The Essequibo Region in Guyana
The 160,000-square-kilometer (62,000-square-mile) Essequibo region has been administered by English-speaking Guyana since an 1899 arbitration award in favor of the then-British colony AFP

Guyana increased during the weekend its level of alert following Venezuela's latest deployment of troops near the Essequibo, an area controlled by the former that Caracas claims as its own.

The country's vice president, Bharrat Jagdeo, said Georgetown is "highly attentive" to the latest developments and "working with allies" about it. "Our main occupation is keeping our territorial integrity and sovereignty," he added in a press conference.

Bharrat went on to confirm Venezuela has been beefing up its military presence in the Ananonco island and the Punta Barima area, which he said Caracas "took by force."

"We have notified the relevant agencies about Venezuela's continued attempts to increase its presence in our border and in a threatening way. This is inconsistent with what we agreed, we want this region to remain peaceful," he said.

The latest build-up took place last week, when the Bolivarian Armed Forces built a makeshift bridge over the Cuyuni River, close to the border, and deployed armored vehicles there.

The units include Scorpion-90 light tanks, V-100 armored vehicles used for transporting troops, 8x8 tactical trucks as well as supply vehicles.

Army General Domingo Hernández Lárez published a video of the operation on his X (formerly Twitter account), showing troops and vehicles crossing the bridge and greeting people waving the Venezuelan flag.

"People and army are united to bring integral development, safety and protection to the Essequibo people. Everything is possible together!," reads the general's publication.

The movement of forces comes a few days after a military drill conducted by two U.S. planes in Guyana, exercises the Venezuelan government called a "provocation."

A recent report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies has discussed the possibility that president Nicolás Maduro will "manufacture" an escalation with its neighbor to secure his grip on power.

The report analyzes potential scenarios where the government could escalate tensions in its favor. It discusses using a sense of "militarized patriotism in peacetime" to increase its standing, noting the government has "saturated Venezuela with propagandist claims about Guyana's government and that any move by Guyana to bolster its defenses should be interpreted as an offensive preparation for war."

A more drastic scenario considers the possibility that Maduro engages in a "true gambit to manufacture a regional crisis in the aftermath of a stolen election." "In such a scenario of a post-election crisis, Venezuela's rhetoric risks crossing a Rubicon beyond which it cannot return without taking some kind of action against Guyana," the report adds.

Venezuela has brought its claim to the Essequibo to the forefront of regional relations since holding a referendum last year (approved by an overwhelming majority) to take over the territory and create a Venezuelan province there. It has also accused the Georgetown government of "defying and provoking" Caracas by granting concessions to exploit the areas natural resources, particularly oil.

So far there have not been any attacks nor clashes in the area nor the Essequibo as a whole, but the latest events have increased tensions in an unprecedented way. Moreover, Venezuelan authorities said in mid-April that the country will keep its armed forces deployed in its coast near the Atlantic until the dispute is solved in a way that is "satisfactory" to Caracas.

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