Brazil strengthens its military presence on the border with Guyana and Venezuela

Tensions are rising in Guyana and neighbouring Brazil is worried. President Lula convened a crisis meeting in the middle of the Mercosur summit in Rio. He was due to hold talks on Wednesday evening with his foreign minister, Mauro Vieira, and his diplomatic adviser Celso Amorim. But already, it has decided to strengthen the military presence with the border with Venezuela and Guyana.

A wall map of Venezuela including the Essequibo territory, in Caracas, November 29, 2023. AP - Matias Delacroix

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Brazil will send 28 armored vehicles to the north of the country, on the border with its two neighbors, Venezuela and Guyana. He had already sent 60 troops to prevent the crisis from spilling over. In the event of a ground offensive, Nicolas Maduro's troops would have to pass through Brazilian territory, near the city of Pacaraima, according to some Brazilian military sources. The hypothesis is unlikely, but it has not been completely ruled out, explains our correspondent in Sao Paulo, Martin Bernard.

Read alsoPress review: high tension between Venezuela and its neighbor, Guyana

On the diplomatic front, President Lula has failed to calm the situation. Close to Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro, he has failed to dissuade him from wanting to annex the Essequibo region, an oil-rich area that has been disputed between the two countries for nearly two centuries. For his part, Guyanese President Irfaan Ali still hopes that Lula can play a leadership role in bringing stability to the region. He also appealed to the UN Security Council.

The UN "strongly supports the use of exclusively peaceful means to settle international disputes," Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said Wednesday. However, he recalled that "the decisions of the International Court of Justice (ICJ)" which on Friday asked the two countries to "refrain from any action that could aggravate the dispute" are "binding", saying he was "convinced that both states will duly comply with the order of the Court".

Venezuela does not recognise the ICJ in this case, saying it wants a negotiated settlement based on an agreement signed in 1966 with the United Kingdom just before Guyana's independence.

Read alsoEssequibo: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro doesn't give up

After bitter exchanges, the two countries re-established contact on Wednesday. "At the request of the Guyanese side, (Guyanese) Foreign Minister Hugh Todd held a telephone conversation with Foreign Minister Yvan Gil to discuss the issue of the territorial dispute," according to a statement from the Venezuelan ministry.

The two countries "agreed to keep the channels of communication open." The Venezuelan side expressed the need to cease actions that "aggravate the dispute," the text adds.

This rapprochement contrasts sharply with the statement issued barely five hours earlier by the same Venezuelan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In it, Caracas accused Guyanese President Irfaan Ali of having "irresponsibly" given the "green light" to the installation of US military bases in Essequibo.

Read alsoVenezuela: as expected, the referendum is a massive "yes" to the attachment of Essequibo

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