Venezuela’s Defense Minister: Guyana–US SOUTHCOM Military Drills ‘Unfortunate Provocation’ (+President Lula Offers Mediation)

Orinoco Tribune, December 8, 2023 —

Caracas (—The Venezuelan minister for defense, Vladimir Padrino, has described the start of military drills by the United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) in Guyana as an “unfortunate provocation.”

“This unfortunate provocation by the United States in favor of the ExxonMobil praetorians in Guyana is another step in the wrong direction,” wrote Padrino through social media this Thursday, December 7.

He pointed out that the Venezuelan government is clear in the mandate that the people have assigned it, following the overwhelming victory of last Sunday’s referendum regarding the Guayana Esequiba territory. Over 10 million voters, representing a 51.01% turnout, approved the yes option in the five questions of the referendum, with an average of 97.07% yes across the questions.

“We warn that we will not be diverted from our future actions for the recovery of the Essequibo,” Padrino added. “Make no mistake! Long live Venezuela!”

According to the US embassy in Guyana, military forces from both countries have begun “routine” operations aimed at improving military cooperation between both countries.

“In collaboration with the Guyana Defense Forces (GDF), the U.S. Southern Command (USSOUTHCOM) will conduct flight operations with Guyana in December 7,” read a statement published by the US embassy in Georgetown. “This exercise builds upon routine engagements and operations to enhance security partnership between the United States and Guyana, and to strengthen regional cooperation.”

This statement came just hours after a Guyanese helicopter crashed approximately 48 miles from the Venezuelan border, and social media trolls tried to blame Venezuela for the tragic incident in which five military officers died, according to Guyanese sources.

Despite the onslaught of posts by mainstream media interested in fueling the border conflict, the Chief of Defense of Guyana, Omar Khan, reported that the crash of the Guyanese helicopter could have in fact been due to weather conditions, and clarified that there are no indications that Venezuela’s had anything to do with the incident.

Khan further explained that the Guyanese helicopter had landed in Olive Creek to refuel, but after taking off, they had lost communication. He added that the emergency alert allegedly indicates that the most likely eventualities are that the helicopter crashed, fell, or that the commands might have been manually altered by a crew member.

Brazil offers mediation
On the same Thursday, the president of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, expressed his government’s willingness to host negotiation meetings between Venezuela and Guyana to resolve the border conflict over the Essequibo territory.

“Brazil is available to host as many negotiation meetings as necessary,” Lula announced through social media. “We do not want or need more wars, especially on our continent. We have to build peace to improve people’s lives.”

In the same post, the Brazilian president suggested that both the Southern Common Market bloc (Mercosur) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) should address the Essequibo issue. “An important issue that we have to debate is the issue of Essequibo,” he wrote. “Mercosur cannot remain on the sidelines of the issue. I suggest that the current president of CELAC can discuss the issue with both parties, Guyana and Venezuela.”

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