Venezuela and the contract renegotiation cry

GUYANA has faced a territorial claim by Venezuela before and after Independence. It is a simple, naked power grab by a country that feels that it can easily succeed because it has an incomparable military arsenal.

What Guyana has done is to stop Venezuela by pursuing three paths – in integration among West Indian nations making sure Guyana would never be alone, and it has succeeded because it would be suicidal for CARICOM states to accept Venezuela’s aggression in Essequibo.

Secondly, Guyana has developed close trade and political relations within the global community that brings international protection just as how CARICOM brings regional solidarity. Thirdly, Guyana has been aware, since Independence, that because of Venezuela’s rapacity, geopolitical maneuvering has to be an integral part of Guyana’s foreign policy.
This geopolitical inevitability went into a strange direction under the presidency of Forbes Burnham but Burnham gambled and won. Burnham’s rejection of the traditional approach to post-colonial development put him at odds with Guyana’s traditional western partners who offered the best protection against Venezuela. But Burnham had no grey area to exploit.
The non-capitalist approach to development in Guyana meant that the trade and economic relations with the US had to be disrupted. The intricate trade, aid and financial arrangements with the West underwent profound changes with nationalization. There had to be international repercussions based on the new economics in Guyana.

The West, particularly, the US became confrontational. This had to have implications for the Venezuelan claim. Burnham then traded American protection for the immersion into the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) which witnessed a massive elevation of Guyana’s stature in international relations.

Guyana had now cemented relations with powerful states like India, China, Russia, Egypt, Yugoslavia, the continent of Africa, while successfully preserving its intimate friendship with Brazil. In this scenario, even if Venezuela wanted to flex its muscle, it would not have been accepted during the height of NAM.
With the advent of the Hoyte presidency in 1985, Guyana continued on the geopolitical chessboard. With the death of NAM, the demise of socialist economics in the Third World, the rise of WTO and the ubiquity of globalisation, Guyana returned to the fold of the West. It must be stressed in fairness to Burnham, he did not instigate the break with the West. It was the other way around.

Since Hoyte, passing through all the presidents up to Dr. Irfaan Ali, Guyana’s foreign policy recognition of its geopolitical fixture has served its purpose. The only time since 1985 when Guyana was being pressed to re-enact domestic radicalism which will lead it to depart from its geopolitical inevitability is the call for unilateral renegotiation of the ExxonMobil contract.
The NAM era is completely over. It may come again but that is not the reality in today’s world. If Burnham was alive, given the direction of international dialectics, Burnham would have frowned on unilateral demands on ExxonMobil. I have written a column on this dangerous yet comical demand for renegotiation. I made two points in that column.
One is that those who want renegotiation know not a thing about international relations. Secondly, the stuck record of renegotiation is manufactured by people who have an anti-PPP agenda. They are unable to come up with a cluster of issues which they can milk politically.

They believe that the ExxonMobil contract offers them the perfect platform to weaken the government. Please see my column of Sunday, July 30, 2023, “Who do the people trust in Guyana?” In terms of Guyana’s geopolitical arrangement, could this country have jeopardised its geopolitical base by breaking with ExxonMobil?
The answer is obvious. If the government had given in to the anti-oil lobby and Exxon had said that it thought the contract was a plausible one that benefits both parties, and a fight ensued, then, where would that have left us today with the insane threats coming from Venezuela?

The ignorance of the anti-oil lobby must now be exposed. Geography has placed Guyana next to a South American country that has crazy, territorial ambitions. Guyana has accepted its geographical location. It cannot do anything about that. What it has not accepted is that it has the capacity to confront trillion dollar companies and aggressive countries with large armies. This has been the reality of international relations hundreds of years ago.

Burnham’s bravo had an umbrella. It was named the Non-Aligned Movement. Guyana’s canopy is its ability to do what small countries have done since Thucydides wrote the first text on international relations -seek friendship within the international system to protect its sovereignty.

All our printed editions are available online
Subscribe to the Guyana Chronicle.
Sign up to receive news and updates.
We respect your privacy.