Venezuelans urged to vote for war with Guyana
Earlier this week, the Brazilian Armed Forces have reportedly been placed in a state of heightened readiness due to the significant movement of military equipment and personnel in Eastern Venezuela towards the border of Guyana. These developments have come due to the escalation of a colonial-era territorial dispute between the two countries. Venezuela’s Maduro has called for a referendum on 3 December as to whether the nation should invade the territory of Essequibo after Guyana had announced that it would allow new oil drilling bids on the territory. Venezuela recognises this as a violation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity, although analysts suggest that the escalation is a political play by Maduro to garner electoral favour going into the 2024 Venezuelan elections. The country has employed 356,513 soldiers and 120,000 police officers during the voting.
Guyana has responded to the existential threat by courting the US and the international community. In 2018, Guyana had reached out to the International Court of Justice pleading that they acknowledge the 1899 decision that gave the country de-jure ownership of the Essequibo region. This request will now likely be accelerated. Recently, they have also asked the court to put a stop to Venezuela’s weekend referendum, arguing that it violates international law. The Court responded saying that they will issue a response on the 1 December. However, Maduro has repeatedly stated that Venezuela will not accept the interference of third parties, such as the Court, and restates their claim to the region. This comes following the narrative that Essequibo was within Venezuelan control following their declaration of independence from Spain in 1811. Since the recent escalation, US Department of Defense officials have visited Guyana to discuss a potential military partnership. The Guyanese leadership have also raised the possibility of establishing military bases in the region, with foreign support. Such a policy is much needed for Guyanese security policy, but may prove to be too little, too late.
"The Department of Defense has a strong defense partnership with the Guyana Defense Force focused on areas of mutual interest, including countering transnational criminal organizations, maritime security, disaster preparedness, humanitarian assistance and human rights," - Guyana defence spokesperson (29 Nov.)
The contested region is home to approximately 125,000 people, and is around 62,000 square miles big – amounting to around two thirds of the Guyana. Should Venezuela choose to press their claim militarily, the conflict risks spreading out across the region – with Brazil already moving to protect their territorial integrity. American involvement in the conflict will also be likely, as the US is diplomatically more aligned with Guyana, and would seek to maintain peace between American states. Furthermore, this will likely stall the ongoing relaxation of US sanctions on Venezuela, as well as discussions between Venezuela and Trinidad and Tobago regarding natural gas exportation and production.
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