This week, Guyanese government officials said they had no problems with a Chinese firm that has been flagged by U.S. intelligence officials about possible spying being involved in a major technology project in the Caribbean trade bloc nation, saying they are satisfied with the work of the company despite American concerns.
Since 2009, Huawei Technology Company Limited has been supervising subcontractors in running a 350-mile fiber-optic cable through the Amazon jungle from Brazil to Guyana that would significantly improve Internet speeds, set up a modern E-governance system and open possibilities for cable television, among other services. Officials say the Chinese operator is up to the task and will remain as project leader.
The announcement came hours after CBS TV news program “60 Minutes” highlighted official U.S. concerns about Huawei technology, given its past alleged links with the Chinese intelligence community as Washington tries to stop it from gaining a major foothold in the U.S.
Alexi Ramotar, son of President Donald Ramotar and head of the fiber-optic project, said Huawei was picked by authorities three years ago to set up modern Internet systems and wire government agencies, and so far neither the Americans nor any other Western nation has relayed any spying concerns to officials in Guyana.
“Most of the work being done by Huawei or by contractors on behalf of the company has been completed to our satisfaction. We have no problem with them so far,” Ramotar said, reacting to the “60 Minutes” segment.
Opposition parties have criticized the project for being overpriced, while the U.S.-owned Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company, which recently invested in a $60 million cable from neighboring Surinam, said the cable will undermine its dominance over the data market in the country.
The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to release findings of a months-long probe regarding security risks posed by the firm.
American intelligence officials say they also have an eye on ZTE Corp for similar reasons as Huawei. Intelligence officials say they want to discourage American companies from doing business with the Chinese company, as it could open avenues for spying and other forms of espionage. Both firms are ranked in the top five of global telecommunications equipment companies.
The Guyana project is worth about $32 million and officials have wasted little time in playing up the fact that local firms won subcontracts to work on laying the cable and modernizing the system.
From all indications, the Americans are following in the footsteps of Canada and Australia, which have moved to place bans on Huawei from doing big business there because of lingering suspicions about espionage.