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Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo speaking at a news conference on Thursday. (CMC)

US defence officials visiting Guyana amid border dispute

November 23, 2023

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, CMC – Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo says teams from the United States Department of Defence will arrive in Guyana next week amid the ongoing tension between the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) country and Venezuela over the ownership of the mineral and forest-rich county of Essequibo.

“We are interested in maintaining peace in our country and our borders but we are going to be working with our allies …We will have from the United States Department of Defence next week. [We will have] two visits to Guyana by two teams and then several other visits in the month of December and high-level presence representation from the Department of Defence here,” Jagdeo told a news conference.

Jagdeo said Georgetown has never threatened peace as it depends heavily on diplomacy and international law, while Venezuela is actively engaged in peddling misinformation, attempting to paint Guyana as the aggressor.

“We have never threatened the peace. Venezuela has been an aggressive country threatening peace…All options available to us to defend our country will be pursued. We’re not an aggressive power…but we have to ensure that we also protect our country against the lies and campaign peddled by misinformation,” he told reporters.

Jagdeo said that Guyana has the world’s support in the ongoing controversy, reminding that the 1899 Arbitral Award and the 1966 Geneva Agreement have already resolved the decade-old controversy.

“We have the solidarity of the world in this issue. The CARICOM, the Commonwealth, the OAS including the two main parties at the tribunal when it was set up, the United States of America and the United Kingdom,” he added.

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) last week reserved its judgement to Guyana’s claim that it has evidence that Venezuela intends to gain ownership of the mineral and forest-rich county of Essequibo through a referendum on December 3.

Both Guyana and Venezuela made presentations to the ICJ during two days of hearing into the case relating to the 1899 Arbitral Award after Guyana, in its request, had said that the Venezuela government, through its National Electoral Council, had published a list of five questions that it intends to put before the people of Venezuela in a “Consultative Referendum” next month.

On Thursday, President Irfaan Ali visited several communities in Region One, assuring residents that Guyana remains committed to peacefully resolving the ongoing border dispute peacefully.

“We are not taking anything for granted…That is why our overall strategy is nothing to be alarmed about. There is absolutely nothing to fear. We are doing everything in accordance with international guidelines, and we believe that Venezuela will not act recklessly,” Ali told residents at Kumaka in the Mabaruma sub-district.

He urged Guyanese nationals to remain vigilant against Venezuela’s propaganda designed to instil fear among the population.

“All of us as one Guyana understand clearly that Essequibo belongs to Guyana; there is no doubt about that…We have to ensure that we don’t allow statements coming out of Venezuela to drive fear among us.

“Although we are of the opinion that Venezuela will not act recklessly, we cannot be unprepared. We have to ensure that we do everything within our own environment to secure our environment,” President Ali said, adding “in the coming days, weeks, and months, you will see greater collaboration with our international partners.

Meanwhile, the Guyana-based online publication, reported that  Venezuelan troops appear to be withdrawing from near the disputed border and the X (formerly Twitter) feeds of several top Venezuelan officials have toned down their references to the Essequibo County.

“A usually reliable government official said “they have been told to de-escalate” by a number of friendly nations. Those countries have been backing Guyana’s position that the territorial controversy with Venezuela must be settled at the ICJ and that the December 3 referendum, as currently drafted, allows for Venezuela to abandon that court and seize Guyana’s territory,” the publication reported.

It said people who visited Imbotero in north-western Guyana on the border with Venezuela on Thursday said military hardware, including tanks, and personnel have left that area. The Venezuelan military strength at that point has been reduced to about 15 persons who normally monitor the area.

“Venezuelan military personnel opposite other Guyanese locations were also said to be retreating,” the online publication added.

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