May 5, 2022
It is said that history repeats itself, that we relive it over and over. Indeed, we do. But what is taking place in Guyana today goes beyond that. I detect men reinventing themselves in incredible ways, and then publicly reimaging themselves. The countless clueless and deliberately sightless in this society are awed by the individual transformations; but for those who know better, that is another story. It is not of men truly reborn, but reengineered to present a fresh, new picture in the repackaging and reselling of themselves. Chameleons can change colors, but the spots of leopards are inerasable.
A few years ago, these men sought the shadows, operated largely under the radar, through a variety of fronts. They were undesirous of any speck of publicity, because of the kind of tricks and trades in which they were involved; they still are, mostly. It is called business, entrepreneurship, initiative, and resourcefulness, among endearing descriptions. Unlike times past, the veils of secrecy are now parted, they emerge into the light; they actually court publicity with daring and confidence. They have every right to be, because close involvements with natural resources make that possible, and there is none that does so more than crude oil.
Downstream situations mean upside for them. They get to wash more, sanitize themselves more widely, and take their new place in society. It is carefully cultivated towards respectable, legitimate lines. Don’t be fooled, I caution. Editor, if we haven’t thought about that, or are unwilling to do so, because of race and politics, that is understood. But it does not launder away the reality that what was once the greatest threat to Guyana, what took center stage. I wonder where the good, devoted, and astute people at the U.S. Embassy, CFATF, and the rest are with all this. For locals who look at our new commercial adventurers, and could use some enlightenment, I give them a few precedents.
Go back to Mother Russia in the post Gorbachev, Yeltsin, then Chernomrydin, and currently Vladimir ages, and look at those who became breathtaking capitalists courted by the West. They call them oligarchs. They go by the name of Roman Abramovich, Vagit Alekperov, Boris Berezovsky, Mikhail Fridman, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, and Vladimir Potanin. They were and are over there in the shadow of the Caucasus, and Americans did business with them, nurtured them. Look what they did to Russia. We have their local equivalents right here on the banks of the Demerara and Essequibo and elsewhere. Names are not needed anymore, because the faces are in plain sight.
The people who were once whispered about knowingly are now making the rounds publicly, in the meteoric movements made possible by our oil discoveries, a helpful government, partnering leaders. The new men are the captains of commerce in Guyana, the oil buccaneers; mainly onshore, untouchable and exclusively so. The Russians running for cover, or to conceal their assets, feature prominently today. Our guys here in Guyana are rising to the top (like them), through connections to the top (also like them); the locals swagger and strut with their newfound freedoms. Nobody needs a coveted visa anymore to the land of milk and honey, we have nectar and ambrosia here, so there is no need to go anywhere.
The criminal oligarchs close to the Kremlin had their sponsors and protectors, and some of their enterprises are local. Our own criminals have their strings and connections, and favourable friends in the highest places in this land, which is why there is this studious reengineering by men of themselves. Good public relations also help put brilliant gloss on the rots. Like Balzac said: behind every great fortune lies a great crime; since we are dealing in the plural (fortunes), then great crimes correspond. Some proudly call it business; or what was touted as “progress and development” before by a collaborating leader.
We have them again, and with fresher, sweeter labels and political sheens and verbal gadgetries, all under the flagpole of oil. I call it for what it is: the criminalization of Guyana involving the less than 1% of 1% of this country in commanding control, with incomparable assistance from the top.