|Asunto:||Brasil / Guyana: El punto e vista Guyanes|
|Fecha:||Lunes, 11 de Septiembre, 2000 15:18:58 (-0400)|
|Autor:||anna ponte <anaponte @...net>
Editorial SN 06 Sept. 2000
The deep-water harbour
We have moved almost imperceptibly from talk of the Brazil-
Georgetown road, to talk of a deep water harbour. Documents such
as the National Development Strategy and the draft Poverty
Reduction Strategy Paper appear to have adopted the concept
uncritically, and now we have President Jagdeo reported as saying
that the government was looking at creating "an integrated corridor
of infrastructure using Guyana as a trans-shipment point."
It is not that in the end we will not have to move towards this goal;
it is just that we are putting the cart before the horse. Becoming a
trans-shipment zone for the behemoth on our southern frontier has a
variety of implications which first have to be weighed very carefully.
Yet here we are, doing no homework, and just blithely assuming that
becoming northern Brazil's main artery to the Caribbean holds
nothing but benefits for us.
It surely has benefits for Brazil, which already has the arterial
network in place in the Rio Branco to take advantage of it. It would
be so much easier and cheaper for the state of Roraima, for example,
to import and export through the 'corridor' than via the present
cumbersome connections within Brazil itself. This proposed new
route even Sao Paulo, apparently, could utilize, not to mention the
state of Para, which could link to Roraima with infinitely greater ease
via the Guianas than it can at present. In other words, Guyana would
become northern Brazil's main link to the outside world, and the
volume of container traffic which would go thundering along this
country's highways would be of an order that in our present semi-
reclusive state we can hardly even conceive of.
Brazil has other interests apart from the purely economic. With her
huge land mass, large population and growing economy, she will
eventually win her permanent seat on the Security Council. In our
hemisphere she is the true heavyweight player, but she does not, yet,
have an outlet to the Caribbean, the fulcrum of the Americas. A route
through Guyana would make her a Caribbean power. (She currently
has an outlet through Venezuela, but that does not serve the purpose,
for obvious reasons.)
It might also be noted that a Guyana fully integrated into our
southern neighbour's communication networks would be a tempting
proposition for the army of garimpeiros which has invaded various
parts of the Amazon, as well as the peasant farmers from the arid
north-east of Brazil, ever in search of land. If Brazil would not
actually encourage settlement here, she probably would not be very
active in helping to arrest it, maintaining that it was our problem.
She would benefit in two ways: firstly, it would relieve some of the
population pressure in her north-east, and secondly, it would alter the
demography of this country, with Brazilians, or their descendants,
becoming a significant element in our population, with all that that
So what would Guyana get out of it? Everyone assumes that it will be
economic development, but it may not be of a sort that does us too
much good. The dangers are clear enough, even if both sides of the
political divide are refusing to acknowledge what those are.
One of those dangers has already been touched on - the change in
the composition of the population, and by extension, the undermining
of sovereignty. The influx from the south would include a variety of
Brazilian businesses which would inevitably sprout up all along the
corridor to service the container trade, and which would spawn the
interior settlements with their 'discos' and prostitutes and the like.
There would be the inevitable degradation of parts of the hinterland,
and the compromising of the integrity of Amerindian society, with the
exploitation of its members. It is not as if we do not have a model for
what happens in such situations; Brazil itself with the experience of
the trans-Amazonian highway supplies evidence aplenty if anyone
cares to look for it.
And could our businessmen really organize themselves to compete
that quickly? Probably not. Brazilian enterprises would start to
dominate along the coast as well - especially around the deep-water
And then there is the problem of the drugs. Even if we escape
becoming a major processing centre (and we might not) we will surely
become a major trans-shipment route. We can't manage our present
drug problem, so how on earth does the Government propose to
manage when we become a major export zone like Venezuela?
The truth is that currently we do not have control of our interior and
we do not have control of our borders. Until we have, we should not
be opening ourselves up to an invasion - however benign - from
outside. We need a road to Lethem in order to integrate Guyana, but
not one as yet which would serve the Brazilians. Everything should
be done in planned stages. Only when we are in a position to
implement restrictions on development along the corridor, monitor it
effectively, and man the borders efficiently, should we begin to look
at the next stage involving trans-shipment for containers.
Lastly, we need to look at the geo-strategic implications carefully if
we are to become a 'sphere of influence of Brazil'. It may not prove
the counterweight to Venezuela which we had anticipated.