A Guyanese army helicopter, with seven souls onboard, disappeared near the volatile border with Venezuela, heightening tensions between the two nations already strained over a disputed, oil-rich territory. The helicopter, carrying three crew members and four passengers, transmitted an emergency signal near the village of Arau before contact was lost.
The Unfolding Drama
According to Guyanese Army Chief of Staff Omar Khan, the contact with the helicopter was lost shortly after takeoff amidst adverse weather conditions. He made it clear that there was no information implicating Venezuela's involvement in the incident. This development adds a new layer of complexity to the rapidly escalating border feud over the oil-fertile Essequibo region, a territory under Guyana's control for over a century, but claimed by Venezuela.
A Story of Dispute and Oil
The long-standing dispute over the Essequibo, which makes up about two-thirds of Guyanese territory, has intensified since ExxonMobil discovered oil there in 2015. On Tuesday, Caracas proposed a bill to establish a Venezuelan province in Essequibo and instructed the state-owned oil company to issue licenses for crude extraction in the region. This move, bolstered by an overwhelming 'yes' vote in a controversial referendum on Essequibo's fate, prompted President Nicolas Maduro to issue an ultimatum to oil companies operating under concessions granted by Guyana: cease operations within three months.
Reactions and Consequences
In response to Maduro's statements, termed as a 'direct threat', Guyanese President Irfaan Ali pledged to seek assistance from the UN Security Council. Meanwhile, the United States, along with other nations, is closely monitoring the situation. As the geopolitical chess game unfolds, the Brazilian army is boosting its presence in the northern cities of Pacaraima and Boa Vista, vowing 'to guarantee the inviolability of the territory'. Police and army reinforcements have also been sent to the border areas by Guyana, hinting at the rising tensions and the potential for conflict.