South America braces itself for war – and so should the US.
Some people reacted to Venezuela’s referendum on annexing the Esequibo region of Guyana by saying that it was probably a ruse, a distraction to Socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro’s very low popularity in the run-up to next year’s presidential election.
We all wish they’d be right, but the immediate developments suggest that it isn’t so.
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has directed the country’s state-owned Petroleum companies to ‘immediately begin to explore and exploit the oil, gas, and mines in Guyana’s Essequibo region.’
The disputed territory is ‘larger than Greece’ and incredibly rich in oil and minerals.
The announcement came a mere day after Maduro enacted his weekend referendum on whether to claim sovereignty over the region.
Associated Press reported:
“Maduro said he would ‘immediately’ proceed ‘to grant operating licenses for the exploration and exploitation of oil, gas and mines in the entire area of our Essequibo’. He also ordered the creation of local subsidiaries of Venezuelan public companies, including oil giant PDVSA and mining conglomerate Corporación Venezolana de Guayana.
It is not clear how the Maduro administration intends to implement the idea of exercising jurisdiction over the territory once it’s officially declared part of Venezuela through a law that is to be soon discussed by the National Assembly, which is controlled by the ruling party.”
Besides the exploitation of resources in Essequibo, Maduro also announced the creation of a new Comprehensive Defense Operational Zone for the disputed area.
“The 61,600-square-mile (159,500-square-kilometer) area accounts for two-thirds of Guyana. Yet, Venezuela has always considered Essequibo as its own because the region was within its boundaries during the Spanish colonial period, and it has long disputed the border decided by international arbitrators in 1899, when Guyana was still a British colony.
Venezuela’s commitment to pursue the territorial claim has fluctuated over the years. Its interest piqued again in 2015 when ExxonMobil announced it had found oil in commercial quantities off the Essequibo coast.”
Guyana has repeatedly denounced Venezuela’s actions, and neighboring Brazil is getting ready to face a military crisis right outside its border.
“Brazil’s military is reinforcing its northern border due to rising tensions between its neighbors Venezuela and Guyana over Venezuela’s claim to the Esequibo region, the Ministry of Defense said on Tuesday.
The Brazilian army is moving armored vehicles and more troops to Boa Vista, the capital of Roraima state that borders both Venezuela and Guyana after Venezuelans voted in a referendum on Sunday to approve the annexation of the Esequibo.”
The Guaicuru armored vehicles will join a beefed-up 18th Mechanized Cavalry Regiment, with 600 soldiers to improve security along the border and intensify surveillance.
“Brazil’s top diplomat for Latin America and the Caribbean, Gisela Padovan, said the main road connection between Venezuela and Guyana is through Brazilian territory due the inaccessible terrain of the Esequibo, but its use in any military action would not be accepted by her country.
‘We are following the situation with concern. I do not believe it will come to an armed conflict’, she said in an interview on Monday in which she urged a peaceful resolution.”