In what critics are calling an intentionally provocative imperialist move targeting Venezuela, the United States and Guyana recently announced they will begin joint maritime patrols ostensibly aimed at fighting drug trafficking along the South American nation’s disputed border with Venezuela.
Reuters reported Friday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Guyana on his four-country Latin American tour. Pompeo met with Irfaan Ali, Guyana’s conservative new president, in the capital of Georgetown, where they discussed economic, energy, and security cooperation, as well as immigration and the Covid-19 pandemic.
Pompeo—the former director of the CIA—also visited Brazil, Colombia, and Suriname on his three-day trip. All but Suriname border Venezuela, whose increasingly authoritarian leftist government was the target of constant U.S. pressure throughout the tour.
The U.S.-Guyana maritime patrol agreement comes as a international consortium of oil giants—including U.S.-based ExxonMobil and Hess, and China’s state-owned CNOOC—increases crude oil production in the massive offshore Stabroek block, much of which is claimed by neighboring Venezuela.
ExxonMobil has said it is looking to exploit the estimated 15 billion barrels of oil recently discovered in the area. Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and others said it was no coincidence that the U.S. was beginning military patrols with Guyana in such a contentious zone.
“Mike Pompeo is calling for war against Venezuela, but he has failed,” Maduro said in a state television address on Friday, according to Venzuelanalysis.com. “Not even a thousand Mike Pompeos will bring war to South America.”
The U.S. has a more than 100-year history of imperialist intervention in and around Venezuela, including involvement in the 1895 boundary crisis with Britain—the former colonial occupier of Guyana—that is the root of today’s Venezuela-Guyana dispute. The International Court of Justice is currently holding hearings aimed at resolving the matter.
According to former National Security Advisor John Bolton, President Donald Trump said it would be “cool” to invade Venezuela. In 2018, the Associated Press reported that in August 2017 Trump asked aides why he couldn’t invade the country. The administration has denied any involvement in an attempted May 2020 coup by Venezuelan dissidents and members of the U.S. mercenary firm Silvercorp USA.
Washington also has a history of meddling in Guyana’s affairs, most notably in ousting the democratically-elected leftist leader Cheddi Jagan by the Kennedy and Johnson administrations and the CIA.
Critics were quick to accuse the U.S. of imperialistic aggression.
At a state press conference in Colombia, Pompeo praised President Iván Duque for his country’s belligerent stance toward Maduro and Venezuela and for providing humanitarian assistance to Venezuelan refugees. He cited Bogotá’s support for Juan Guaidó, the would-be Venezuelan presidential usurper backed by Washington, and what Pompeo called “a democratic transition for a sovereign Venezuela free of malign influence from Cuba, from Russia, [and] from Iran.”
Duque used the press conference to highlight a recently published United Nations report accusing Maduro’s government of “crimes against humanity” including extrajudicial killing and torture by state security forces.
In Brazil, Pompeo traveled to a refugee camp near the Venezuelan border where he met with migrants fleeing a lengthy economic crisis caused by government corruption and mismanagement, historically low oil prices, a failed exchange control system, and U.S. sanctions and other intervention.
According to a 2019 study (pdf) by economists Mark Weisbrot and Jeffrey Sachs of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, U.S. sanctions—which the authors describe as an illegal form of collective punishment—were responsible for more than 40,000 Venezuelan deaths in 2017 and 2018 alone.
At an airbase in Boa Vista in the northern Brazilian state of Roraima—which borders Venezuela—Pompeo lauded Brazil’s right-wing foreign minister, Ernesto Araujo, for helping Venezuelans “overcome the humanitarian, man-made crisis brought on by the… Maduro regime” and for Brazil’s “generous” accommodation of Venezuelan refugees.
Many of those refugees, however, report facing discrimination in Brazil and other nations to which they migrate.