AMERICAN warplanes flew over Guyana and its disputed Essequibo region today after Putin’s Venezuelan dictator pal Nicolás Maduro threatened to snatch more than half of the country and take its oil.
Guyana and the United States are now on full alert for an “imminent” invasion after a military chopper vanished near the Venezuelan border.Nicolás Maduro holding up a map of the region showing Guyana Essequibo under Venezuelan control[/caption] A military helicopter carrying seven people had vanished near Guyana’s border with Venezuela[/caption]
The US embassy in Guyana said on Thursday that the US Southern Command was conducting flight operations within Guyana.
“This exercise builds upon routine engagement and operations to enhance security partnership between the United States and Guyana, and to strengthen regional cooperation,” the statement said.
It saw more than 95 per cent of voters supporting the government’s claim to Essequibo – although its veracity is doubted.
America earlier vowed its “unwavering support” for Guyana as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Guyanese President Irfaan Ali late on Wednesday.
Guyana’s President Irfaan Ali told The Associated Press earlier Wednesday that he was taking all necessary steps to defend his country.
The Guyanese leader has appealed to the International Court of Justice, the United Nations’ top court, which on Friday ordered Venezuela not to take any action to change the status quo until the panel can rule on the two countries competing claims, which could take years.
Ali said Maduro was showing “blatant disregard” for the ICJ ruling.
He added: “Guyana will be reporting this matter early in the morning.
“We will write the UN Security Council and the court.
“The Guyana Defense Force is on high alert… Venezuela has clearly declared itself an outlaw nation.”
It comes after a military helicopter carrying seven people had vanished near Guyana’s border with Venezuela.
Authorities had said there was bad weather in the area and stressed there was no indication it may have been hit by hostile fire as tensions escalate between the countries.
Two crew members aboard the helicopter were taking five senior officers on an inspection of troops guarding a border area that Venezuela claims as its own, Army Chief Brig. Gen. Omar Khan said.
Khan told reporters late Wednesday that Guyana’s Defense Force lost contact with the brand new Bell 412 EPI aircraft after it took off from Olive Creek settlement in western Guyana following a refueling stop.
Venezuelan troops with heavy equipment and machinery have been amassing on the border in recent weeks, leading to speculation of an imminent invasion.
Asked if the aircraft was shot out of the sky as it flew in a mountainous and heavily forested area, Khan said there are no indications that occurred.
“We do not have any information suggesting that there was any flight by Venezuelan aircraft in that area,” he said.
“Speculation is not what I want to go into. Our priority is to save the lives of our officers and ranks.”
It is understood search and rescue teams have found the missing aircraft and reported signs of life around the crash site.
Troops are being rappelled to the exact location, and more updates will be released by Guyana’s Defence Headquarters.
Tensions between Venezuela and Guyana over the oil-rich region of Essequibo have been rising, as the 61,600-square-mile area makes up to over two thirds of Guyana’s total land mass.
Venezuela claims the region as its own, insisting it has been part of the country since Spanish rule.
Neighbouring Brazil also moved troops to the area amid fears a conflict could spill over the border.
Some 28 armoured vehicles and around 150 soldiers will arrive at the country’s northern border with Venezuela and Guyana in the coming weeks, Brazilian defence said.
A possible incursion by Venezuela into Guyana by land would necessarily have to pass through Brazil, which shares a border with both countries.
A source from Brazil’s Military High Command told Globo the referendum results prompted the deployment to avoid the conflict from bleeding into the country.
“The goal is to send a message that our territory cannot be used for any type of operation,” the insider said.
The measures are cause for concern across the region.
While Guyana has its troops on high alert, the Brazilian army has said that it is moving more soldiers to the border city of Boa Vista, the capital of Roraima state, as well as bringing in more armed vehicles.
Brazil’s president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva said he is following tensions rise with “increasing concern”, Globo reports.
In his speech during the opening of the 63rd Mercosur summit, Lula said the group cannot remain “aloof” from the situation.
The president reinforced Mercosur’s position as a zone of peace and cooperation, saying: “One thing we don’t want here in South America is war.
“We don’t need war, we don’t need conflict.
“What we need is to build peace, because only with a lot of peace can we develop our countries.”Brazil is also set to deploy troops and armoured vehicles to its northern border with Venezuela and Guyana[/caption] The Venezuelan leader is a figure in Putin’s tinpot empire of and despots who want to attempt to unsettle the global order[/caption]