Bishop John Persaud weighs in on Guyana-Venezuela border dispute
In a recent interview with Altos, Guyana-born Bishop John Persaud shared his perspective on the intensifying border conflict between his native Guyana and neighbouring Venezuela. As Bishop of Mandeville, Jamaica and recently assigned responsibility for Montego Bay Diocese, Bishop Persaud lent both his analysis and pastoral wisdom.
While not privy to any non-public details, Bishop Persaud expressed grave concern over the looming threat of Venezuelan military action to claim disputed territory on the western border of Guyana.
“I’m worried for everyone who face a situation that in this day and age, you don’t expect to be facing such a situation,” he remarked.
Bishop Persaud noted that Venezuela has long held territorial ambitions over resource-rich western Guyana. “Even from childhood growing up, we have always heard that they claim… in more recent times, I became aware that on their Venezuelan maps, they always had that section marked off as reclaimed zone,” he said.
However, Bishop Persaud questioned the suspicious timing of Venezuela’s latest sabre-rattling under the Maduro regime. Coming on the heels of Guyana’s discovery of substantial offshore oil reserves, he wondered aloud whether “it has something to do with the riches of Guyana right now.”
Bishop Persaud went further to speculate that President Nicolás Maduro was deliberately inflaming the border dispute for political gain in Venezuela. With Maduro on shaky ground domestically, Bishop Persaud theorised he may be stirring up conflict “to galvanise the people around him” ahead of upcoming elections there.
When asked to respond to Venezuelan bishops vocally backing Maduro’s territorial claims (CN December 3–9), Bishop Persaud declined to directly counter their communication since he had not reviewed it. However, he noted the intense pressure and intimidation tactics that are hallmarks of the Maduro government.
“It’s also well known that the Maduro regime has exerted a lot of pressure on people, including probably Church,” Bishop Persaud stated.
Offering encouragement to the Guyanese people during this crisis, Bishop Persaud drew on abiding faith and optimism to provide comfort and perspective. “My thing would be that good always prevails,” he counselled them, while encouraging trust in God’s providence.
Bishop Persaud maintained that Guyana holds the moral high ground in the dispute, not having initiated aggression against its neighbour. “We have not caused hurt or pain as a nation to our neighbours in any way. We have not initiated any conflict, really, with Venezuela or anything like that,” he affirmed.
While avoiding direct accusations, Bishop Persaud alluded to the questionable ethics behind Venezuela’s actions. “Why would we be fighting over land at this age? I don’t see the reason… I don’t see the reason… I don’t see the reason for it.”
Bishop Persaud prayed for a swift and just resolution between both countries for the betterment of their people. But his words made clear that Guyana’s fate may ultimately rest on forces beyond politics.
“Have the trust in God. We are on the side of right and good,” Bishop Persaud maintained. “I would just say to my brothers and sisters in Guyana to not lose faith.”