Guyana says Venezuela's military is on the move again near their joint border

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) — Guyana’s government said Saturday that it has satellite imagery evidence from friendly western allies showing Venezuelan military movements near the South American country's eastern border with Guyana.

Officials claimed the administration of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro is breaching a peace agreement signed in the Caribbean in December to ease tensions over border demarcation lines.

Foreign Minister Hugh Todd and Foreign Secretary Robert Persaud said Guyana is monitoring the situation across the river border.

The two sides have feuded over border lines for decades. Venezuela has been laying claim to the mineral-rich Essequibo region, which covers about two thirds of Guyana’s surface area.

They condemned Venezuela for not abiding with the Argyle Agreement signed on the island of St. Vincent in December, in which the two countries agreed not to use force or to threaten each other. The talks were brokered by Brazil and Caribbean governments.

“We are not surprised at the bad faith of Venezuela. We are disappointed, not surprised. Guyana has a history of entering bilateral discussions in good faith. Unfortunately, we cannot say the same thing about our neighbor to the west,” Persaud told The Associated Press.

The Venezuelan government did not have any immediate reaction to the allegations.

Todd said he had raised the issue with Venezuelan Foreign Minister Yvan Gil at a joint commission meeting in Brazil last month noting that “there is some amount of inconsistencies based on what they are doing on the international front in terms of diplomacy and what they are doing back home in terms of their military posture.”

Guyana’s reaction to the latest developments came hours after satellite images posted by the US Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) showed Venezuela is extending its base on Ankoko Island, half of which Venezuela seized from Guyana in the mid-1960s, and nearby Punta Barima, less than 50 miles (80 kilometers) from the Guyana border.

The images showed significant infrastructure improvement of roads and other facilities near the two areas, the CSIS said. Foreign Secretary Persaud noted that “Guyana will continue to respect the Argyle Declaration and hopes that Venezuela will do the same.”

The two sides have feuded over border lines for decades.

Guyana argues that an 1899 international boundary commission had settled the border demarcation once and for all.

But for more than 60 years Venezuela has accused the commission of cheating it out of the Essequibo region.

Guyana has taken the issue to the World Court in the Netherlands for a definitive ruling, while Venezuela has said it prefers direct bilateral talks as the way forward.

On Friday, the Venezuelan defense ministry accused Guyana of threatening the St. Vincent agreement by irresponsible actions and media deception, maintaining that the “Essequibo is ours.”

It also said that US oil giant ExxonMobil, which is producing 645,000 barrels of offshore oil daily from Guyana, is collaborating with the government and the US military to exploit oil and gas resources in waters claimed by Venezuela.

Guyanese President Irfaan Ali is expected to meet Maduro for a second summit in March on the border issue.

Several top American administration and military officials have visited Guyana in recent weeks as a show of support.

And the U.S. also supplied military overflights monitoring Venezuelan troop and other activities at the height of tensions in December, in the days leading up to a Dec. 3 referendum in Venezuela that had authorized the annexation of the Essequibo.