President slams U.S. -- says fed up of `hypocritical lectures’
By Mark Ramotar
March 9, 2007
PRESIDENT Bharrat Jagdeo yesterday launched a scathing attack on the United States, accusing it of hypocrisy, of being the biggest drug-consuming country in the world, of having a failed border system, inefficient law enforcement that is better equipped but unable to stop tons of drugs entering the country, and a place where more drugs are sold on the streets than in Guyana.
Declaring, yet again, that he is fed up with the “hypocritical lectures” from the U.S. to developing countries like Guyana, a tough talking President Jagdeo also accused the U.S. of corruption and misappropriation of billions of dollars in funds.
The President’s ire was in direct reference to two reports recently released by the U.S. State Department - the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report and the other dealing with human rights.
Noting that Guyana, even with its “very limited resources”, has been fighting the international problem of battling drug dealers and the drug scourge here, Mr. Jagdeo said the US$20,000 the U.S. is giving this country every year to fight drug traffickers cannot even pay the annual salary of a Permanent Secretary working in Guyana.
“If you look at the assistance we get from the U.S. Government alone for the past seven years, the direct assistance to fight drug trafficking works out to US$20,000 per year; we can’t pay a Permanent Secretary in Guyana that.”
“That is what we get to fight drug dealers, drug traffickers and money laundering as direct assistance from the U.S.,” he lamented during a lengthy address at the opening of the annual Army Officers’ Conference at the Guyana Defence Force Camp Ayanganna base in Georgetown.
President Jagdeo, however, made it clear that he is not “anti-American” and said Guyana actually enjoys a “good relationship” with that country.
“We have a good relationship with the U.S. - we get help on HIV/AIDS, we have a substantial market there, we have a lot of our people living there, so we are obligated to have a good relationship with that country.”
“While we have been receiving some assistance in some areas, it is the lectures…” he lamented.
“What I find very hypocritical…is that a country issues a report about another country and that report goes around the world…but which is the biggest (drugs) consuming nation in the world?”
“It is the United States of America,” he answered. “All the drugs from Colombia, and from Guyana and from Trinidad and from Suriname and the heroin from Afghanistan go to the United States of America.”
“So it means that their border systems are failing (because) they can’t stop the drugs going in there, and they are telling me to stop the big borders that we have where people don’t even live.”
“Tons of drugs are being sold on the streets of the United States of America. So their law enforcement, better equipped than ourselves – they are failing more than our people here because I am sure that we have less drugs sold on our streets than on the streets of the United States,” he contended.
He also pointed out that if people sell the drugs in the U.S., they have to collect money for it. “So which system and which country have the greatest amount of money launderers? It’s the United States of America.”
“They consume the most drugs, their law enforcement at their borders is failing, the drug is sold on the streets, people pay for the drugs and then it is laundered there and then they lecture me and give me US$20,000 (a year to fight drugs),” Mr. Jagdeo declared.
“They want to make us feel bad,” he charged, adding that people will never see the spate of drug dealings in the U.S. in these same reports that condemn other countries.
“So this is the reality,” he said.
Alluding to the previous INCSR report by the U.S. State Department, which said the Guyana Government gave suspected drug kingpin, Roger Khan, a forestry concession, President Jagdeo said “this is absolutely untrue”.
He said he met the U.S. Ambassador at the time, who revealed that the U.S. got that erroneous information from a local newspaper.
ERROR NOT CORRECTED
President Jagdeo said the U.S. promised to correct that error in this year’s INCSR report but reneged on that commitment. What appeared in the report instead of a correction, he said, was “the controversy” surrounding the granting of a timber licence – which is totally different from (correctly) saying ‘it was not given”, or that “we made an error”.
“Then they said that we promised to pass legislation to screen people who are going to go into the forestry sector. I didn’t promise that. I don’t know who promised that – but I am not passing any such legislation,” the President said.
“Do you think if someone goes to invest in the U.S. they will pass legislation to screen the investor?”
President Jagdeo noted that a person who is doing the laundering or the trafficking can be fined but investors cannot be screened. “The U.S. wants us to screen the investors here, something that they don’t do because anyone can walk into the U.S. and invest but we must screen anyone coming here to invest.”
“Of course you have to do due diligence, but I am not going to pass no law that makes us lose competitiveness positions versus the developed world. Why should we do that here in the developing world?”
Noting that the human rights report accuses Guyana on the “perception of corruption”, President Jagdeo he can also accuse the U.S. of perceived corruption.
According to Mr. Jagdeo, there are “billions of dollars every year that the U.S. Government cannot give account for”. He also said there are billions of dollars in corruption as it relates to the arms procurement in Iraq.
He also alluded to the fact that in Guyana, there is an audited report that goes to the National Assembly where it is publicly debated on every cent that the government spends.
“So to talk about perception of corruption, I can say that the U.S. is perceived as the most corrupt country too because of these things.”
The President reiterated Guyana’s commitment and willingness to fight narco-trafficking but declared that the U.S. has to help more in the battle against this illicit scourge. He stressed that Guyana has always been willing to work closely with the U.S. in the fight but said there should be a commitment from them to reciprocate that willingness to help instead of putting out one-sided reports that do not capture all the facts.
In a similar address two years ago at the GDF Annual Officers’ Conference at Camp Ayanganna, Mr. Jagdeo reported that he wrote U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere, Mr. Roger Noriega, telling him it was time that the U.S. and Guyana have a bilateral agreement through which they can share valuable information on drug-trafficking and money laundering.
President Jagdeo recalled that in December 2003, Mr. Noriega wrote him asking for support for the meeting (at that time) in Mexico on strong language for corruption. “I wrote him back and said we will support this but I think that it is time that the United States and Guyana have a bilateral agreement on sharing information on illegal accounts or accounts held in either of the two countries by anyone – public or private officials - who have gained these proceeds from illegal means, either by money laundering, drug dealing or tax evasion.”
“Until today, I have not had a response for that bilateral agreement,” the President had told the Army conference held on March 9, 2005.
“We have requested information in the past but the sloth and the many agencies you have to go through would make it a futile exercise, so I was hoping that (we could) make it a bilateral agreement with a clear mechanism of this transfer of information, but until today I have not received a response.”
President Jagdeo also did not have kind words for the local media, accusing members of being lazy and not asking the U.S. Ambassador or the U.S. Government the tough questions.
“We have a local media corps that will never ask the U.S. ambassador or someone else in the U.S. Government about the 400 to 500 people that they have in prisons (but who they) have not charged as yet (persons who) don’t have a status.”
He also accused the international media of worse, in terms of gross distortions and trying to portray a certain image aimed at “enslaving the minds” of persons from the developing world.
“Often from the media reports, if you look at the international world and form your opinion of Africa for instance, all you will hear about Africa is famine, drought, genocide and tribal wars, et cetera, almost every single day.”
President Jagdeo said this is not the picture he got of Africa when he visited that continent. “I have gone to Africa and Africa is a wonderful place. There are many, many positive things but they (international media) never focus on that and I feel, frankly speaking, that this is part of the bond - colonialism ended but it is a new kind of enslavement.”
“(They) enslave us through our minds so that we form the opinions about ourselves from their sources of information and not from our sources of information and then we start feeling bad about ourselves and then we start thinking that we don’t have the solutions to anything and we have to look to the developed world for the solutions,” the Guyanese Head of State reasoned.
“I think fundamentally, and I have been arguing this at several of the fora that I have gone to, is that we need to have international media sources that are more balanced.”
He further accused organizations such as Transparency International and others involved in gathering information and writing negative reports, of trying to “make this place (the U.S.) the paragon of virtue in terms of human rights”.
“Unless these places live up to international norms, they do not have any right to comment on us here because I feel we have an infinitely better human rights situation here (than in the U.S.).”
“We do not profile people here because of how they look and pull them off planes…or profile people of a particular ethnic race.”
President Jagdeo also lashed out at some sections of the private sector for “bad mouthing Guyana” to these agencies gathering information just because they did not get certain concessions.
“In this country, whichever private sector you talk to you get a different view. You have an old private sector that all they want from me is concessions and if I don’t give them the concessions then whole day they will cuss me - that Jagdeo doesn’t know what he is doing…well, they are not going to get it.”
“This country is committed to opening up and I would help the new emerging private sector and not the fossils who grew up in the past and want to live off of government patronage,” he lambasted, adding that “they always bad mouth the country”.