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US suspected of building ‘secret military bases’ in oil-rich Latin American region

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro sees Washington’s actions close to his country’s borders as “aggression”

The United States has installed “secret military bases” in the disputed region of Essequibo, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro claimed on Thursday.

The Latin American leader was speaking at a ceremony commemorating a recent law defending Guyana Essequibo. The 62,000-square-mile oil- and mineral-rich area around the Essequibo River is at the center of a territorial dispute between Venezuela and Guyana, a former British colony.

“We have information proving that, in the territory of Guyana Essequibo, temporarily administered by Guyana, secret military bases of the [US] Southern Command… a body of the CIA, have been installed,” Maduro said.

The bases constitute “aggression” against the people of southern and eastern Venezuela, and were built “to prepare for an escalation against Venezuela,” he added.

The US Southern Command, part of the Department of Defense, maintains a Security Cooperation Office in Guyana, and serves as a military consultant to the Guyana Defense Force, providing military support and training.

Following a national referendum at the beginning of December, Caracas laid claim to Guayana Esequiba – a mostly forested region that Venezuela claims to have owned for over a century. Guyana has protested, noting that the area amounts to two-thirds of its internationally recognized territory, and has asked the international community for help.

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The dispute over the Essequibo area intensified in 2015 after US-based energy giant ExxonMobil discovered oil deposits there. After December’s referendum, US forces held joint US-Guyana military exercises. The British Royal Navy deployed patrol ship HMS Trent to Guyana in January to show its backing for the country.

According to Maduro, the disputed region is being controlled by the Southern Command, the CIA, and ExxonMobil, which are seeking to seize Venezuelan resources.


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