In response to the UK deploying a warship near Guyana, a former British colony, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has ordered over 5,600 military personnel to engage in “defensive” exercises. Maduro asserts that these actions are in defense against the provocation and threat posed by the UK against the peace and sovereignty of Venezuela.
On Sunday, the Ministry of Defense announced its decision to deploy the patrol vessel HMS Trent to Guyana. This move comes as a response to Maduro renewing Venezuela’s claim to the oil-rich Essequibo region, sparking a simmering territorial dispute.
The Essequibo region, covering 62,000 square miles (160,000 square kilometers), is commonly recognized as part of Guyana. However, Venezuela has revived its claim to the territory and offshore areas in recent years, driven by substantial oil and gas discoveries.
Tensions surged this month when Venezuelan voters, in a referendum, endorsed making the Essequibo area a new Venezuelan state. They also rejected the authority of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which is currently overseeing the border dispute case.
Earlier this month, Guyana and Venezuela agreed to avoid using force and to resist increasing tensions.
The Royal Navy patrol vessel HMS Trent is currently visiting Guyana, described by the Ministry of Defense as part of a series of engagements in the region without specific reference to Venezuela or the border dispute.
Venezuela mounts military exercises as UK sends warship to support Guyana https://t.co/36w3KbYYAf
— Guardian news (@guardiannews) December 28, 2023
Expressing his discontent on Thursday, Maduro stated, “It is the breaking of the spirit of dialogue, diplomacy and peace of the agreements.” He characterized the deployment as “practically a military threat from London.”
Maduro has commanded the “activation of a joint defensive action of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces” off the coast of Essequibo, as announced in a state-televised broadcast. However, he did not provide additional information.
Expressing his stance, Maduro stated, “We believe in diplomacy, in dialogue, in peace. But no one should threaten Venezuela; no one should mess with Venezuela. We are men of peace, we are a people of peace, but we are warriors, and this threat is unacceptable for any sovereign country.”
He further emphasized, “The threat of the decadent, rotten ex-empire of the United Kingdom is unacceptable.”
During the broadcast, military leaders in Venezuela’s east stated that 5,600 uniformed personnel were ready for the operation.
In an official statement, Venezuela’s foreign ministry asserted that the country “reserves all actions, within the framework of the constitution and international law, to defend its maritime and territorial integrity.”
During his visit earlier this month, UK Foreign Minister David Rutley emphasized, “The border issue has been settled for more than 120 years. We welcome the recent agreement by Venezuela to refrain from the use of force and any further escalation.”