Recent weeks have been an exercise in bandwidth and attention management for Latin America. The region, via various multilateral forums and organizations, has responded strongly to both Venezuela’s threat to invade Guyana and Guatemala’s political crisis. That action is good to see, but those aren’t the only two challenges the hemisphere faces.
In early December, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro held a referendum to bolster Caracas’ claim to the Essequibo region of Guyana. When voter turnout was lower than his government had hoped—and facing a rising political opposition that appears capable of out-organizing the government electorally—Maduro doubled down. He ordered a Venezuelan general to establish a military outpost 50 miles from the border; revised the national budget to include potential military installations in the border region; banned foreign companies from operating in Essequibo; and called for PDVSA—the state-owned oil company—to begin extractive projects there.
Nearly all of that was fantasy. Maduro has neither the right nor the ability to prohibit oil development projects in Guyana. And as if to highlight how intentionally misleading most of Maduro’s actions are, a video posted to social media by the Venezuelan government purporting to show an Indigenous group in Essequibo lowering the Guyanese flag and raising the Venezuelan flag actually took place well inside Venezuelan territory.