By Tony Deyal
Taking a side, or even taking aside, is sometimes reasonable even in fights and furors. However, when you’re trying to take both sides at the same time the combatants are very likely to throw you aside or worse, beat you left, right, front and most of all, centre and behind.
While CARICOM at its usual break-neck pace is seemingly trying to get Venezuela to cool down and back off, the Venezuelan president, Maduro, who supposedly is a friend of the countries of the Caribbean, was first angry with all of them and now assures regional leaders he will not invade Essequibo. Most likely what he means is that instead of grabbing one huge oil-rich part of the country, he will invade the whole of Guyana.
This is the only way to make any sense of what the Wall Street Journal posted about Venezuela “ratcheting up its claims to a swath of Guyana, its oil-rich neighbour, which has recently become one of the world’s hottest energy frontiers.” Seeing a chance for a frontier and wealth enough to hang on to power, it is clear that Maduro’s out for the kill. We know what “Mad” means but “Uro”? Google says it means “urine”. The word comes from “aurochs” which is “an extinct large long-horned wild ox of Europe that is the ancestor of domestic cattle.” The Merriam-Webster dictionary says, “It symbolised power, sexual potency and prowess in religions of the ancient Near East. Its horns were used in votive offerings, as trophies and drinking horns.” In the case of Guyana, it is more than a trophy. It will be a catastrophe.
I have some advice for Guyana. Never get into fights with ugly people whose name starts with “Mad” followed by “uro”. They have nothing to lose. While you are tempted to fight fire with fire, especially with US and other support, you must remember that the fire department usually tries water first to cool down the situation. While CARICOM is not my favourite organisation for getting anything done quickly and properly, it is still the only option for the time being. However, my concern is really what some Caribbean countries might be doing in either seeming to take, or have already taken, the Venezuelan side, or worse, playing both sides.
It is already bad enough to try to stop a fight anywhere, especially in the Caribbean. Recently in Trinidad, an eight-member girl gang at one of the secondary schools turned their anger on a teacher after she attempted to part a fight.
They slapped her several times. A woman police officer tried to part a fight in San Fernando and suffered injuries to her hands. In the town of Arima, a 35-year-old man who helped to part a fight between friends and encouraged them to calm down, was beaten to death with a sledgehammer. In April this year a 28-year-old man who thought he could stop two men from fighting was stabbed to death and in another incident, a youngster, just 22 years old, was shot dead.
The Guyanese, who already know the difference between “curry chicken” and “curry chicken”, also know what can happen with “fight-parting”. Just a few days ago, on September 29, 2023, iNews Guyana posted, “Women shot while parting fight between schoolgirls: Two women are nursing gunshot injuries about their bodies after they were shot at whilst parting a fight between a couple of schoolgirls.” The Guyana Times wrote about a “Peacemaker hit to head while ‘parting’ wedding house fight.”
These two Caribbean countries are not alone in the perils of parting. In Jamaica, a 14-year-old teenager was killed for parting a fight. Another Jamaican, Rip Squaddie, according to one post, “him a-part a fight with his family and got wounded and pass away.” Another newspaper report was, “Mom wounded while parting fighting sons dies.” She died from a chop wound. The Jamaica Star had a story about “Peacemakers killed after parting fight.” Even Barbados has its limited but scary episodes. A handyman ended up in court after parting a fight, and a man was shot dead while trying to “part two men engaged in an altercation.”
It is no huge problem if the people fighting are blind because, as one person claimed, he shouted: “I bet the one with the knife wins!” and both of the men ran away fast. Dealing with women might be easier. Two women were fighting for the last available seat on a bus. The bus driver tried getting them to stop but they kept on pushing one another and shouting threats. Finally, in desperation, he grabbed his training manual and announced: “The policy is to allow the seat to go to the uglier one.” If it was Maduro, it would have been different but both women stood for the remainder of the trip.
It is not always so easy. A very badly beaten-up man came to hospital. The doctor asked what the hell had happened to him. The man explained, “I was banging my neighbour over her kitchen table when we heard the front door open. She was frightened and told me, ‘Oh lord! It’s my husband! Quick, try the back door!’. Thinking back, I really should have run but you don’t get offers like that every day.” This is why some of the Caribbean politicians should understand that even with the best offers from Venezuela, if taking one side is bad and could seriously harm you and your country, think of what can happen if you take both sides. Undoubtedly, any country which goes that route will need more than help.
It will be very much like the man who, while walking with his wife, came across her stepmother being beaten up by six bad men. His wife asked him, “Aren’t you going to help?” “No,” he repined, “Six should be enough.” In the case of CARICOM one hopes that its twenty members will be more than enough, especially with the support of the US and other international organisations. However, playing both sides, Venezuela and Guyana, is not just a gamble; but when the spit hits the fan, you will not have any fans or friends left.
It seems that some Caribbean countries are trying to be bilateral and can end up die-lateral. In this greed for gas, you can’t run with the hares and hunt with the hounds. As one writer said, “I was taught to shoot the messenger too. Somebody playing both sides of the fence is more dangerous than your enemy.” I believe that if a war between Venezuela and Guyana starts, the politicians who are playing, or have played both sides, and even CARICOM if it does not stand up for one of its members, or fight on its behalf if necessary, should be placed in the middle of the zone when the battle starts and both sides head straight at them from front and behind.
*Tony Deyal was last seen explaining how easy it is to start a fight. His wife asked him, “What do you love most, my body or my face” and he replied, “Your sense of humour…”