São Paulo, Brazil – Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva spoke over the phone this weekend with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. He told his counterpart that there is growing concern among South American countries about Venezuela’s interest in annexing the Guyanese territory of Essequibo, according to a press release from Lula’s office.
Lula reportedly explained to Maduro the terms of a declaration approved at the Mercosur summit on December 8 in Rio de Janeiro in which the trading bloc members expressed deep concern about rising tensions between Venezuela and Guyana. The document was signed by Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Chile.
The government communique said that Lula also reminded Maduro of Latin America’s long tradition of dialog and reinforced the peaceful nature of the region. The Brazilian president also suggested that the acting president of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (Celac), Ralph Gonsalves, who is also the prime minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, mediate in the conflict. He reiterated Brazil’s support for these initiatives and requested that there be no unilateral action by Venezuela that would escalate the situation.
On his social media, Maduro said that he seeks peace.
“Guyana and ExxonMobil will have to sit down and talk with us, the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. With all our heart and soul, we want peace and understanding. Certainly, everything! Let the world hear it, with the Geneva Agreement, Everything!” he wrote.
ExxonMobil is one of the largest oil companies exploring in the Essequibo region.
On December 9, Guyana’s President Mohamed Irfaan Ali, wrote on social media that he is not opposed to talking to Venezuelan authorities about the dispute over Essequibo and said he is committed to peace in the region.
The next day, negotiations for a meeting advanced and Ali returned to social media to say he had accepted the invitation made by the Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to meet with Maduro. The meeting is expected to take place on Thursday, December 14, in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
On December 3, Venezuela approved a referendum that would expand its territory into the oil rich Essequibo region of Guyana — a move which provoked reactions from the international community.
The United Nations Security Council met on December 8 to discuss the crisis at Guyana’s request. The meeting, however, took place behind closed doors and ended without the release of any statements or communiqués.
In the midst of the crisis, Maduro will go to Russia to meet President Vladimir Putin. The trip is due to take place at the end of this month, but the date has not yet been announced.
Officially, the aim of the mission is to deepen Russian cooperation and investment in the Venezuelan oil sector, but the timing of the meeting raises suspicions, with Russia still involved in the invasion of Ukraine and Venezuela’s plans to annex the Essequibo territory.