On Friday afternoon, a British warship, HMS Trent, arrived in Guyana amid escalating tensions stemming from a border dispute between the former British colony and Venezuela.
The presence of HMS Trent prompted Venezuela to initiate military exercises in the eastern Caribbean, near its border with Guyana. The Venezuelan government is asserting its claim to a substantial portion of its smaller neighbor, particularly the sparsely populated and resource-rich Essequibo region, equivalent in size to Florida.
Expressing concern, Brazil’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs urged both South American nations to resume dialogue and cautioned against any “military activities” supporting either side. Brazil referred to the recently signed Argyle Declaration, in which Guyana and Venezuela committed to resolving the border dispute through nonviolent means.
The UK Defense Ministry clarified that HMS Trent’s visit was part of regional engagements and would involve training exercises with Guyana’s military. The ship’s X (formerly Twitter) account shared images of sailors welcoming Britain’s ambassador and Guyana’s Chief of Staff during a formal lunch and ship tour.
Brig. Gen. Omar Khan of Guyana’s Defense Force emphasized the importance of such operations in the regional security spectrum. The nature of the exercises remained undisclosed, but the warship is typically deployed for counter-piracy and anti-drug smuggling efforts.
Guyanese President Irfaan Ali reassured that Venezuela had nothing to fear from the ship’s activities in Guyanese waters, emphasizing longstanding partnerships for internal security.
Venezuela, however, responded with military exercises involving 5,000 troops in the eastern Caribbean, accusing Guyana of betraying the spirit of the Argyle Declaration. President Nicolas Maduro denounced the British warship as a threat, describing it as an action from a “decaying former empire.”
The border dispute dates back to 1899, with Venezuela claiming land theft during Guyana’s time as a British colony. Venezuela argues that a 1966 agreement effectively nullified the original arbitration, while Guyana contends the initial accord is legally binding. Guyana sought a ruling from the United Nations’ top court in 2018, but a decision is pending. Critics allege that Maduro is using the dispute to divert attention from internal issues ahead of a presidential election.