Venezuela’s Saber-Rattling With Guyana Is a Smokescreen

Venezuela’s Saber-Rattling With Guyana Is a Smokescreen
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro gives a speech ahead of the referendum on the Guyanese territory of Essequibo, in Caracas, Venezuela, Dec. 1, 2023 (AP photo by Matias Delacroix).

Last Friday, the Wall Street Journal and CSIS published satellite imagery showing that the regime of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is building up military facilities on Ankoko Island, a piece of disputed territory on the Venezuela-Guyana border where the Venezuelan military has had a presence for decades. The imagery also showed the Venezuelan military moving some personnel and equipment around the area, improving the roads and moving some ships along the coast closer to Guyana’s maritime territory.

This buildup should not be exaggerated. A few extra warehouses, six personnel carriers and a few helicopters and medium-size ships are not comparable to the over 100,000 soldiers Russia moved to Ukraine’s border prior to its all-out invasion in 2022. But the movements raised alarms and pointed to the fact that representatives of the Maduro regime, who have met for several rounds of talks with their Guyanese counterparts, have not been negotiating in good faith on this issue.

Back in December, I wrote that invading Guyana would be a terrible idea for Maduro, and that he was certain to suffer a humiliating defeat if he tried to. That remains true today. Any real attempt at an invasion is doomed to fail, similar to Argentina’s 1982 attack on the Falklands Islands, which Buenos Aires claims as the Malvinas. Venezuela’s military is weakened, with much of its equipment in disrepair, and Guyana would receive assistance from allies if invaded.

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