Gold and migrants stream across the stretch of the Cuyuní river that marks the Guyana-Venezuela border. Guerrillas and criminal organisations control much of the flow. Their turf wars are already spilling over and could intensify if foreign powers intervene to topple Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.
Tensions flared up with Venezuela over disputed oil-rich territory. Venezuelan National Assembly 7 Jan rejected last month’s International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling that court has jurisdiction to hear suit brought by Guyana over demarcation of its land border with Venezuela; ruling over Essequibo province, which is controlled and administered by Guyana but has long been claimed by Venezuela, may ultimately determine which country has rights to oil and gas fields off Essequibo. Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro same day vowed to “reconquer” disputed province and announced creation of new maritime territory dubbed “strategic zone of national development” in area that Guyana says encompasses its territorial waters and exclusive economic zone. Regional bloc Caribbean Community 12 Jan said it “firmly repudiates any acts of aggression by Venezuela against Guyana” and supports “maintenance and preservation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Guyana”. Guyana and U.S. 8 Jan started joint coast guard exercise off Essequibo, and commander of U.S. Southern Command 11 Jan arrived in Guyana for three-day visit. Govt 23 Jan accused Venezuelan navy of intercepting two fishing vessels in Guyana’s territorial waters and detaining 12 fishermen 21 Jan, condemned “wanton act of aggression”; Venezuela 25 Jan said fishermen were detained in Venezuela’s waters, issued warning against further “illegal incursions” into its territory, saying it will exercise “sacred right to defend [its] sovereignty”.