The United States Announces Joint Air Maneuvers with Guyana Defense Force Amid Escalating Tensions with Venezuela
The United States has announced a series of joint air maneuvers with the Guyana Defense Force (GDF) for this Thursday to strengthen security collaboration between the two countries, as announced by the US Southern Command. The announcement comes in the midst of an escalation of tension between Georgetown and Caracas, following the referendum held in Venezuela on sovereignty in the Essequibo region, a territory that belongs to the neighboring country and occupies two-thirds of its surface.
The maneuvers, the Southern Command statement emphasizes, are routine in nature and seek, in addition to reinforcing cooperation between the two forces, to strengthen regional collaboration. In addition to this Thursday’s exercises, the United States “will continue its collaboration with the GDF in the areas of disaster preparedness, air and maritime security, and the fight against transnational criminal organizations.” The United States, which has been regularly conducting joint military exercises with the South American country for years, “will continue its commitment as a reliable partner for the security of Guyana and with the promotion of regional cooperation and coordination,” adds the Southern Command.
The maneuvers occur a day after the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, assured the President of Guyana, Mohamed Irfaan Ali, of Washington’s “unconditional support” for his sovereignty after the Venezuelan referendum. The head of US diplomacy reiterated the call for a peaceful solution to the dispute between Venezuela and Guyana over the Essequibo, a jungle and sparsely populated region of 160,000 square kilometers, but rich in oil, wood and minerals and which is located at the base of Guyana’s great economic growth in recent years.
Venezuela had criticized on Wednesday that Guyana gave the “green light to the presence” of the Southern Command in Essequibo. According to the president, Nicolás Maduro, this attitude opens the “possibility of US military bases” in the region, something that is “threatening the zone of peace that has been outlined in this region”. Caracas argues that the Essequibo had belonged to it during the times of the Spanish colony and that the judicial decision that awarded it to Guyana in the 19th century is invalid. In 2020, the dispute reached the UN International Court of Justice, where it has not been resolved. Maduro rejects, in any case, that this court has jurisdiction in the conflict.
Sunday’s consultation, held after the Court on Friday urged Venezuela not to take measures that would alter Guyana’s control over the Essequibo, but did not prohibit the referendum, gave the support of 10.4 million Venezuelan voters to the thesis of his Government. The consequences of that vote immediately contributed to raising tension. Hugo Chávez’s successor announced the imminent presentation of a law to annex the disputed territory, appointed a provisional authority to administer the region, mobilized the Army in the border area and took advantage of the escalation to accuse some of the leader’s collaborators of conspiracy. Opposition leader María Corina Machado and raise the specter of the external enemy.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Yván Gil on Wednesday attributed Washington’s interest to the American oil company Exxon Mobil, to which Guyana granted rights to exploit crude oil in the waters of the Essequibo. During an event to present what he described as “the new map of Venezuela”, Maduro also gave companies that have received concessions from Guyana a period of three months to stop operating and negotiate again with Caracas. This change of direction occurs less than two months after the Joe Biden Administration lifted sanctions on Venezuelan oil, gas and gold following agreements between Chavismo and the opposition to hold presidential elections in 2024.