After constant jawboning for over two months, Venezuela is now backing up its threats to annex part of oil-rich Guyana and secure access to some of the world’s largest oil deposits by "moving light tanks, missile-equipped patrol boats and armored carriers to the two countries’ border", the WSJ reported noting that this is set to rapidly turn into a new security headache for the administration of the now officially senile US president.
The deployment, which was visible in satellite images made public Friday and in videos recently posted by Venezuela’s military on social media, is a "major escalation" in Caracas’s attempts to obtain some leverage over its neighbor’s newfound energy reserves, even though any military confrontation will result in an international response that promptly ousts Maduro. It comes despite a written agreement reached in December between the Venezuelan dictator and Guyanese President Irfaan Ali that denounced the use of force and called for a commission to address territorial disputes.
According to the WSJ, the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, using satellite images provided by Maxar Technologies and shared exclusively with the Journal, found that in late 2023 and January Venezuela moved armored vehicles and what appear to be light tanks to Anacoco Island on the Cuyuni River just yards from Guyana. Construction work is also taking place, signaling the expansion of a base there.
In Venezuela’s Atlantic port of Güiria, the country deployed between Jan. 18 and Jan. 22 at least three Iranian-made Peykaap III antiship guided-missile patrol boats, as is visible in the satellite images used by CSIS, the Washington think tank. The regime’s military set up two Russian-built Buk M2E antiaircraft systems in Güiria on Jan. 31, almost 400 miles east of their usual position near Venezuela’s capital, Caracas. And a small coast-guard post in Punta Barima, 50 miles from Guyana-controlled Essequibo, is being revamped into a naval and air base.
Those deployments are within easy reach of the Stabroek oil block run by Exxon and its partners, Chevron
and China’s Cnooc, off the coast of Guyana, where production has soared to 645,000 barrels of crude a day, not far off what Venezuela produces.
The deployment and increasingly bellicose language from Caracas has come as Guyana emerges as one of the world’s hottest energy frontiers following offshore oil discoveries by an Exxon Mobil-led consortium. The former British colony, population 800,000, has a defense force of only 3,000 service members, pushing the government to work more closely with the U.S. to enhance its defensive capabilities.
Confirmation of the military deployment comes one day after Venezuela said it would respond in a “forceful” way to Exxon’s plans to drill in the disputed Essequibo region off the coast of Guyana.
Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino said that Exxon’s plan to drill exploration wells in the region will be met with a “proportional, forceful and rightful response,” according to a post on social-media platform X. Padrino said the area is a “maritime space that rightfully belongs to Venezuela.”
Si la ExxonMobil cuenta con una compañía de seguridad privada representada por el Comando Sur y una pequeña sucursal en el gobierno de Guyana, bien por ellos, pero en el espacio marítimo que por derecho es de Venezuela ¡Recibirán una respuesta proporcional, contundente y apegada… https://t.co/FjJzqFOr1K— Vladimir Padrino L. (@vladimirpadrino) February 7, 2024
The oil giant said it will drill new wells west of the Liza discovery and close to Venezuelan territorial waters, Exxon Guyana President Alistair Routledge told Demerara Waves. The dispute is “not inhibiting that activity in our plans,” he said.
Padrino responded that “If ExxonMobil has a private security company represented by the Southern Command and a small branch in the government of Guyana, good for them, but in the maritime space that rightfully belongs to Venezuela, they will receive a proportional, forceful and rightful response." Well, Exxon may not have a security company now, but it has billions of dollars more than Venezuela does and if it has to hire a mercenary army to defeat the banana republic's advances, it can easily do so.
Since late last year, the Venezuelan government, which has an army of up to 150,000 active soldiers has ratcheted up claims to the Essequibo, a mostly jungle-covered region that makes up two-thirds of Guyana.
“We are not surprised by the bad faith of Venezuela,” Guyana’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement to The Wall Street Journal in response to questions about the military deployment. “We are disappointed, not surprised.”
What is amusing is that the war-footing comes just as the senile occupant of the White House has been making overtures to Venezuela's dictator in hopes that Maduro will flood the US with cheap oil, thus keeping gas prices low ahead of the elections, which has fast emerged as Biden's only chance of winning; needless to say, should oil prices spike, Biden is done. It gets even funnier though, because while on one hand Maduro has been maintaining a dialog with the US due to his leverage over Biden, at the same time, the country has said it is boosting its defenses in response to the U.S. military’s exercises in Guyana in December and the U.K.’s deployment of a small antinarcotics vessel, the HMS Trent, in Guyanese waters.
In recent months, U.S. officials from the Defense Department and White House have visited Guyana’s capital, Georgetown, for talks on increasing cooperation. President Ali said his government would soon purchase American helicopters, drones and other defense equipment.
“Supporting Guyana to strengthen its defensive capability as it continues to bring enormous oil windfall on the market is something we have a direct interest in,” Juan Gonzalez, a senior Biden adviser, told reporters in Colombia on Monday, a day after meeting Guyana’s president in Georgetown. “We certainly don’t want to escalate tensions, but we have our own strategic relationship with Guyana.”
Then again, Biden's dementia is so bad - as the entire world saw in the past 24 hours - it wouldn't surprise us if the US president is so confused he sends US troops to help his BFF Maduro to run over Guayana if it means oil will be a few cents cheaper come November.
Joking aside, the stock of the largest US E&P company is tumbling because the market is starting to price in legitimate odds of a war as it thinks Biden has become such a laughingstock that Venezuela may actually invade Guyana despite Biden's demand to the contrary.