LatinNews Daily - 02 January 2024

GUYANA/VENEZUELA: Tensions flare over UK ship’s visit to Guyana

On 31 December Guyana’s President Irfaan Ali said that Guyana “reserves the right to continue to engage its international partners”.


Ali was responding to recent comments and actions from Venezuela’s government led by President Nicolás Maduro following the 29 December visit to Guyana of British offshore patrol vessel HMS Trent which prompted a flare-up of Venezuela-Guyana tensions. These remain rife following the 3 December referendum in Venezuela in which voters expressed support for annexing the disputed Essequibo region. The announcement of the ship’s visit led President Maduro to mobilise forces and accuse Guyana of breaching the ‘Argyle Declaration’, an agreement reached by both sides on 14 December.

  • On 24 December the media reported a UK defence ministry spokesperson as saying: “HMS Trent will visit regional ally and Commonwealth partner Guyana later this month as part of a series of engagements in the region during her Atlantic Patrol Task deployment.” Officials said the ship had been taking part in an operation combatting drug smuggling in the Caribbean near the coast of Guyana.
  • Maduro was cited by the media as describing the ship’s deployment as “a provocation” by the UK and threat to Venezuela’s sovereignty and on 28 December announced the deployment of 5,682 soldiers, 28 aircraft and 16 ships, among other equipment, to conduct exercises near the disputed area.
  • Speaking on 31 December President Ali said the UK’s decision to send HMS Trent to Guyana was “part of a growing effort to show diplomatic support” to the former UK colony. Its deployment came after David Rutley, the UK minister for the Americas, Caribbean and Overseas Territories, visited Guyana on 18 December where he met Ali and stressed “backing for Guyana” over the dispute.
  • Since then however, on 31 December Venezuela’s defence minister, Vladimir Padrino López, wrote on social media that some of the planes deployed had been withdrawn following the ship’s “departure” from the “disputed waters” although he was clear that the Maduro government remained “alert to any provocation”.

Looking Ahead: The tense state of relations continues to draw international concern, including from Brazil which has called for tensions to be de-escalated. A 29 December statement by Brazil’s foreign ministry said it was following the latest developments in the dispute “with concern”, adding that it believes “military demonstrations of support to either party should be avoided so the dialogue process can produce results”.

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