Control Ciudadano (Social Watch - CC) Chairwoman Rocío San Miguel said Guyanese President Irfaan Alí's recent statements regarding the military support of several countries to defend the Essequibo amounted to a “very strong warning for Venezuela,” which will hold a referendum on the matter on Dec. 3.
The Essequibo is a disputed territory of 159,500 km2 (61,600 sq mi) west of the Essequibo River administered and controlled by Guyana but claimed by Venezuela. The controversy stems from colonial times and was deepened after Guyana gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1966.
If it continues like this, it will end up being armed, San Miguel said. She argued that given Alí's actions, including his visits to the disputed area or public declarations in which he has stated that he has the military support of several countries, the scenario is getting more complicated.
”It is going at a very fast speed and the most dangerous thing for the Venezuelan government is that it is entering a strategic enclosure, that is to say, it is going to exhibit a possible triumph in the referendum, but, how is it going to apply it in front of a country that already has its president a few meters away from the (Venezuelan) states of Bolivar and Delta Amacuro? the activist wondered.
San Miguel also said Guyana already has an operational deployment” in the disputed site and that the manifest support of the countries of the Commonwealth, the Caribbean Community (Caricom), and other external partners should alert Venezuela.
Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López said Friday that the dispute with Guyana is not an armed war, for now. Go out and vote. He also noted that the Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB) would remain permanently vigilant.
Guyanese Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo said on Thursday that next week representatives of the U.S. Department of Defense will visit Guyana, as part of the cooperation that Georgetown is exploring with its allies in order to prepare for any escalation in the dispute with Venezuela over a territory known for its wealth and large oil deposits.
The sovereignty dispute dates back to 1841 but Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has fueled it since 2015, when vast oil deposits were discovered.
In the referendum, Venezuelans will be asked whether they support the creation of the state of Guayana Esequiba, as well as a plan to grant Venezuelan citizenship to its inhabitants, which the Guyanese government regards as a threat to its territorial integrity, It has also asked the International Court of Justice at the Hague to stop it.
Nothing will prevent the referendum scheduled for December 3 from being held, Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez assured the court on Nov. 15.