Venezuela is sending troops to its border with Guyana in an escalation of tensions over Guyana’s recent oil boom, according to reports citing satellite images and videos released by the Venezuelan military.
Venezuela is trying to annex an area known as Essequibo, in which Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said in December he would “grant operating licenses for the exploration and exploitation of oil, gas and mines”.
The Essequibo region encompasses approximately two-thirds of Guyana’s territory and is home to most of its oil resources, as well as the site of massive discoveries and new production by Exxon and its partners.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) has previously ruled that Essequibo is part of Guyana, although this is still not recognized by Venezuela. A written agreement was signed in December between the two men, denouncing the use of force, calling instead for the creation of a commission to resolve disputes.
“We are not surprised by Venezuela’s bad faith,” Guyana’s foreign ministry said in a statement to the Wall Street Journal regarding the military action. “We are disappointed, not surprised.”
Venezuela said it was strengthening its defenses in response to U.S. military exercises in Guyana toward the end of the year and the presence of a British anti-drug ship in Guyanese waters. He criticized ExxonMobil for its reliance on the US military for security and for its exploitation of Guyana’s oil resources.
Maduro had promised a “vigorous response” in the area “which rightfully belongs to Venezuela”. The Essequibo is ours!
The deployment of troops to Essequibo comes as Maduro faces presidential elections scheduled for this year, with the Essequibo issue very popular among Venezuelan voters.
By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com
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