Venezuela’s national assembly will establish a special committee for the defense of the Essequibo region of Guyana, which the former nation claims.
The committee’s creation is part of an accord approved by lawmakers that rejects the International Court of Justice’s ruling in favor of Guyana regarding the tribunal’s jurisdiction in the territorial dispute.
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The accord ratifies a 1966 Geneva agreement to resolve the conflict via bilateral negotiations, as Venezuela does not recognize an arbitral award of October 1899 in favor of its neighbor.
“It is ours; it belongs to the Venezuelans and we are going to reconquer it in peace, in national union, we are going to achieve it,” President Nicolás Maduro said following the legislative body’s decision.
Essequibo covers over half of Guyana and runs from the country’s coast on the border with Venezuela, south to Brazil. Saber-rattling on the part of Venezuela intensified as Guyana advanced toward first oil and included harassment by Venezuela’s navy of vessels carrying out hydrocarbons seismic work.
In related developments, the US – which sees Maduro’s regime as a destabilizing force in the region – is stepping up cooperation with Guyana.
The US Embassy in Georgetown announced that navy admiral Craig Faller, commander of the US Southern Command, will visit the country in the coming days to discuss bilateral security issues.
“The defense partnership between the two countries includes collaboration against regional threats and challenges, capacity-building engagements, bilateral training, expertise exchanges, exercises,” the diplomatic mission said in a statement.
For its part, the Guyana Defence Force said it will hold exercises with the US Coast Guard starting on Saturday.
“Venezuela and the de facto Maduro regime continue to present a multidimensional security threat for Guyana, including ‘sindicatos’ and other armed Venezuela-based criminal groups which cross over the border and conduct criminal activities in Guyana,” according to Evan Ellis, a non-resident senior associate with the Americas Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.