Once the richest nation in South America, Venezuela is now bound by an economic crisis. The high poverty, decreased oil production, and high inflation rates that have resulted from the so-called “Bolivarian Revolution” initiated by Hugo Chavez and perpetuated by Nicolas Maduro demonstrate the harsh reality of the country's situation.
The Power Play in Venezuela
Remarkably, in spite of the dire economic situation, Maduro's grip on power remains unyielding. There are elections slated for 2024, but the opposition candidate has been declared ineligible to participate until 2030.
The Essequibo Controversy
Venezuela has made plans to annex the Essequibo region which comprises two-thirds of Guyana's territory. This region is not only rich in gold, diamonds, uranium, manganese, and bauxite, but also witnessed the discovery of considerable oil reserves in 2015 by ExxonMobil.
Guyana’s Rapid Growth
Despite Venezuela's controversial territorial interest, Guyana has been experiencing a robust economic growth. The country's GDP per capita escalated from ,500 to an impressive ,540 within the span of a decade with an annual growth rate of 38%.
The Historical Backdrop
Historically, the Essequibo region was part of Venezuela during the Spanish colonial rule. However, it became a part of British Guyana in the 19th century, confirmed by an arbitration decision in Paris in 1899.
The Escalating Tension
Since 2015, Venezuela has steadily increased its pressure on Guyana by accusing ships of violating its territorial waters while navigating in Guyana's waters. This culminated with a referendum held in Venezuela on the third of December, where 95% of voters expressed their support for the annexation of Essequibo.
As a response to the escalating situation, the International Court of Justice, at the urging of Georgetown, appealed to Venezuela not to undertake any action that could alter the circumstances in the disputed territory. The president of Guyana has assured the people that there is no cause for alarm, stating that diplomacy is their primary defense and that they are open to welcoming foreign military bases in the country as a preventive measure.
The Rallying Support
The United States has pledged to support Guyana and is currently organizing military exercises with the Guyanese army. Similarly, Brazil has also pledged their support and has heightened their military presence on the northern border.
The Potential Outcome
Despite Venezuela's aggressive push, an annexation of Essequibo may not be straightforward. The Guyanese armed forces could use the dense jungle terrain to their advantage in mounting a strong defense.