Brazil’s armed forces have been put on high alert due to the recently discovered movement of military equipment and personnel in eastern Venezuela on the border with Guyana, and officials believe Venezuela could soon attack the small South American country.
Guyana Esequiba is a region of about 159,500 km2 west of the Essequibo River currently administered and controlled by Guyana, but claimed by Venezuela as part of its territory.
The roots of conflict
The dispute dates back to colonial times, when Spain and the Netherlands competed for control of the area. In 1814, the Netherlands ceded its colonies of Essequibo, Demerara and Berbice to Britain, which later united them into British Guiana.
Venezuela inherited Spain’s claim to the region after its independence in 1811, but Britain extended its control further west of the Essequibo River in the 19th century.
In 1895, Venezuela requested the help of the United States (U.S.) to resolve a border dispute with Britain, invoking the Monroe Doctrine, which declared the American continent inaccessible to European intervention.
The U.S. intervened and forced Britain to accept international arbitration over the entire disputed area. An arbitral tribunal, convened in Paris in 1898, awarded most of the territory to British Guiana in 1899. However, Venezuela later denounced the verdict as invalid, stating that the tribunal was biased and corrupted by British influence.
The dispute remained unresolved after Guyana gained independence from Britain in 1966. Venezuela has since maintained its claim to Guyana Essequibo, occasionally resorting to military and diplomatic pressure to assert its sovereignty over the region.
Venezuela also rejected the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to resolve the dispute and instead proposed bilateral negotiations with Guyana.
A region rich in natural resources
Guyana is rich in natural resources, such as oil, gas, gold, diamonds and timber, which has attracted the interest of both countries and foreign companies.
In recent years, Guyana has awarded exploration and production licenses to several multinational corporations, such as ExxonMobil, to exploit offshore oil and gas reserves in disputed waters.
Venezuela protested these activities and accused Guyana of violating its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The tension between the two countries has escalated in the context of the political and economic crisis in Venezuela, which has led to the deterioration of its relations with its neighbors and the international community. Venezuela is accused of human rights violations, corruption, authoritarianism and interference in the internal affairs of other countries.
Venezuela has also faced several challenges to its legitimacy, such as the Venezuelan presidential crisis, which has resulted in the emergence of two rival governments: one led by Nicolás Maduro, who claims to be the constitutional president, and the other led by Juan Guaidó, who claims to be the interim president he recognizes more than 50 countries, including Brazil.
The role of Brazil
Brazil, as the largest and most influential country in South America, has played an important role in regional events and conflict resolution. Throughout history, Brazil has maintained cordial and cooperative relations with Guyana and Venezuela, and has supported a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the dispute over Guyana Essequibo.
However, Brazil’s stance has changed significantly under the presidency of Jair Bolsonaro, who has taken a more confrontational and ideological stance against Venezuela and its allies.
Bolsonaro aligned himself with the U.S. and other countries that recognize Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela and condemned Maduro as a dictator and a threat to regional stability and democracy. Bolsonaro also expressed support for Guyana’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and criticized Venezuela’s claims and actions as aggressive and illegitimate.
According to some reports, the Brazilian armed forces have been put on high alert due to the significant movement of military equipment and personnel in eastern Venezuela on the border with Guyana, which was recently revealed by satellite images and intelligence sources.
Some officials believe Venezuela may soon invade the small South American country to annex the Guayana Esequiba region, which makes up more than 60 percent of the country’s territory and is claimed by the Venezuelan government.
If this scenario materializes, it could trigger a major regional conflict involving not only Guyana and Venezuela but also Brazil and other neighboring countries, as well as the U.S. and other international actors, Klix.ba reports.