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T&T Cannot Spy in the Orinoco
Posted: Tuesday, July 26, 2005

By Stephen Kangal

I have previously cautioned the Hon PM Manning to curb his penchant for prematurely divulging that the range of our land-based 360 degrees radar security system would enable T&T to spy beyond Barbados (Express 4 June 2004 p. 12)

Web browsers can now appreciate my surprise and distress when I read that PM Manning was again boasting publicly to his party faithful in Arima that the said radar system would enable us " to see boats coming up the Orinoco (with drugs I assume) ...(and) ... leaving the Venezuelan shore..."

He also spoke of attacking these boats with armed to the teeth, trigger- happy helicopters in the marine areas located "between Venezuela and Trinidad".

Let it be understood that it would a serious infringement of the territorial sovereignty and the maritime jurisdiction and control of Venezuela for T&T to unilaterally and/or secretly undertake spying activities on land (the Orinoco) or in marine waters belonging to Venezuela. In the immediate aftermath of the Petro Caribe Plan bilateral disagreement and alleged US pressure on T&T, such a disclosure was undiplomatic and is likely to increase tension.

No T&T military unit be it armed helicopters or fast patrol boats can venture beyond the 1990 TT/ Venezuela Maritime Boundary in the Gulf and the Columbus Channel without provoking a military conflict with Venezuela except in the case of hot pursuit. The option of attacking boats from the air can only take place exclusively on the T&T side of the boundary. But this only after adequate signals have been given for the alleged offending boat to stop by a T&T military patrol boat. What if the alleged offending vessel turns out to be a Guardia Nacional craft?

The nature of the military drug interdiction offensive revealed by PM Manning in Arima is a prescription for military confrontation with the Guardia Nacional of Venezuela. The Guardia Nacional is a law unto itself. The PM is guilty of over-simplifying the maritime legal complexities of undertaking unilateral military drug interdiction in the marine areas of the Gulf/Columbus Channel in order to delude the party faithful of Arima.

Would Chavez agree for T&T to undertake spying on the coast and within the rivers of Venezuela when there is a definite potential of T&T acting on the proxy of the Bush Administration and sharing this intelligence with the latter who has been accused of trying to overthrow President Chavez?

Can the custodian of the proposed TT radar system be bought over by the Colombian drug lords as some policemen have been recruited by the kidnapping Mafia? We will then be back to square one.

These are some of the considerations that the unsuspecting people of Arima must use to bridle their expectations of an alleged end to the nefarious drug trade that uses T&T as a strategic trans-shipment centre. According to Panday the Manning Administration cannot catch criminals on land but boats that they will be successful within our maritime areas.

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