Venezuelan Army Mobilized Near Guyana Essequibo Region Following Maduro's Annexation Announcement

In a significant escalation of the ongoing territorial dispute between Venezuela and Guyana, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has deployed military forces to Puerto Barima, a strategic location near the Venezuelan Atlantic border and close to the contested Essequibo region. This move comes immediately after President Maduro's televised interview on December 5, 2023, where he presented a new official Venezuelan map incorporating the Essequibo area, despite longstanding disputes over the territory.
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On December 3, 2023, over 10 million votes in Venezuela's democratic process marked a milestone in territorial sovereignty, as reported by General Vladímir Padrino López, emphasizing the CNE (El Consejo Nacional Electoral)  system efficiency. (Picture source Venezuela MoD)

The Venezuelan leader's decision to send troops to the border area follows a controversial referendum held on Sunday, which, despite low street participation, was declared a victory by the Chavismo party with a reported 10.4 million votes favoring the annexation of Essequibo. This development has raised serious doubts about the legitimacy and transparency of Venezuela's electoral process.

During the Council of State broadcast, Maduro announced a series of legislative actions aimed at reinforcing Venezuela's claim over the resource-rich Essequibo region, a 159,500-square-kilometer territory that has been a subject of contention since 1777. The dispute intensified after an 1899 arbitration in Paris set the borders in favor of British Guiana, now Guyana, a decision Venezuela contends was unfair and biased.

Following the conflict in Europe (Ukraine) and the war in the Gaza Strip in the Middle East, Latin America could be the next region to face war.

The Venezuelan military's presence at Puerto Barima signifies a direct approach to assert Venezuela's claims, heightening tensions in a region already fraught with geopolitical complexities. This action has not only alarmed Guyana but also neighboring Brazil, leading Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva to engage in diplomatic talks with both Maduro and Guyana's President Irfaan Ali, while reinforcing Brazil's military deployment along its borders. The international community watches closely as this new phase in the longstanding territorial dispute unfolds, with potential implications for regional stability and international relations.

The military capabilities of Venezuela's armed forces are notably more robust and diversified compared to those of Guyana, primarily due to Venezuela's larger economy, population, and historical military investments. Venezuela's military includes the army, navy, air force, and a national militia, with tens of thousands of active personnel as of my last update in April 2023. The Venezuelan military is equipped with a range of modern weaponry, including Russian-made fighter jets, tanks, and advanced missile systems. This arsenal reflects the country's substantial investment in its defense capabilities over the years.

In contrast, Guyana's Defense Force is much smaller and less technologically advanced. It consists of ground, air, and maritime components, but with a significantly lower number of active personnel compared to Venezuela. Guyana's military primarily focuses on internal security and border defense, with limited offensive capabilities. The country's military equipment is relatively modest, often sourced from varied international suppliers, and includes light armaments and patrol craft for coastal defense.

This stark contrast in military capabilities suggests that in a hypothetical direct confrontation, Venezuela would have a considerable advantage in terms of manpower, technology, and overall military strength. However, international diplomatic dynamics, regional alliances, and the involvement of global powers would play crucial roles in any such conflict, potentially influencing the outcome beyond mere military strength. Additionally, Guyana's strategic partnerships and support from larger nations could offset some of its military disadvantages.

Defense News December 2023