Following the consultative referendum of December 3, the Nicolás Maduro regime is moving forward with its claim over the Essequibo region that belongs to neighbor Guyana.
On January 13, the National Assembly began a second discussion on the Organic Law for the Defense of the Guayana Esequiba, which provides for the incorporation of that 160,000 square-kilometer-territory to Venezuela.
“The Maduro regime is trying to feed a nationalist sentiment that will allow it to gain a certain popularity internally,” Félix Arellano, international relations expert and professor at the Central University of Venezuela, told Diálogo on January 15. “This is a […] a distraction with respect to the problems that burden a population affected by a complex humanitarian emergency.”
In April, Venezuela will have to present its arguments before the International Court of Justice (ICJ), where the controversy over the Essequibo is being settled.
For Arellano, the Maduro regime has not gathered the necessary information to support its position. “National experts in law, history, geography, politics, and international relations are required. But I don’t see any of that. If that’s being done, it’s a closely guarded secret,” he said.
The December referendum included a question rejecting the jurisdiction of the ICJ. Following the vote, Maduro announced that the result of the referendum would have a “binding effect.”
The ICJ, however, will render the applicable ruling, even if Venezuela refuses to appear at the time for which it was summoned, said Arellano with a warning: “A military confrontation may follow.”
On December 28, the Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB) initiated a maneuver that Maduro described as “a joint action of a defensive nature” along the eastern border, in response to the visit of the British Navy patrol vessel HMS Trent to Guyana.
The regime’s decision was announced two weeks following the meeting between Maduro and Guyana’s President Irfaan Ali, on the island of St. Vincent, where both agreed to refrain from the use of force.
According to television network France24, more than 5,000 Venezuelan military personnel from the Navy, Army, National Guard, Air Force, and the Bolivarian National Militia took part in these maneuvers.
Venezuelan Army Brigadier General (ret.) Rodolfo Camacho, warned that Maduro and his military elite are trying to build capability and mobilize military assets on the eastern border. “But you see a lot of gimmicky improvisations,” Brig. Gen. Camacho told Diálogo.
Troops are being transferred by road from as far away as Mérida, in the Venezuelan Andes, Brig. Gen. Camacho said. Many of the soldiers sent to Delta Amacuro and Bolívar “had never been to the area.”
“There is a very large inflow and outflow of personnel. That’s part of the same improvisation. On Anacoco Island, General Serrano sent people on patrol for three days. It was all because [the soldiers] could not fit in the camp,” Brig. Gen. Camacho said.
The island, located on the Venezuelan side of the Cuyuní River, a tributary of the Essequibo River, lacks continuous electricity service. Drinking water must be carried in tanks. According to Brig. Gen. Camacho, there have been outbreaks of malaria both there and at another site.
“Despite attempts to take the process through diplomatic channels, the [military] mobilization toward Guyana continues,” Brig. Gen. Camacho concluded. “The prospect of a conflict with Guyana has as its main purpose to exercise dominion over Venezuela’s internal political factors, and likewise to keep the FANB occupied with a potential enemy.”