GEORGETOWN, Guyana- MORE police ranks will be heading to bordering communities in the country’s western region in response to reports members of the Venezuela-based ‘El Sindicato’ criminal gang committing robberies on villagers continue to surface.

Minister of Public Security and Chairman of the Parliamentary Sub-committee on Security, Khemraj Ramjattan, told the Guyana Chronicle that after paying a visit to at least four border communities last Thursday, the parliamentary team is convinced that the presence of the violent gang is of grave concern to some residents.

Minister Ramjattan said that the body visited Moruka, Matthews Ridge, Port Kaituma and Mabaruma where informative public meetings were held.
Mabaruma residents, he said, were especially concerned about ‘El Sindicato’, who they say are operating in the southernmost part of the region.

Residents told the parliamentary team that reports out of that area are that persons are being robbed sporadically.

The minister said that whatever will be done to address the matter will be done carefully. “We must act very cautiously; we don’t know whether these people are Venezuelans, Brazilians or Guyanese who can speak Portuguese or Spanish,” he said.

The minister pointed out that a mixture of persons, some of unsavoury character, can be found along these border areas, and it is known that they do involve foreigners from next door countries, and Guyanese as well.

Minister Ramjattan said that ‘F’ Division ranks have been working hard to upkeep security in the interior locations, but given the terrain and area to be covered, it has its challenges.

The Cuyuni River for example, he said, is a long one that is not easy to cover, and much activity takes place there.

As a result, new methods will be used to improve the existing security operations. The Minister said that an expert within the police arena will be sought for new ideas in addressing security in the locations.

Drones for aerial surveillance is one idea that could be utilised to cover large spaces, and very efficient in identifying areas where illegal activities are taking place.

“These are sensitive areas… so all of that have to be looked at,” Ramjattan noted.

The minister said that the community visit also gave the parliamentary team a chance to check up on police stations and community policing groups in the area.

He said that every effort will be made to improve the state of security in the border locations. “We want to ensure that the services of the police and the army are efficient in that area,” the security minister asserted.

Minister Ramjattan explained that given the parliamentary security sub-committee is an “in-camera body”, it is not at liberty to go into great detail about decisions taken at that level, given the matters at reference are of national security.

He noted, however, that when a report is delivered to the full Parliament, citizens would then become aware of the security matters and those that can be made relevantly public.

Early last month, President Granger himself visited the border communities after regional heads informed the government about the need to increase security in those areas due to the infiltration by the Venezuelan ‘El Sindicato’ gangs and an influx of citizens seeking relief from economic and social hardships.

Safety concerns were being raised since villagers said that miners were being robbed and even killed for mining or being present in territories claimed by Sindicatos just over the Venezuelan border. A video of one such incident even surfaced on social media.

Another concern for residents was that citizens from crisis-hit Venezuela were descending on their communities, seeking food and medical attention, thereby adding pressure to the services that are meant for locals.

Regional officials asked the government to provide  extra medication and assistance. Military presence was also increased in some areas.