Venezuela engaged in low-level, risk-free nerve war
My conclusion is that Venezuelan political leadership chose low-level provocations to stir the pot and increase the heat in its border debate with Guyana. For the longest time, with Maduro under siege and fighting to maintain his grip on the troops at the time, the news was all rosy for Guyana. The oil discoveries kept coming, and with promises of more exciting discoveries. Politicians here were more concerned and shrugged their shoulders at domestic critics of their leadership failures in Guyana’s oil management. But, recently renovated Nicholas Maduro, has returned to the center of the stage; he speaks a storm, and up in arms. In the face of recent developments, Guyanese must take that reference to arms literally.
I sense Senor Maduro is bent on conveying his position and his messages, with one above all: Essequibo is ours. That it belongs to them – belongs to Venezuela. Therefore, there is no negotiation, no listening, or compromise. Although the oil exploration and discoveries are in areas where Venezuela has no historical claim, it does not matter. What is important is that Guyana bargained for and secured the protection of a big brother, the biggest one around him. But Venezuela is no fool, and does not want any truck with America, including the new man, arguably more temperate, more attractive, and more someone with whom to do business. This means that every effort is made not to conflict with its people (Coastguard) or interests (Exxon) who partner and act in Guyana waters on behalf of Guyana. The Venezuelan leader is also sensitive to America’s anger with how that same Exxon was treated with its oil holdings, under Hugo Chavez. As such, the provocations and attacks (only accurate and realistic description and interpretation) are away from the Americans and aimed specifically at soft Guyanese targets. This is a safe, risk-free approach virtually risk-free with little disadvantage, but the potential for huge upside psychological gains.
One such is the report that Guyanese fishing boats were being abducted. I would be surprised if those ships and men are not kept extended, with an Iranian-style ruling, and the detention extends. It is anticipated that that low-risk, low-risk operation will be repeated in different formats and in different places. Guyana can protest furiously and get worse wherever. But Venezuela cannot be squeezed more than those strict American sanctions. Quoted differently, and in the words of Hobbes, “Covenants, without the sword, are but words, and of no strength ….” There must be a “mandatory power” that Guyana does not have. There may be a will, but the means are lost.
Attempts to intimidate and harass Guyana, through fishing boat attrition, should therefore be expected to remain spasmodic. Another way is to overflow with continuous waves of Venezuelans, who fall under the banner of trying to heal. So, that camouflage and possibly politically generated excuse is to undermine here, through sinister men (sleeping people) and with objectives that threaten national well-being. That is, there are surely those state activists from Venezuela, who can lay low, and then inflict hit-and-run damages. If it’s not clear enough, then I call on them for what they are: saboteurs. Castro from Cuba did just that.
I venture in my belief that criminal gangs will also be used. It will be remembered that many such members are Venezuelan veterans, which troubles vulnerable Guyana. Again, I must be brutally honest and point out our Seawall, because nothing is beyond limits. That could be disastrous. Let’s face difficult truths. First, we cannot fully police our permeable borders. Second, we can increase hinterland patrols, but they would be more reactive, unless fortunate by interception. That would then deteriorate to the state of who was where and who was the aggressor (think China and India). The poles would intensify with casualties.
Here’s what I see and where I stand: Venezuela is ready to intensify issues through low-key aggression. While Guyana is limited to the defensive. Maduro is forced to exert pressure, while Guyana is consigned to complain. We have trouble on our hands. Yet, we proceed before this existential danger in the usual political way.