenges. He noted that a lot of resources have been invested in and deployed to monitor border movements.
In the same breath, however, he reminded of international obligations and treaties that Guyana has signed onto. “So, we are striving to ensure we strike that important balance also,” he posited.
In recent weeks, Venezuelans have been entering Guyana’s territory in droves, fleeing harsh economic conditions in their homeland in search of betterment here. But the increased influx of Venezuelans in Guyana is sparking widespread public concern here especially as it relates to security given the heightened tensions between Guyana and Venezuela over the ongoing border controversy.
Only earlier this month, Police in Region One (Barima-Waini) intercepted two boatloads of Venezuelan migrants in local waters at Moruca.
They were incepted sometime around 18:30h at the Moruca Waterfront area on November 2, 2023, when one of the vessels stopped to buy ration (groceries). At the time, Police officers intercepted the vessel and upon releasing that there were Venezuelan nationals in it, contact was made with the Divisional Headquarters in Mabaruma. The officers were then informed that intelligence was received of two vessels transporting Venezuelans.
Based on that information, the Police officers teamed up with ranks from the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) and they went out into the Moruca River, where they intercepted the second vessel that was in the water awaiting the return of the other boat.
The two Guyanese boat captains told investigators that they were hired to transport these Venezuelans to Charity. This publication was told that the two captains along with the 19 Venezuelans were transferred to the Mabaruma Police Station, where they were processed and interrogated. The foreign nationals were slated to be deported.
Last month, another set of Venezuelan migrants arrived in Essequibo in three buses and made a stop in Anna Regina, where they disembarked and were reportedly processed by the Police.
Region Two Police Commander Khemraj Shivbarran subsequently told Guyana Times that the migrants were no longer in the region, but were transported to the North West District in Region One.
In August, President Dr Irfaan Ali indicated that his Government is cautious of the possibility of foreign agents infiltrating the country under the guise of being migrants but noted that systems are in place to ensure the nation’s national integrity remains protected.
This same sentiment was reiterated by the Guyanese leader during Saturday’s press conference. Nevertheless, President Ali called on citizens to place their trust in the Government and rely only on official statements coming from the State through the Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Guyana Defence Force.
The Head of State pointed to a great deal of fear-mongering and unease among the population.
He stated, “Exciting ourselves though sensational posting, some of it concocted to generate excitement, help to create an environment of uneasiness. I want to assure members of the public, every Guyanese, that the tireless work that we’re doing over the last couple of weeks is not only bearing fruit but has enabled us to strengthen our relationships with our partners.”
Round the clock, no efforts are being spared to enhance capabilities locally. First and foremost, the Administration is working on a plan to bring awareness to the population, educating about the controversy and the planned referendum.
Ali spoke on the intention to close the communication gaps in outlying areas as he explained, “That is where the communication and public awareness strategies come in. This is part of the strategy that we need to strengthen and pay a lot of attention to…Information must be timely, relevant, accessible and continuous.”
The Guyana Defence Force has been utilising intelligence to monitor the borders and establish domain awareness. In annexing the Essequibo, Venezuela seeks to formally capture the Essequibo as part of its territory and incorporate it as a new state via a referendum to its population set for December 3, 2023. Ali has determined that no Guyanese citizen from the border should leave their home in fear.
“There is absolutely no reason to move from the anywhere. That is the type of fear-mongering that people are pushing on social media but there is absolutely no reason. The Guyana Defence Force is working very steadily and I am confident in their ability.”
He further assured, “I would say to residents that we are ensuring that we take all necessary steps and actions to ensure our territorial integrity and sovereignty is protected at all times, even after December 3. We are not taking anything lightly but we are confident that we will be able to have a situation where our territory is secured.”
In response to Venezuela’s December 3 referendum aimed at annexing Guyana’s Essequibo territory, the Guyana Government on Tuesday presented its case before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) by urging the Court to not only protect Guyana’s rights but also its own authority, which Venezuela is trying to undermine.