9th of September, 2021. Region 9, Guyana, South AmericaLast updated: September 9, 2021 at 14:41 pm
Brazilians and Guyanese on the Brazil side of the border today, 9th of September, 2021, staged a protest calling for the reopening of the Guyana/Brazil border in Region 9 by blocking the flow of traffic towards the Takutu River Bridge.
Residents of Lethem, Region 9, and neighboring Bonfim, Brazil are tired of the extended closure of the Guyana/Brazil border which is running on to nearly 2 years now. The border was closed in March, 2020 when Covid-19 cases first started spiraling out of control in Brazil. At that time, Brazil had been dubbed the epicenter of the virus in South America while Guyana had less than 500 cases.
However, with a decline of Covid-19 infections in Brazil and aggressive and widespread vaccination programs in both countries, compounded with the fact that Covid-19 infections are in both Guyana and Brazil at a similar ratio, people are wondering what exactly is the point of keeping the border closed.
Up to this point, closure of the Guyana/Brazil border – a decision first taken by the Brazilian government, and agreed upon by the Guyana government, has served only to stagnate the economy in Lethem and Bonfim and put financial strain on both the working and business classes in Region 9 and neighboring Roraima. Further, most residents of Region 9 have relatives, friends, or a second home in Bonfim, Brazil and vice versa. A great number of Bonfim residents who had jobs in Lethem were forced to either forego their jobs or permanently take up residence in Lethem.
At present, the border is opened under controlled circumstances every Thursday for merchandise to pass from Brazil to Guyana. Cross-border activities by persons sometimes happen with permission from the relevant authorities from both sides. On the other hand, the situation has forced people to resort to illicit back-track activities over the Takutu River and at other unmonitored points between the two countries. The border at Region 9 with Brazil is very porous and allows for people to cross from one country to the other under the radar very easily.
Many businesses in Lethem which depended on the influx of Brazilian shoppers are at a virtual standstill – the stores are open but are doing very little business. As a result, many workers are out of jobs since the businesses have been forced to scale down on employees due to the economic nosedive brought on by the closure of the border. Hotels in Region have suffered a similar fate.
Covid-19 infections in Brazil have seen a significant decline as of recent days. Yesterday, 8th of September, 2021, there were only 13,771 new cases across the whole country whose population is more than 200 million. Covid-19 deaths across Brazil have also seen a significant decline as of lately. Yesterday, only 313 Covid-19 related deaths were recorded across the whole country. So far, 32% of the Brazilian population have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and 66% have received the first shot.
Update: 2 PM, 9th of September, 2021. According to the Facebook Page of the Lethem Town Council, the Mayor, Mr. John Macedo, “spoke” to the protestors in Bonfim who were blocking the trucks from passing the Bonfim Federal into Guyana. It is not clear from the release what exactly he told them, but the statement said that the protestors dispersed and allowed the trucks to pass after a “discussion” with Mayor Macedo and “other officials.”