Two documents released in the past week about the WikiLeaks exposure of U.S. intelligence overseas deal with key issues regarding the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) headquarters: one having to do with American and Brazilian fears about Venezuela invading Guyana and the other about alleged close relations between a leading former drug baron and current president of neighboring Suriname, Desi Bouterse.
The documents, dated January 2008, detail the concerns of then Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula daSilva and the Americans about the level of political sabre-rattling that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez had engaged in when he first came to power more than a decade ago. American diplomats stationed in Brazil dispatched cables to Washington and its diplomatic station in Guyana about their concerns.
Both the U.S. and the Brazilians were paying very close attention to statements by Chavez and other authorities in Caracas about their continued military interest in the western Essequibo Region, long disputed by Venezuela as a zone to be reclaimed.
One cable said that Lula is worried about Venezuela’s “serious” border problems with its neighbors, particularly Colombia and Guyana. Chavez has his sights on “one third” of Guyana’s territory, and if Venezuela were to invade Guyana, Caracas would likely militarize all of Venezuela’s south, antagonizing the indigenous populations there,” U.S. Consul Thomas White said in a secret internal missive now made public by WikiLeaks.
Brazil antagonized about being forced to get involved in any military conflict especially because any war with Guyana would affect tribal peoples living on its border with Venezuela and would give them the chance to demand more autonomy from Brazil if not independence, a development Brazil was careful to avoid, the Leaks said.
The documents also detail how Lula plotted to bring Chavez and Venezuela into continental bodies like the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) for which Brazil is the driving force and trade blocs like Mercusor, to ensure continental leaders had forums to keep the former paratrooper and 1990s attempted coup maker in check.
Chavez has since toned down his rhetoric on Guyana and has even said that Caracas shall not stand in the way of any economic and other development projects Guyana pursues in the Essequibo, the largest but very least populated section of South America’s only English-speaking country.
Fears peaked to a crescendo about three years ago when Venezuelan troops blasted two gold dredges out of a Guyana border river and months before that attack, when troops fired upon and killed a Guyanese fuel smuggler in the same area. No apologies were received from Caracas, only expressions of regret.
But the big revelations from WikiLeaks have to do with internal transmissions about then Surinamese Opposition Leader Desi Bouterse maintaining “social and operational” relations with jailed Guyanese drug baron and pro government supporter and protector Shaheed Roger Khan,
Khan who openly boasted about his close ties to the Bharrat Jagdeo administration was arrested in Suriname in 2006 at the end of a sting operation involving Guyanese, Surinamese and American agents, after it was revealed that he was part of a plot to assassinate top Surinamese officials including then Justice Minister Chandra Santokhi.
Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten, the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad and the Dutch channel RTL have the WikiLeaks documents in their possession.
Bouterse has perennially disputed a 1999 Dutch conviction for international drug trafficking but the transmissions the Americans sent say the two had “social and operation links” and suggest that Bouterse would”have been given the means to supplement his income with drug traffickers. “It is also reported that they called each other and that Bouterse — elected to the Surinamese presidency last August, had crossed the border into Guyana frequently.
Khan was jailed by federal judge in New York two years ago for international drug trafficking. He is to spend 15 years.