Tensions are rising between Venezuela and its Latin American neighbor, Guyana. The United States will conduct "routine" military air exercises in Guyana, the U.S. Embassy in the country announced Thursday (December 7th), amid high tensions between Georgetown and Caracas over Essequibo, an oil-rich region under Guyanese administration but claimed by Venezuela.
"In collaboration with the Guyana Defense Forces (GDF), U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) will conduct air operations in Guyana on December 7," according to a statement. A Guyanese military helicopter has been missing in the border area with Venezuela since Wednesday.
Joint military exercises with the United States
"This exercise is part of routine engagements and operations to strengthen the U.S.-Guyana security partnership, as well as regional cooperation," the document added.
"In addition to this exercise, USSOUTHCOM will continue to collaborate with the Guiana Defense Forces (GDF) in the areas of disaster preparedness, air and maritime security, and countering transnational criminal organizations," it said.
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"The United States will continue its engagement as Guyana's trusted security partner and in promoting regional cooperation and interoperability."
The statement referred to "routine operations" but, the day before, the Guiana Chief of Staff Omar Khan had indicated that he had contacted his "partners" and evoked possible assistance from the United States and Brazil.
UN Security Council scheduled for Friday
A helicopter with seven people on board went missing about 50 km from the border with Venezuela. Although the aircraft was taking part in manoeuvres in the context of the crisis with Venezuela, General Khan said he had "no information suggesting" a Venezuelan intervention, and said several times that the weather conditions were "bad".
The United States is an ally of Guyana, where the ExxonMobil group is one of the main oil operators in this small country that is set to become an Eldorado of black gold with the largest reserves per capita on the planet, thanks in particular to the recent discoveries in Essequibo.
The escalation between Guyana and Venezuela in recent days has raised concerns in international bodies. The U.N. Security Council is due to meet on Friday to discuss the issue, while the White House and Brazil have tried to calm the situation through announcements. "We don't want war in South America," Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said.
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