Venezuela’s Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino said Bolivarian National Armed Forces have a “non-hostile presence in the Essequibo territory” to advance in its “integral defense,”
Mr. Padrino stated this on Sunday, a day after Guyana’s Foreign Minister Hugh Todd denounced a Venezuelan military deployment near the border.
Guyana’s government had on Saturday said that it had satellite imagery showing Venezuelan military movements in violation of a peace accord signed in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in December.
The Guyanese official said that “there is some amount of inconsistencies based on what they are doing on the international front in terms of diplomacy and what they are doing back home in terms of their military posture.”
The US-based Center for Strategic and International Studies on Saturday released satellite imagery showing that Venezuela is expanding its military bases on Ankoko Island, a river island in the Cuyuni River, half of which Venezuela seized from Guyana in the mid-1960s, and in the Punta Barima area of the Caribbean Sea.
The Venezuelan government issued a statement on Sunday denouncing a “malicious campaign” against the “constitutional obligation of the Venezuelan State to establish an integral policy in its terrestrial, insular and maritime border areas, in order to maintain, through the Bolivarian National Armed Forces, its territorial integrity, national sovereignty and defense of the homeland.”
According to the statement, the campaign is “prepared and financed” by the US oil company ExxonMobil and “supported” by Guyana, whose actions “violate the fundamental principles of international law and constitute an aggression aimed at destabilizing the region, in violation of recent agreements.”
The Essequibo, an area of nearly 160,000 square kilometers, was part of Venezuela when it gained independence from Spain in 1811, but since Venezuela had no real control over the territory, years later the British would expand into it to form British Guiana, beginning the dispute that continued to this day.
International arbitration decided the dispute with the Paris Award of 1899, which determined that the territory would remain under British rule.
In 1962, however, Venezuela protested the award, alleging a political deal that biased the judges in favor of the British, leading to the signing of the Geneva Agreement with the United Kingdom in 1966 to establish a commission to resolve the historical controversy, which never materialized.
The agreement stipulated that in the event of a stalemate, the Secretary-General of the United Nations could refer the dispute to the appropriate international body, which led António Guterres to refer the case to the International Court of Justice in 2018.