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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 posted by Venezuela’s military.
Venezuela is attempting to annex an area known as Essequibo, in which Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro in December said he would “grant operating licenses for the exploration and exploitation of oil, gas, and mines.”
The Essequibo region encompasses about two-thirds of Guyana’s territory and is where most of its oil resources lie, and the site of massive discoveries and new production by Exxon and partners.
The International Court of Justice (ICJ) previously ruled that Essequibo is part of Guyana, although this is still not recognized by Venezuela. A written agreement was penned in December between the two that denounced the use of force, instead calling for a commission to address the disputes.
“We are not surprised by the bad faith of Venezuela,” Guyana’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement to the Wall Street Journal regarding the military action. “We are disappointed, not surprised.”
Venezuela has said that it is boosting its defenses in response to U.S. military exercises in Guyana toward the end of the year and the presence of a UK anti-narcotics vessel that is in Guyanese waters. It has criticized ExxonMobil for depending on the U.S. military for its security and for its exploitation of Guyana’s oil resources.
Maduro had vowed a “forceful response” in the area “that rightfully belongs to Venezuela. The Essequibo is ours!”
The deployment of troops to Essequibo comes as Maduro is facing planned presidential elections this year, with the Essequibo issue a popular one among Venezuelan voters.
By Julianne Geiger for Oilprice.com
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Julianne Geiger is a veteran editor, writer and researcher for Oilprice.com, and a member of the Creative Professionals Networking Group.