Venezuela, the despotic economic hole kept running by oil, declared plans to annex most of Guyana, the much smaller country next to it. Guyana, with its cricket and tea, enjoys a higher quality of life and soaring per-capita income—but has no military to speak of and no time to develop one.
"I have spoken to the secretary general of the United Nations and several leaders, alerting them of these dangerous developments and the desperate actions of President Maduro," Irfaan Ali, president of Guyana, said in a television broadcast late on Tuesday, as he informed the nation of 800,000 of Maduro's latest steps intended to create a new Venezuelan state in Guyana.
The Venezuelan president said he had ordered a law to be drafted recognising a new state – the Guayana-Esequiba – where the English-speaking residents would be given Venezuelan national ID cards. He also ordered national companies to begin mining and oil extraction operations in the resource-rich region, and for a special military unit to be created for the region, alarming observers and causing Brazil to send armoured vehicles to its border.
Guyana's been independent for half a century, so the British aren't coming, but the U.S. has interests, with the usual motivations clearly in play. Military analysts say Venezuela is no Russia and could be kept out of Guyana with a single brigade, but … the world has a lot going on right now.
Maduro's increasingly bellicose rhetoric over Essequibo is seen by analysts as an attempt to distract from series of overlapping crises at home and drum up support ahead of presidential elections expected for 2024 but the escalation of regional tensions on Tuesday night added to concerns that the dictator would not stop short of military action.