On Thursday, Venezuelan ruler Nicolás Maduro ordered military exercises considering the recent announcement that the United Kingdom had dispatched a warship to patrol near Guyana’s territorial waters. The participants reportedly include air, land, and naval units in what Maduro characterized as “defensive actions.”
Speaking in a televised address, the autocratic leader described the planned deployment of the HMS Trent, a River-class offshore patrol vessel, to Guyana as a violation of Venezuela’s and the region’s sovereignty.
The governments of the two South American nations are currently engaged in a border dispute over the resource-rich Essequibo region. The disputed area accounts for two thirds of Guyana’s territory and since 1899 has been internationally recognized as Guyanese.
On Dec. 3, 96 percent of Venezuelan voters approved a referendum granting their government the authority to annex the territory. Critics of the election argued that its primary purpose was to incite nationalistic excitement, to divert attention from the failed socialistic policies of the current administration.
In addition to presence of the British Navy, the United States announced on Dec. 7 that they would be conducting Air Force operations within Guyana’s airspace in order to “enhance security partnership.”