Eyeing oil-rich region, Venezuela deploys military to Guyana border

by WorldTribune Staff, February 9, 2024

With designs on his neighbor’s new-found oil riches, Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro has dispatched his military to the border with Guyana.

A Venezuelan frigate with the inscription ‘Essequibo is ours’ conducts military exercises in disputed waters in December. / Handout photo

Venezuela, which has 150,000 soldiers in its army and has modern weapons provided by its ally Russia, moved light tanks, missile-equipped patrol boats, and armored carriers to the border.

Since late last year, Maduro’s socialist government has ratcheted up claims to the Essequibo, a mostly jungle-covered region that makes up two-thirds of Guyana. A massive offshore oil find was made by an Exxon Mobil-led consortium off of the coast of the Essequibo.

On Wednesday, Venezuela’s minister of defense, Vladímir Padrino, accused Exxon of relying on the American military for its security and using Guyana for its own benefit.

“They will receive a proportional, forceful response in the maritime area that rightfully belongs to Venezuela,” Padrino wrote on X. “The Essequibo is ours!”

Guyana, a former British colony with a population of 800,000, has a defense force of only 3,000 service members, pushing the government to work more closely with the U.S. to enhance its defensive capabilities.

“The deployment, visible in satellite images made public Friday and in videos recently posted by Venezuela’s military on social media, is a significant escalation in Caracas’s attempts to obtain some leverage over its neighbor’s newfound energy reserves,” The Wall Street Journal reported.

The military move was made despite a written agreement reached in December between Maduro and Guyanese President Irfaan Ali that denounced the use of force and called for a commission to address territorial disputes.

“We are not surprised by the bad faith of Venezuela,” Guyana’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement to The Wall Street Journal in response to questions about the military deployment. “We are disappointed, not surprised.”

Venezuela has said it is boosting its defenses in response to the U.S. military’s exercises in Guyana in December and the UK’s deployment of a small anti-narcotics vessel, the HMS Trent, in Guyanese waters.

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