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Venezuela-guyana Crisis: South America Urges Peace

Countries in South America called for a peaceful solution to the border dispute between Guyana and Venezuela as tensions simmered in the region. 

Venezuela held a referendum on Sunday where voters backed the annexation of Essequibo, an oil-rich region controlled by Guyana that borders Venezuela. Since then, tensions have mounted on the frontier.

What did the neighboring countries say?

“Latin America should be a region of peace,” the regional bloc Mercosur — comprising Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay — said in a joint statement with neighboring Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

The statement warned against “unilateral actions” as they “create additional tension.” The countries “urge both parties to negotiate to seek a peaceful solution to the controversy,” according to the declaration.

Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro has directed state-owned gas firms to begin exploration efforts in Essequibo. 

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Thursday expressed “growing concern.” 

“If there’s one thing we don’t want here in South America it’s war,” Lula told a summit of South American ministers in Rio de Janeiro regarding the Essequibo crisis.

“We don’t need conflict. We need to build peace,” Lula said. Brazil has ramped up its military presence in the northern border region with Venezuela.

Lula said Brazil stands ready to assist in talks regarding Essequibo. Lula has earlier praised Venezuela’s Maduro, but he also has friendly ties with Guyanese President Irfaan Ali.  

US to conduct military exercises, vows ‘unwavering support’ for Guyana

The United States, meanwhile, has taken a strong stance in favor of Guyana amid the crisis. The US announced joint military flight exercises with Guyana on Thursday.

“In collaboration with the Guyana Defense Force, the US Southern Command will conduct flight operations within Guyana on December 7,” the US Embassy in Guyana said. It added that the drills are part of “routine engagement and operations to enhance security partnership” with Guyana. 

White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby on Thursday voiced “unwavering support for Guyana’s sovereignty” during a press conference. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also spoke with Guyanese President Ali a day prior.

Venezuela has labeled the US-Guyana exercises as a “provocation.”

“We warn that we will not be diverted from our future actions for the recovery of Essequibo,” Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez posted on X, formerly Twitter. 

How will the UN top court decide on Essequibo?

Essequibo currently composes around two-thirds of Guyanese territory, with 125,000 Guyanese citizens living in the region. US energy conglomerate ExxonMobil discovered a significant amount of oil in Essequibo’s offshore waters in 2015, leading to the current tensions between Venezuela and Guyana.

Venezuela claims Essequibo is part of its territory because the region was part of its boundaries during the Spanish colonial era. International arbitrators in 1899 handed Essequibo to former British and Dutch colony Guyana, with the Guyanese government using this decision as its justification for control of the region.     

Source: DW