(AFP) — Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said that he views US military support of neighbouring Guyana as a threat to resolving his nation’s territorial claim there, and will bring it up in talks this week with his counterpart.
Maduro will meet Guyana President Irfaan Ali on Thursday in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
“I hope that in this high-level meeting we can address the main threats to the peace and stability of our countries, among them the involvement of the US Southern Command, which has begun operations in the disputed territory,” Maduro said in a letter published on X, formerly Twitter.
Last week, the US Embassy in Georgetown said the US military was to carry out joint training flights with Guyana as it faces rising tensions with Venezuela over a contested oil-rich region.
It described the December 7 flights as a “routine engagement.”
Maduro said any US military presence in Guyana is contrary “to our aspiration to maintain Latin America and the Caribbean as a zone of peace, free of conflicts, without foreign interference.”
Tensions have soared over the oil-rich Essequibo, historically controlled by Guyana, since Maduro’s government held a controversial referendum December 3 in which 95 percent of voters supported declaring Venezuela its rightful owner, official results showed.
The United Nations Security Council held a closed-door meeting Friday on the spiraling dispute, which is also the subject of litigation before the International Court of Justice.
Guyana has administered Essequibo, which makes up more than two-thirds of its territory, for more than a century.
The decades-old dispute with Venezuela intensified after ExxonMobil discovered oil in Essequibo in 2015, helping give Guyana — population 800,000 — the world’s biggest crude reserves per capita.
Since Venezuela’s referendum, Maduro has started legal maneuvers to create a Venezuelan province in Essequibo and ordered the state oil company to issue licenses for extracting crude there.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Yvan Gil said Maduro will meet Ali looking for “formulas” for “cooperation in oil and gas matters” that might be on the table.
Gil, speaking to the foreign press, said the face-to-face meeting, sponsored by the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States jointly with the Caribbean Community, is positive.
“The simple convocation and acceptance to attend the dialogue is already a profound success,” he said.