On Thursday (30/11), Defense Minister José Múcio told journalists that the Army has sent around 200 men, ammunition, and armored vehicles to reinforce security in Pacaraima – a city in Roraima close to the Brazil-Venezuela-Guyana tri-border. The area is experiencing an escalation of tension related to the dispute between Venezuela and Guyana over the territory of Essequibo – a large portion of land, currently under Guyanese administration, which is home to large oil reserves.
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This crisis began after the Venezuelan Government announced a referendum that was held on December 3, in which it was asked to citizens whether they support the granting of Venezuelan nationality to the 125,000 inhabitants of Essequibo, a region of 160,000 km², rich in oil, over which the country is in dispute with neighboring Guyana. The popular consultation also decided on the creation of a new Venezuelan province called Guyana Essequiba. Guyana understands that this is a violation of its territory.
The referendum was largely approved by the Venezuelans.
Oil Wells in the Sea
In 2015, the dispute became more intense, as the American company ExxonMobil discovered oil fields in the region. 11 oil fields in shallow waters and another three in deep and ultra-deep waters are set to be explored.
Maduro’s government has publicly defended the invasion of the disputed territory. The armed forces of the two countries are quite disparate in proportion. While Guyana has only 7,600 military personnel, 3,600 in reserve, Venezuela has 109,000 on active duty and 8,000 in reserve, plus 220,000 paramilitary personnel.
On Friday (01/12), Judges of the International Court of Justice said that Venezuela should not take any action that could change the current situation in the Essequibo region, the target of dispute with Guyana. However, the Venezuelan Government does not recognize the court.
Brazil has already declared that it supports a peaceful solution to the conflict. Last week, Special Advisor for International Affairs of the Presidency of the Republic Celso Amorim traveled to Caracas to warn Maduro about an escalation of tensions, but without asking that the referendum not be held.
The Additional Troops
The extra 60 men sent to Pacaraima should practically double the number of personnel in the region. Today, the Armed Forces have 70 soldiers in Pacaraima. There are currently no plans for other measures.
The Defense Minister stated that the mission of these professionals is to prevent any transit of Venezuelan military personnel through Brazilian territory. The Essequibo region is occupied by dense forests and the region close to Pacaraima, in Brazilian territory, is the easiest route to access the area targeted by the litigation. According to José Múcio, Brazil will not “under any circumstances” allow this route to be used by neighboring countries.