“We cannot allow a situation like Ukraine in this hemisphere” – Ali

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The situation unfolding in Ukraine cannot be allowed to occur in this hemisphere. 

Those were the words of Guyana’s President Irfaan Ali on Wednesday as he addressed Venezuela’s aggressive posturing and attempts to grab two-thirds of his country’s territory. 

Russia invaded Ukraine back in 2022 in an escalation of the Russo-Ukrainian War that started in 2014. The invasion was the largest attack on a European country since World War II. Considering that President Nicolas Maduro and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin are close allies, Ali was asked whether he believes Putin’s actions in Ukraine are “enabling” Maduro’s actions against Guyana.

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Ali said: “This is another school of thought, that [President] Maduro is taking examples out of what occurred in Ukraine. But we believe that…we cannot allow a situation like Ukraine in this western hemisphere. We cannot allow the annexation of our territory… That would be something that we have never contemplated… and will disrupt the stability, the peace that we are known for.” 

Much of President Maduro’s actions are suspected to be a result of incoming elections; with a strong opposition contender, analysts believe that in his bid to cling to power, he is attempting to drum up a nationalist movement using the Essequibo border controversy. And on this point, Ali agrees. But in his view,  Venezuela’s internal politics is a “Venezuela issue” and does not concern Guyana. Ali said that Venezuela’s actions directly attempt to create instability in the region and this is something that the U.S. should mull with possible sanctions in mind. 

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“I think the U.S. ought to take this into consideration. We expect President [Joe] Biden will look at the behavior of Venezuela in relation to the sanctions themselves,” he stated. 

Defying the World Court’s order to not aggravate the border controversy with Guyana further, President Maduro revealed a redrawn map of his country on Tuesday, which includes the Essequibo region. This unveiling coincided with his issuance of directives to establish new administrative bodies responsible for granting licenses for oil, gas, and mineral exploration within the Essequibo area. Additionally, he proposed legislation aimed at designating environmentally protected zones, envisaging their potential role as centers for tourism and biodiversity preservation.

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Responding vehemently, Ali, delivered a late-night address to the nation on Tuesday, vehemently denouncing the action. He emphasized that this move poses a direct threat to Guyana’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, flagging it as a violation of the United Nations and Organisation of American States Charters. Expressing deep concern, Ali underscored Guyana’s unwavering commitment to fortify its territorial defense by heightening precautionary measures.

Ali highlighted that the Guyanese government is actively engaging with global stakeholders, alerting the UN Secretary-General and world leaders about Venezuela’s menacing actions, deemed a clear violation of international law. Seeking support from crucial allies and international organizations, Guyana has reached out to CARICOM, the OAS, the Commonwealth, as well as countries such as the United States, Brazil, the United Kingdom, and France.

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