‘We support Guyana, will continue to monitor situation’ – US SOUTHCOM Commander on border controversy with Venezuela

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana
President Dr Irfaan Ali meets United States Southern Command, four-star General Laura J. Richardson in August 2022

General Laura Richardson, the Commander of the United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), has made it clear that the US is keeping a close eye on developments on the Guyana-Venezuela border, though she does not believe any credible military action from Venezuela is imminent.

General Richardson made these comments in a recent interview with Bolivia-based news agency Kawsachun, which aired shortly before news broke that the Venezuelan National Assembly had adopted a law last week, seeking to declare the Essequibo region of Guyana to be a constituent part of Venezuela.

“We continue to watch the situation very closely. And in terms of what Venezuela will do and [President Nicolás] Maduro will do to stay in power, he will continue to do those things to remain the President there… I think just in terms of the interactions that have taken place between Venezuela and Guyana. Certainly, Guyana is a very good partner, a strong democracy.

“And what we see President Maduro doing, with elections now scheduled for July 20, trying to create a state of emergency and possibly be able to stay in power. And continuing on with that humanitarian crisis that is currently happening. And has been happening in Venezuela. So, in terms of what’s happening with Venezuela and Guyana, we support Guyana,” Richardson said.

Meanwhile, Richardson was asked whether there was any indication of an impending military push by the Venezuelans into Guyana, to which she replied “no, none that we think is credible”. Further, the General noted that the US continued its partnership with Guyana, including its investments.

“We haven’t stopped anything with Guyana. Guyana has a lot of international support and we have a lot of our allies that also work with Guyana. And I think that is very important and to show the strong support for Guyana, in this situation,” General Richardson said.On Friday last, the Guyana Government had expressed grave concern over the adoption of the law by the Venezuelan National Assembly seeking to declare the Essequibo region of Guyana – more than two-thirds of its national territory – to be a constituent part of Venezuela.

“Guyana remains committed to peace on its borders and in the region. It will not allow its sovereignty and territorial territory to be usurped. Guyana will exert all of its efforts under international law to ensure that its sovereignty and territorial integrity remain intact,” the Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Ministry in Georgetown had said in a statement.

According to the Ministry, this move by Venezuela is a flagrant violation of Guyana’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and is in breach of the fundamental principles of international law enshrined in the United Nations Charter.

“It is also an egregious violation of the order on provisional measures issued by the International Court of Justice on December 1, 2023, and it is a violation of the Argyle Declaration of December 14, 2023, agreed to by the leaders of Caricom and Brazil, the representative of the United Nations Secretary General and by the Presidents of Guyana and Venezuela,” the statement had detailed.

It was also on Friday that the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) had cause to confirm a recent encounter between its ranks and members of the Venezuelan army in the border community of Eteringbang in Region Seven (Cuyuni-Mazaruni), assuring that the incident was amicably resolved.

On Friday, a local newspaper reported that two Guyanese soldiers were detained and forced to return sand and stones, sourced from the Cuyuni River – to which Venezuela is claiming rights, that they were transporting to the community for the ongoing $214.5 million upgrade of the Eteringbang airstrip.

However, Chief-of-Defence Staff of the GDF, Brigadier Omar Khan told reporters on the sidelines of the Regional Security System (RSS) Council of Ministers’ Meeting held in Georgetown on Friday that it was not a detention.

Tensions between Guyana and Venezuela had escalated when the Maduro Government had held a referendum on December 3, 2023, purporting to annex Guyana’s Essequibo region.Following the referendum, the Venezuelan President announced a series of actions, including issuing identification cards to Guyanese living in Essequibo and issuing licences for mining and other activities in Guyana’s Essequibo.

The leaders of both Guyana and Venezuela had subsequently signed the Argyle Declaration, agreeing that Guyana and Venezuela, directly or indirectly, would not threaten or use force against one another in any circumstance, including those consequential to any existing controversies between the two States, and controversies between the two States would be resolved by international law, including the Geneva Agreement, among other points.