The U.S. government, through U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Guyanese President Mohamed Irfaan Ali agreed on September 18, to deploy joint patrols that will operate in Caribbean airspace to disrupt drug smuggling on Guyana’s border with Venezuela.
The agreement was made possible under the reactivated 2001 Shiprider program, where Guyana will designate officials as shipriders on board U.S. Navy and Coast Guard ships to be able to authorize U.S. personnel to intercept suspicious vessels and aircraft attempting to flee toward or over Guyana’s territorial sea, the Guyanese news portal Demerara Waves reported on September 16.
Security cooperation “will also allow us to improve our technical and human capabilities in monitoring Guyana’s exclusive economic zone,” Ali told the U.S. Department of State. “We also look forward to continued and enhanced assistance in the fields of border control, anti-terrorism, cybersecurity, technology transfer, and anticorruption measures.”
The Shiprider program follows the recent donations valued at $200,000 in equipment and repairs for vessels used in interceptions, to strengthen the Guyana Defense Force’s capabilities to patrol its territorial waters, the U.S. Department of State reported on September 16. In addition, “The United States Southern Command has provided $135,000 of personal protective equipment to the various hospitals in Georgetown and Guyana’s interior, and will continue to provide COVID-19 assistance, as needed and requested.” The anti-drug maritime security bilateral agreement took effect on September 21.
Seven days before the program was approved, on September 14, Guyanese authorities located an aircraft from Venezuela that had crashed in the Issano area, in the country’s northwest, where they found one person dead and several packages containing an unspecified amount of cocaine, the Guyanese Star Nieuws website reported.
“Venezuela is an area where large amounts of cocaine are accumulating, and from where [the drug] is distributed to all the countries of the world,” the Miami-based news portal PanamPost reported on September 23. “A new way to export cocaine was devised in Venezuela. Now fishing vessels do transshipment and distribute the drug in smaller vessels on the high seas.”
“The Department of State has helped to train Guyana’s Port Control Unit to deter the trafficking of cocaine and other illicit goods through Guyana,” the institution said. “The United States Coast Guard provides training and mentoring to the Maritime Administration Department (MARAD) in order to improve port security. And the United States military provides training of Guyana Defense Forces personnel every year, which includes a current student at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy,” the U.S. Department of State added.
“We welcome any help that would enhance our security, that would enhance our ability to protect our borders, and importantly, enhance our capability and ability to ensure that we go after criminal elements,” President Ali said during his remarks on September 18.