Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

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Saturday, June 02, 2007
Di terrorist dem...
Isn't it a shame that the first thing my husband asked me this afternoon when we heard about the four Trinidadian and Guyanese men charged with plotting a terrorist attack on JFK airport in New York, was: "does Guyana have oil?" Damn. Are we that cynical after six years of the Bushes? Actually, yes. And guess what? Guyana does:

From March 27, 2001:

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) -- While high oil prices spur exploration for new fields around the world, a potentially rich deposit off the marshy northeast coast of South America remains untapped.

The largely unexplored zone is caught in a no-man's-land because Guyana and Suriname can't agree on their maritime boundary. Guyana says the line runs toward the north-northwest; Suriname says it runs more northward.

Last June, the two came close to war when Suriname enforced its line with two gunboats, forcing a Canadian company's oil rig to withdraw from the disputed area before it could drill under a license granted by Guyana.

The disagreement has prompted both countries to strengthen their small militaries. And it is stalling oil exploration off the entire coasts of both nations, which are among the region's poorest.

"This is one of the few areas left in the world that is underexplored and that has perceived potential," said Newell Dennison, manager of the petroleum division of Guyana's Geology and Mines Commission.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates the entire coastal area off the two countries -- called the Guyana-Suriname Basin -- could contain as much as 15 billion barrels of oil, or about 1 percent of the estimated world total.
From January 30, 2005:

"So, since offshore oil potential is ruled out for the time being, you can imagine how excited the Guyanese are by the possibility that they may find oil onshore instead and that is where the resumed effort to discover hydrocarbons in one of the region's poorest countries is now to be concentrated.“

One could not blame the Guyanese for thinking that someone up there does not like them when constant rainfall, disastrous flooding and the evacuation of thousands of people all combine to smother what should be the real focus of attention in that luckless Caricom country these days-the resumption of the 89-year-long search for commercial oil deposits.

This was due to kick off any time now and it would not be at all surprising if the unfavourable weather situation had delayed the eagerly-awaited event.

As my three or four readers will know, Guyana, Caricom's headquarters territory, suffered a major setback when it tried to sink an exploratory oil well in June, 2000. This was to target a prospect called Eagle in the Corentyne block, 135 km offshore in the Atlantic Ocean. But before the CE Thornton jack-up rig could go into action, a gunboat from fellow Caricom state Suriname, appeared on the horizon and ordered the rig to depart, on the grounds that the waters in which it was operating were really part of Suriname's exclusive economic zone (EEZ), not Guyana's.

Suriname contended then, and is still contending, that the maritime boundary line between the two countries extends from the Corentyne River at an angle of ten degrees to the east, not 33 degrees, as Georgetown insists. That dispute is now before Unclos, to which it was referred by Guyana after it had apparently reached the limit of its patience with the non-existent pace of bilateral discussions.

And from last week (May 26):

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) _ Officials from the U.N.'s maritime body will travel to Guyana and Suriname next week to determine the boundaries of a potentially oil- and gas-rich basin off the two small South American nations' coasts, a government statement said Friday.

Using a survey vessel to scan the sea bottom, researchers from the Hamburg,
Germany-based International Law of the Sea Tribunal will examine the maritime border as the U.N. body prepares to make its final ruling on a long-running dispute between the two neighbors, according to a statement from Guyana's foreign ministry.

The dispute once brought Guyana and Suriname close to war and has blocked fuel exploration in the area.

The two South American nations have been locked in the disagreement over ownership of hundreds of square miles (square kilometers) of untapped territory running from the nations' land border at the coast out to the limit of their territorial waters.

Industry experts have estimated that the Guyana-Suriname Basin may hold as much as 15 billion barrels of oil along with huge deposits of natural gas.

In 2000, Suriname sent two gunboats to the region and expelled Toronto-based CGX Energy Inc., halting its oil exploration there under a Guyanese license.
In recent months, Spanish-Argentine company Repsol YPF and CGX Energy have met with Guyanese President Bharrat Jagdeo to discuss exploring parts of the basin.
Jagdeo has said he is eager to launch surveys after a ruling is issued under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, which local officials expect to be announced in August.

The U.S. military operates in Guyana, mainly doing training and humanitarian work. Not that that's something these four, with the exception of one, would know. The four suspects in the JFK are:

-Russell Defreitas, a Guyananese-born American citizen and former JFK cargo worker who is said to have made damning statements to an FBI informant about hitting JFK in order to shake the American public by, in effect, killing John F. Kennedy a second time...

- Abdul Kadir, said to be a former guyanese parliament member and onetime mayor of Linden, in Guyana, who is said to have passed crucial information on to the plotters.

- Kareem Ibrahim, a native of Trinidad.


- Abdel Nur, of Guyana, who is still on the lam, possibly in Trinidad.

So who are these guys?

Apparently, the group is linked to the Trinidad-based group Jaamat Al Muslimeen, a militant group that in 1990 was accused of an attempted coup against the Trinidadian government including the kidnapping of the prime minister. More about the group:

The Jamaat al Muslimeen is a Muslim organisation within the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago with a membership of predominantly Afro-Trinidadians. The appeal of its doctrines to the poor and displaced classes of society have seen its membership and popularity increase.
More about them from Wikipedia:

It was the organisation's leader, Imam Yasin Abu Bakr, who led members of the Jamaat in an attempted coup d'état against the elected Government of Trinidad and Tobago in July 1990. Over a six-day period members of the government including then-Prime Minister A.N.R. Robinson were held hostage at gun point while chaos and looting broke out in the streets of the capital Port of Spain.

A court ruling, questioned by many as patently absurd on the facts, upheld an amnesty agreement obtained during the incarceration of parliament by the group. This led to the non-prosecution of its members for this crime despite the contention that the fact that guns and force were used to obtain said amnesty constituted duress. Subsequent to the attempted coup, it aligned itself publicly first with the United National Congress (in the run-up to the 1995 General Elections) and later with the People's National Movement (PNM), the party which forms the current Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.

Before and since those elections, however, present and past members have been connected or prosecuted for serious violent crimes. These crimes include drug and gang related killings, rape and a current spree of kidnappings for ransom of members of the local upper and middle class. The organization and its leader have the reputation of antagonism to Trinidadians of Indian origin, that many consider racist. The Jamaat's alleged crimes of kidnapping have mainly targeted Indian-Trinidadians. The organisation's leader is currently being prosecuted with conspiracy to murder several of the group's former members who had spoken out publicly against the Jamaat al Muslimeen and its practices, and who were suspected of becoming witnesses in legal proceedings against its members.

As of March 2007, three members of the Jamaat al Muslimeen have confessed to their role in the kidnapping, rape, and murder of an Indo-Trinidadian businesswoman; Vindra Naipaul-Coolman.

Currently they are under surveillance by the local National Security Agency as well as the United States Central Intelligence Agency for suspected terrorist relations with the Middle East, as are two other Muslim factions.
So we combined disgruntled, angry Afro-Caribbeans from countries with increasing Muslim populations and new discoveries of oil that, once exploited, will likely benefit the East Indian population (Suriname is mostly East Indian, Guyana is increasingly controlled by same), leaving the Afro-Carib population even more angry, disgruntled and displaced. And here these guys are, in the U.S., under the surveillance of the NSA and FBI.

What's worrisome about these developments (this is the third time Guyanese nationals have been linked to terrorist plots inside the U.S. -- would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid of Jamaica being the first and Adnan Shukrijuma being the second,) is that it fits a narrative that U.S. officials are trying to build, not about al-Qaida plots against the U.S. (as Bill Richardson prematurely tossed out on CNN this afternoon in response to the arrests) but about supposed Hezbollah-linked plots that trace back to Iran, the country Dick Cheney and his neocon friends would desperately like to bomb (one major neocon is even praying about it.) Of course, there are those analysts who see almost a competitive growth, between Shiite-type terrorist groups in Latin America, and more al-Qaida style Sunni groups in the Caribbean:

The region’s small Muslim population is comprised mostly of South and Southeast Asians with deep roots stemming back to the Colonial period, as well as Arabs. The region has also experienced an increase of migrants from the Middle East in recent decades. Some of the largest Muslim communities are found in Guyana, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago. Adherence to Islam varies dramatically from country to country. In general, it reflects the diverse ethnic and cultural traditions that comprise the region and is often infused with distinctly “Caribbean” features. This is best evidenced by the Shi’a Muharram rituals known locally as Hosay, (derived from the regional transliteration of Husayn) performed by East Indian Shi’a Muslims in Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Suriname, and Jamaica, that commemorate the martyrdom of Imam Husayn.

Recent Arab migrants from the Middle East tend to be more pious and traditional relative to their second and third generation Arab and Muslim counterparts. Moreover, there are a growing number of locals converting to Islam, especially among impoverished minorities such as the indigenous peoples of the Mexican state of Chiapas and marginalized populations of African descent in the Caribbean islands.

So increasingly, in this hemisphere, the face that will be stamped onto the "threat of terrorism" will be a black, Caribbean one.

Go figure.

However, as the Jamestown Foundation analysis points out:
The Caribbean Basin will remain a region of concern in the war on terrorism. Despite a lack of hard evidence to date, international terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda in theory can potentially feed off of the institutional weakness, political and economic instability, poverty, and lawlessness that characterize the Caribbean Basin to further their aims. But as the case of Trinidad and Tobago demonstrates, the mere presence of Islamist activist groups (or Muslims in general) does not necessarily equate to links to al-Qaeda. Therefore, in addressing the threat (or perceived threat) of radical Islam in the region effectively, it is imperative that policymakers consider the nexus between deep-seated social, political, and economic grievances and international terrorism, and not simply settle for shortsighted solutions.
Yeah, tell it to the Bushies. And there's oil involved? Oy, vey. At the end of the day, groups like Jamaat Al Muslimeen have more to do with inter-ethnic conflict and economic displacement than with al-Qaida, and this group hasn't been linked in any way to either Sunni Qaida or Shiite Hezbollah. But I'll bet that won't stop the U.S. government and their friends in the media from making that case, the better to intervene in the affairs of a country with burgeoning supplies of black gold.

Update: Read the official complaint against the suspects here.

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posted by JReid @ 2:05 PM  
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