US Military to Conduct ‘Flight Operations’ in Another Country Amid Fears of War

The U.S. Southern Command confirmed that it ‘will conduct flight operations within Guyana.’
US Military to Conduct ‘Flight Operations’ in Another Country Amid Fears of War
Members of the Venezuelan Army Special Forces take part in a military parade in Tumeremo, Venezuela, about 90 km from the border with Guyana on July 21, 2015. (Federico Parra/AFP via Getty Images)
Jack Phillips

The United States said it would carry out flight operations in the South American country of Guyana amid fears that Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro is looking to annex a portion of it.

Over the weekend, the Venezuelan government held a referendum to supposedly allow Venezuelans to decide the future of the oil- and mineral-rich Essequibo region of Guyana, drawing pushback from leaders in Guyana. This week, Venezuela claimed that more than 10.5 million people cast ballots in the referendum.

“We have taken the first steps of a new historical stage to fight for our Guayana Esequiba, for peace and to recover what the liberators left us,” Mr. Maduro said following the announcement of the referendum’s results, according to media reports.

The U.S. Southern Command, or SOUTHCOM, confirmed that it “will conduct flight operations within Guyana” on Dec. 7, which “builds upon routine engagement and operations to enhance security partnership between the United States and Guyana, and to strengthen regional cooperation.”

SOUTHCOM also said it will “continue its commitment as Guyana’s trusted security partner and promoting regional cooperation and interoperability” on other matters, including “disaster preparedness, aerial and maritime security, and countering transnational criminal organizations.”

Earlier this week, officials told The Associated Press that a military helicopter belonging to the Guyanese military that was carrying seven people disappeared near the Guyana-Venezuela border. There was no indication that it might have been shot down and there was poor weather in the area, officials said.

The statement issued by the U.S. military did not mention the Venezuelan referendum or fears that the country might attempt to annex Essequibo.

Guyana has questioned the referendum’s legitimacy, put its armed forces on high alert, and said Mr. Maduro is disregarding the International Court of Justice’s orders about taking no action to change the status quo in Essequibo.

The White House on Thursday reiterated the United States’s “unwavering support” for Guyana’s sovereignty amid growing border tensions between Guyana and Venezuela.

“We absolutely stand by our unwavering support for Guyana’s sovereignty,” White House national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters, adding Washington supported a peaceful resolution to the border dispute between Venezuela and Guyana.

The U.S. State Department earlier this week said it thinks the Venezuela-Guyana border dispute cannot be settled through a referendum. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Guyanese President Irfaan Ali late on Wednesday, the State Department said earlier.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said he was following developments with increasing concern and suggested multilateral bodies should contribute to a peaceful solution and that Brazil could host talks. “We do not want and we do not need war in South America,” Mr. Lula said.

Brazil’s army intelligence has detected a build-up of Venezuelan armed forces near the Guyana border, military officials told Reuters.

Meanwhile, Mr. Maduro’s government on Wednesday arrested opposition figure Roberto Abdul for alleged treason connected to the referendum and said there are also warrants out for three staff members at the campaign of opposition presidential nominee Maria Corina Machado. A U.S. State Department spokesperson said it was aware of the arrest orders and was “closely monitoring the situation.”

Guyana’s president previously said that his country will do what needs to be done to stop annexation of the region.

“We take this threat very seriously, and we have initiated a number of precautionary measures to ensure the peace and stability of this region,” Guyana’s President Irfaan Ali told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “Should Venezuela proceed to act in this reckless and adventurous manner, the region will have to respond,” he said. “And that is what we’re building. We’re building a regional response.”

On Wednesday, the United Nations issued a statement highlighting the recent ruling by the International Court of Justice barring parties from any action that “might aggravate or extend the dispute or make it more difficult to resolve.” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres “strongly supports the use of solely peaceful means to settle international disputes,” the U.N. stated.

The Kaieteur Falls at the Kaieteur National Park in Central Essequibo, Guyana, on Sept. 24, 2022. (Patrick Fort /AFP via Getty Images)
The Kaieteur Falls at the Kaieteur National Park in Central Essequibo, Guyana, on Sept. 24, 2022. (Patrick Fort /AFP via Getty Images)

A ruling in 1899 declared Essequibo to be part of Guyana when it was a British territory. Years later, in 1966, an agreement between Venezuela and the United Kingdom was made to resolve border disputes.

Essequibo has become of particular interest after oil giant ExxonMobil said in 2015 that it made a “significant oil discovery” off the coast of the sparsely populated region. The region is also believed to be rich in minerals and other natural resources.

Notably, the Essequibo region was home to “Jonestown,” the communal settlement located near the Venezuelan border that was set up by Peoples Temple leader and avowed Marxist Jim Jones. In 1978, more than 900 people died at the settlement from apparent cyanide poisoning in a mass murder-suicide event.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Jack Phillips is a breaking news reporter with 15 years experience who started as a local New York City reporter. Having joined The Epoch Times' news team in 2009, Jack was born and raised near Modesto in California's Central Valley. Follow him on X:
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