The US and Guyana will begin joint maritime patrols near the country’s disputed maritime border with Venezuela. The initiative was announced on Friday by Guyanese President Irfaan Ali and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is on a four-country tour of South America to pressure Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
Guyana discovered massive amounts of offshore oil reserves off its coast in recent years. US oil giant Exxon Mobil is involved in multiple offshore drilling projects with Guyana, and some are in waters claimed by Venezuela.
Guyana fell into political turmoil after a disputed presidential election in March. The initial results gave incumbent David Granger the majority of the votes. But after claims of election fraud from outside observers, including the US, a recount was held that declared Ali the winner. Granger initially said the recount results were not credible and refused to step down. But after months of pressure from the US, which included sanctions, Granger conceded in August.
The US began running naval patrols in the Caribbean Sea this year to contest Venezuela’s maritime claims. Known as Freedom of Navigation of Operations, the patrols are similar to those run by the US in the South China Sea, where Washington rejects Beijing’s maritime claims.
The patrols and US Navy presence in the region are also done under the guise of counter-narcotic operations. Back in March, the US indicted President Maduro on charges of “narco-terrorism” and placed a $15 million bounty on his head.
The indictment is less about drugs and more about the Trump administration’s failed regime change efforts in Venezuela. The US government’s own data shows most of the cocaine that is trafficked into the US flows through countries with governments friendly to the US, like Honduras and Colombia.