U.S. conducts air patrols over Guyana amid border row with Venezuela
The United States said it was conducting military flight operations over Guyana amid growing border tensions with Venezuela, which has claimed sovereignty over its neighbor’s oil-rich region of Essequibo.
Venezuela rushed troops to the border after President Nicolas Maduro said a domestic referendum over the weekend gave him a mandate to lay claim over a long-contested region that today makes up about two-thirds of Guyana.
On Thursday, the U.S. Embassy in Georgetown, Guyana said personnel assigned to U.S. Southern Command would carry out the flight operations in conjunction with the Guyana Defense Force.
“This exercise builds upon routine engagement and operations to enhance security partnership between the United States and Guyana, and to strengthen regional cooperation,” embassy officials said in a statement. “The U.S. will continue its commitment as Guyana’s trusted security partner and [promote] regional cooperation and interoperability.”
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Guyanese President Mohamed Irfaan Ali and reiterated the United States’ support for the country’s sovereignty. He called for a peaceful resolution to the dispute and the acceptance of the 1899 arbitration that set the land boundary between Venezuela and Guyana.
“Secretary Blinken and President Ali noted the International Court of Justice order issued on December 1, which called for parties to refrain from any action that might aggravate or extend the dispute, the State Department said.
Officials in Guyana considered the Venezuela referendum, strongly backed by Mr. Maduro, as a step toward annexation by its bigger neighbor. The measure said residents in Essequibo would be granted Venezuelan citizenship and rejected the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice to settle disputes between both countries.
“We are solving through constitutional, peaceful, and democratic means an imperial dispossession of 150 years,” Mr. Maduro claimed, according to the Associated Press.