While the world is now focused squarely on Israel-Gaza and Yemen’s Houthi attacks on merchant vessels in the Red Sea due to the concrete nature of these actions, the market has written off Venezuela’s claims on Guyana’s oil-rich Essequibo as a blip on the geopolitical radar and the war that never happened–with markets these days expecting instant gratification along with everyone else.
As the situation continues to develop, it becomes clearer what Maduro could be planning, and it’s all about circumventing the 2024 elections, for which he is in a rather desperate position. Guyana’s new-found oil riches are, of course, alluring to a country in economic crisis and reeling from sanctions on its own oil that have only recently been eased. But it’s not necessarily about the oil in this case–it’s about securing the presidency.
To do this, Maduro has a play: Without resorting to the use of force, which both Guyana and Venezuela have vowed to avoid in recent talks, Maduro can assert his claim on Essequibo silently and quietly, and then work backwards with the ultimate leverage in his hands.
A recent opinion piece by Andres Oppenheimer in the Miami Herald (where all things Venezuela are of high-level significance due to geographical proximity), lays this out nicely and logically for anyone paying attention. All Maduro has to do is send a small force into Essequibo and claim it, without a fight. That…