Tensions between Venezuela and Guyana over the Essequibo continue to rise following the former's referendum over recognizing the region as part of Venezuela and posterior actions in that direction. During the past days, President Nicolás Maduro said he would grant licenses to drill for oil there and that he would introduce a bill to annex the Essequibo. In response, Guyana put its army at its highest level of alert and announced a joint aerial drill with the United States.
Venezuela has historically claimed sovereignty claim over the territory, with the rising efforts coinciding with the discovery of vast gas and oil reserves.
With Venezuelan troops present in the border area with the Brazilian state of Roraima, the United States has initiated military operations to support the government of Guyana. Antony Blinken, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of State, expressed commitment to Guyana's President, Irfaan Ali, to collaborate in safeguarding the country's sovereignty against Venezuela's ambitions. Concretely, Blinken said that Guyana had the U.S.'s "inconditional support."
"In collaboration with the Guyana Defence Force (GDF), the U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) will conduct flight operations within Guyana on December 7. This exercise builds upon routine engagement and operations to enhance security partnership between the United States and Guyana, and to strengthen regional cooperation," reads a passage from a press release published by the United States Embassy in Georgetown.,
"In addition to this exercise, USSOUTHCOM will continue its collaboration with the GDF in the areas of disaster preparedness, aerial and maritime security, and countering transnational criminal organizations. The U.S. will continue its commitment as Guyana's trusted security partner and promoting regional cooperation and interoperability," it adds.
Guyana's president, Irfaan Ali, has called Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's statements as a 'direct threat' to his country.
Additionally, Ali urged the United Nations Security Council to take measures. He emphasized that Guyana has the support of Caricom, the Commonwealth, and numerous "bilateral partners," among them the United States of America, Brazil, the United Kingdom and France.
Venezuela's latest announcements
Venezuela has approached the area from the town of Tumeremo, located in Bolívar state, which borders with Brazil. A military deployment has began, although Maduro has not ordered incursions into the disputed area.
Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino rejected the United States' actions in an X (formerly Twitter) publication. "This unfortunate provocation by the United States in favor of the ExxonMobil praetorians in Guyana is another step in the wrong direction." he said.
"We warn that it will not divert us from our future actions for the recovery of the Essequibo. Don't make a mistake! Long live Venezuela," he added.
Earlier this Thursday, Padrino had announced that on Thursday he had met with the generals and admirals of Venezuela to define strategic guidelines for the military operation in the Essequibo region.
Other actions taken by the Maduro government during the past days: it published a map of the country including the region; it intends to consider the Essequibo's some 125,000 residents as Venezuelan citizens. "Guyana must know that we either settle this problem in good terms or we settle it," said Maduro.
Days before the referendum, The United Nations' top court warned Venezuela to stop any action that would alter Guyana's control over the Essequibo. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Friday told the Latin American country to "refrain from taking any action which would modify that situation that currently prevails" in the Essequibo region that makes up some two-thirds of Guyana.
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