[News] US Targets Venezuela Using Border Dispute as Pretext

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Jul 23 14:25:28 EDT 2015


  US Targets Venezuela Using Border Dispute as Pretext

By Eric Draitser- TeleSUR English, July 22nd 2015
*http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/11450*

The ongoing border dispute between the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela 
and its eastern neighbor Guyana is no simple disagreement over an 
arbitrary line on a map. Actually, it is a conflict of significant 
political and economic dimensions, one which will have deep and 
far-reaching geopolitical implications in the near and long term.

The area in question is known as Guayana Esequiba (Essequibo), a region 
with competing territorial claims going back more than a century to a 
time when British imperial interests dominated the contours of the 
political map of much of the world, including Latin America. Since 1966, 
when Guyana became a nominally independent country, this territory has 
been under dispute by the interested parties; Venezuela has claimed the 
territory as part of its sovereign authority going back to an odious 
1899 decision in favor of Britain. However, that has not stopped Guyana 
from seeking to undermine the stability of the region by claiming de 
facto sovereignty over the whole of the territory, selling highly valued 
oil and gas exploration concessions to key North American corporate 
energy interests. These actions have led to an intensification of the 
conflict, forcing Venezuela to respond with diplomatic and political 
pressure.

But of course, as with all things pertaining to Venezuela on the 
international stage, there is a hidden agenda rooted in the imperial 
politics of Washington. In its attempt to stifle Venezuela’s political 
and economic development as an independent regional actor, the US is 
using its influence to destabilize the region. The goals are distinct, 
but intimately connected: enrich US energy corporations at the expense 
of Venezuela and, simultaneously, both position military assets and 
shape propaganda that paints Venezuela as an aggressor, thereby 
providing the pretext for US escalation. In this way, Washington is 
attempting to reassert by stealth the hegemony it once maintained with 
brute force.

*The Economics and Politics of Esequiba*

At the heart of this border dispute is energy and the billions of 
dollars in profits likely to be extracted from the offshore territory. 
According to the US Geological Survey (USGS) 
<http://cgxenergy.ca/Operations/About-Guyana/Basin-Potential.aspx>, “The 
Guyana Suriname Basin [is] 2nd in the world for prospectivity among the 
world’s unexplored basins and 12th for oil among all the world’s basins 
– explored and unexplored.” The basin, which stretches from eastern 
Venezuela to the shores of northern Brazil, is one of the major prizes 
in the world for energy corporations and governments alike.

Indeed, the USGS estimates <http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/1984.htm> 
that roughly 15 billion barrels of undiscovered oil and 42 trillion 
cubic feet of gas reserves lie under the basin, just waiting to be 
extracted. Such staggering economic potential has made the territorial 
waters off Venezuela and Guyana highly sought after, especially since 
the contesting border claims make the legal obstacles to exploration far 
more surmountable as they allow companies to deal with a compliant 
government in Georgetown, rather than an independent one Caracas.

The unresolved conflict over territorial claims has not stopped the 
newly elected Guyanese government of David Granger from picking up where 
its predecessor left off, and supporting Exxon Mobil’s exploration 
drilling in the Stabroek Block 
<http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/03/05/guyana-exxon-mobil-idUSL1N0W72RE20150305>, 
which lies in the heart of the disputed territory. The importance of the 
competing claims is further underscored by the fact that the very week 
of Granger’s election victory, Exxon Mobil reported 
<http://www.stabroeknews.com/2015/news/stories/05/20/exxonmobil-announces-significant-oil-find-guyana/> 
a “significant oil discovery” in the very same area. Whether the 
announcement of the discovery was timed to coincide with the accession 
of Granger to the presidency, or it was mere coincidence, is somewhat 
secondary to the critical fact that this announcement infuses the 
dispute with a significant economic component; it is no longer merely 
about potential energy deposits, but actual energy extraction. This 
development provides an added imperative for the US to flex its muscles 
in this conflict.

And so it has. The US has recently officially 
<http://www.caribnewsdesk.com/news/10307-us-backs-guyana-to-settle-border-controversy-legally-shuns-talk-of-infiltrating-venezuela> 
thrown its weight firmly behind its political, economic, and military 
ally Guyana. However, beyond simply backing Guyana in a bilateral 
fashion, the US has wielded its influence in the Caribbean Community 
(CARICOM) organization to position the grouping to “stand firmly behind 
Guyana,” as Freundel Stuart, prime minister of Barbados and chairman of 
CARICOM stated 
<http://en.mercopress.com/2015/07/07/caricom-supports-guyana-in-border-dispute-with-venezuela-but-there-s-also-petro-caribe> 
earlier this month. Unlike ALBA and PetroCaribe, two regional groupings 
led by Venezuela that are not under the dominance of Washington, CARICOM 
is in many ways part of US power projection in the region.

Again, it is unlikely that the US and CARICOM positions in support of 
Guyana, announced within days of each other, and within eight weeks of a 
major discovery and all-important election, are mere happenstance. 
Instead, they are part of a broader campaign of political escalation 
designed to pressure Venezuela into either dropping its claims entirely 
or, at the very least, toning down its demands that its sovereignty and 
territorial integrity be acknowledged and respected.

But the escalation is not merely one of rhetoric. Rather, the US is 
turning up the heat both militarily and the realm of propaganda and 
public relations.

*A New Front in the Destabilization of Venezuela*

It is no secret that that the US has sought to undermine and destroy the 
Bolivarian revolution from almost the very moment of its birth with the 
ascendance of Hugo Chavez. While perhaps the most prominent example of 
such subversion came with the 2002 coup against the legal government of 
Venezuela – a failed regime change supported by Washington despite 
almost universal international condemnation – it is by no means the only 
attempt at destabilization. Since Chavez’s passing, the soft power 
subversion and sabotage of the government has only increased, from 
economic warfare 
<http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/02/17/venezuela-under-attack-again/> 
to the funding <http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/6006> and support 
<http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/feb/18/venezuela-protests-us-support-regime-change-mistake> 
of Venezuela’s opposition. It is within this context that the 
developments in the Venezuela-Guyana dispute must be understood.

Essentially, the conflict with Guyana is both an economic one, and a 
military/strategic one. While there is not a hot war between the two 
countries, the US has positioned its assets in such a way as to make 
that a very real possibility. Though downplaying the US role, Washington 
has been sending a clear message – one might say a veiled threat of 
force – to Caracas with some of its recent comments. The Charge 
D’Affaires of the US Embassy in Guyana recently stated 
<http://www.caribnewsdesk.com/news/10307-us-backs-guyana-to-settle-border-controversy-legally-shuns-talk-of-infiltrating-venezuela> 
that, “The US has a long-standing relationship with the Guyana Defence 
Force (GDF). We have engaged in a number of co-operative and 
developmental efforts over the years to provide training and 
expertise...and exchange experience in a wide variety of areas.” Such 
statements may seem relatively innocuous, but they are to be read as an 
acknowledgment of the military capacity of US power in the region, which 
in many ways sees Guyana as a de facto proxy.

Indeed, there is much evidence upon which to base such an assertion 
aside from just the words of US officials. Since 2010, the US Navy has 
had a cooperative relationship, including docking and training 
<https://guyaneseonline.files.wordpress.com/2010/09/first-ever-us-naval-vessel-arriving-for-military.pdf>, 
with its Guyanese counterparts based in Port Georgetown. In addition, 
Guyana figures prominently 
<http://www.southcom.mil/newsroom/Pages/SOUTHCOM-commander-visits-Guyana,-Suriname.aspx> 
in the Pentagon’s project in South America known as SOUTHCOM, with the 
country seen as an outpost for US military power projection against 
Venezuela.

Though much of this military cooperation and partnership is already 
known, there is a new danger for Venezuela, one that most political 
observers around the world have either missed or otherwise ignored: the 
accession of David Granger to power. While he has been heralded by 
western media as a reformer leading a multiracial, inclusive coalition, 
the overlooked fact is that Granger is a direct military product, if not 
asset, of the US and its allies.

As Guyana’s Government Information Agency (GINA) noted on its website 
<http://www.gina.gov.gy/home/index.php/home/all-news/item/2362-profiles-of-the-apnu-afc-cabinet-members>, 
President Granger “attended the University of the West Indies, the 
University of Maryland and the National Defence University in the 
USA...He received his military training at the Mons Officer Cadet School 
and the School of Infantry in the United Kingdom, the Jungle Warfare 
Instruction Centre in Brazil, and the Army Command and Staff College in 
Nigeria.”

Students of the modern history of Latin America are all too familiar 
with this story: US and British trained military leader assumes control 
over strategically and geopolitically important country in the region, 
one that shares a border with a declared adversary of Washington. Though 
he may not be a product of the infamous School of the Americas, 
Granger’s pedigree, coupled with his declared focus on the “territorial 
integrity” of Guyana portends dangerous potential moves by his 
government, especially at a time of escalating tensions.

Of course, the US continues with its propaganda campaign against the 
Bolivarian Republic as well. From imposing sanctions 
<http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/09/politics/venezuela-sanctions-white-house/> against 
Venezuela for trumped up “human rights abuses,” to declaring 
<https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/the_americas/new-us-sanctions-lost-in-venezuelas-translation/2015/03/11/f8f3af6a-c7ff-11e4-bea5-b893e7ac3fb3_story.html> 
the country “an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national 
security and foreign policy of the United States” that constitutes a 
“national emergency,” Washington has clearly taken the decision to 
ratchet up tensions in 2015. The dispute with Guyana is clearly a new 
vector in this broader destabilization strategy.

And that is how the border conflict must be understood – a new front in 
an old war. Though there may be billions at stake for energy 
corporations, as well as military imperatives for the Pentagon, 
ultimately the dispute is geopolitical in nature. The Guayana Esequiba 
issue is, at its root, an issue of US hegemony and imperialism.

***

/Eric Draitser is an independent geopolitical analyst based in New York 
City. He is the editor of StopImperialism.org and host of CounterPunch 
Radio. You can reach him at ericdraitser at gmail.com 
<mailto:ericdraitser at gmail.com>./

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