Guyana/Venezuela Border woesBy Samuel SukhnandanA recent discovery was made by citizens in the interior leading to the Venezuelan border which has since been partially dismantled and protected, Senior Government Minister Raphael Trotman has said.The Minister said the matter was reported to the Natural Resources and Public Infrastructure Ministries who called in the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) for assistance in trying to get the matter addressed.“We were able to take some measures to investigate and curb what could have been a new artery heading to the border, which would have been unpoliced,” Trotman said Thursday.While the exact location of that road was not disclosed, the Minister said the matter was discussed with the security forces and the matter is now being handled properly.Asked whether his Ministry has received reports from miners about being threatened or harassed by the members of the brutal Syndicato gang of neighbouring Venezuela, Trotman answered in the affirmative.He said, “It is a source of concern and as things continue to take place in Venezuela, we have seen more activity of these illegal or irregulars as they say, along the border.”Trotman revealed also that the matter is now before the joint security and border protection agencies, as well as the National Security Committee for which President David Granger has oversight.Responding to concerns that these gang members pose a major threat to Guyanese especially those living and working close to the border separating the two countries, he said it is being investigated.The Minister said it is a national security matter that has caught Government’s attention as well.Referring to an incident where a video circulating on social media showed a young Guyanese man being beheaded, Trotman said his Government condemns those brutal acts of violence.“We condemn the killing of anyone particularly if the person is Guyanese and in such a vile and abhorrent manner of a beheading… and I know the matter is being investigated,” he added.There have been previous reports of similar incidents along the Guyana-Venezuela border at other parts of the country. In July 2016, it was reported that a heavily armed gang of Spanish-speaking men terrorised Guyanese villagers in a Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni) border village with Venezuela.It was indicated that the men, whom villagers say are Venezuelans, have been crossing the border committing robberies and extortion in the village of Arau. These gang members were also accused of taunting Army and law enforcement officials with high-powered weapons and grenades.Villagers in that region would have said that the gang is part of Syndicato which operates as a rogue body in Venezuelan villages, specialising in extortion. The gang carrying out the attacks has attempted to indulge in the same types of tactics on the Guyana side of the border.Villagers in Regions One (Barima-Waini) and Seven said while incursions by Venezuelan criminal elements are not new, the nature of the attacks has become worse over recent times.Venezuela is experiencing the worst economic crisis in its history, with an inflation rate of over 400 per cent and a volatile exchange rate. Heavily in debt and with inflation soaring, its people continue to take to the streets in protest. There have also been huge shortages of food supplies.Besides that, Venezuela has long claimed a huge tract of land known as the Essequibo, which comprises nearly 40 per cent of Guyana’s current territory. The decades-old controversy was brought back into the spotlight following the discovery of oil in Guyana which led to Venezuela reiterating its land claims.Relations between Guyana and Venezuela have worsened ever since United States oil giant ExxonMobil announced in 2015 that it had found oil in Guyana. Venezuela has staunchly been against oil exploration in Guyana’s Stabroek Block, where multiple oil deposits were found by ExxonMobil.A high-level meeting was fixed between Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge and a Venezuelan delegation to discuss the border controversy in October this year. This was aimed at reaching a resolution through the Good Offices Process until the end of 2017.No resolution has been met since but Guyana has indicated that it is prepared to go to the International Court of Justice as the next means of settlement to the controversy.