Venezuela is sending troops to its border with neighboring Guyana as tensions continue to escalate over a territorial dispute, raising the risk of a military conflict between the two South American nations.
According to a report from The Wall Street Journal citing satellite images and videos made public by the country’s military, Venezuelan forces have stationed troops, tanks, missile-equipped patrol boats, and an armored carrier at its border with Guyana.
The dispute comes as Venezuela attempts to annex the region of Essequibo, where the country’s socialist dictator Nicolas Maduro has said he plans to “grant operating licenses for the exploration and exploitation of oil, gas, and mines.”
Recent offshore oil discoveries by an Exxon Mobil-led consortium have turned Guyana, a former British colony with a population of 800,000, into one of the world’s hottest oil properties.
According to Energy World, Exxon plans to start drilling “two exploratory wells north and west of its prolific Stabroek block, where three oil fields are producing close to 650,000 barrels of oil a day.”
“We are not going anywhere,” the president of ExxonMobil Guyana, Alistair Routledge, told reporters earlier this week.
The ratcheting up of tensions comes despite an agreement signed by Maduro and Guyanese President Irfaan Ali in December, where the two sides agreed to de-escalate threats of physical force and create a joint commission to solve their territorial disputes.
In a statement to the Journal, Guyana’s Foreign Ministry said that they were “not surprised by the bad faith of Venezuela” in reneging on that agreement. “We are disappointed, not surprised,” they added.
Posting on the X platform on Friday, Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino launched into a bizarre tirade where he accused Guyana of agreeing to “military alliances” with the U.S. and reiterated the regime’s position that it belongs to Venezuela:
Meanwhile, the Biden administration has reiterated its support for Guyana, with presidential senior adviser Juan Gonzalez telling reporters on Monday that they would help the country continue to “strengthen its defensive capability.”
“Supporting Guyana to strengthen its defensive capability as it continues to bring enormous oil windfall on the market is something we have a direct interest in,” he said. “We certainly don’t want to escalate tensions, but we have our own strategic relationship with Guyana.”