There’s just about three days left before Venezuela’s 3rd of December referendum which seeks to ratify the support of the Venezuelan people for forcefully annexing the Essequibo county of Guyana and making it into a new state within the country of Venezuela. While the Guyana Government has petitioned the ICJ to issue a ruling that confirms the illegality of such a move, and the court is scheduled to do so on Friday, December, 1, 2023, president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, has said that that won’t stop him from flooding the Essequibo with Venezuelan soldiers and civilians and demarcating new boundaries for Venezuela after the referendum.
Maduro says he’s sure that his referendum will be successful. Around the 20th of November, 2023, the Venezuelan government announced that a mock referendum was “successful” without sharing any evidence to back up this claim. It is a well known fact that Nicolas Maduro and his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez, are notorious for authoritarian tendencies and rigged elections.
The Venezuelan economy was already faltering at the time when Nicolas Maduro came to power in the year 2013, but after he took office, the economy started to fail completely. Between the years 2013 and 2023, an estimated 7 million Venezuelans fled the economic crisis in Venezuela to the shores of almost every nation that they could find refuge. Many countries around the world, including Guyana, waived visa requirements for Venezuelans during this time period, and granted Venezuelans de facto refugee status, a move that many Guyanese are now starting to regret due to the threat of annexation.
The people of Venezuela are tired, frustrated, and desperate for a new leader. Along with the USA and many other countries, the Venezuelan people are crying out for regime change so that Venezuela could return to economic prosperity and they can start rebuilding their lives in their homeland.
But will Nicolas Maduro allow free and fair elections in Venezuela? Today, 30th of November, 2023, the United States, which has conditionally eased sanctions on Venezuela, will review Maduro’s commitment to his end of the bargain – facilitating a free and fair electoral process in Venezuela. If he reneges on his promises, the USA will re-apply the sanctions, blocking billions of dollars of business in the oil, gas, and mining sectors of Venezuela.
But Nicolas Maduro doesn’t really care much about that. This is the man who has heartlessly overseen the suffering and mass migration of millions of Venezuelans and who now threatens to ignite a potentially long and devastating armed conflict between two once friendly and peaceful countries. Nicolas Maduro is capitalizing on the Essequibo to hold on to power indefinitely.
The ongoing campaign for the Essequibo by the current Venezuelan dictator is not a joke, nor is it a political distraction. It is a political focus, and a detrimental one at that. Maduro is frighteningly serious about annexing the Essequibo, even if it means war and bloodshed. At present, Venezuelan soldiers are perched at strategic points along Guyana’s border, poised to attack. The Venezuelan military is building an airstrip near to the Essequibo border which they say will be used to facilitate military operations against Guyana after December 3. The Venezuelan military has moved tanks, military hospitals, and weaponry to the border with Venezuela. The Venezuelan military has been activated to “defend the Essequibo” after the referendum. Over the last month or so, Nicolas Maduro has spent millions of dollars on street rallies aimed at getting the people and military of Venezuela worked up in the quest to “liberate the Essequibo.”
For Nicolas Maduro, the carefully timed campaign for the Essequibo has several advantages. First of all, if it is successful, he can eternally boast that he did what no other Venezuelan leader has ever done: “liberated” the Essequibo from “colonial imperialism.” Secondly, a war between Guyana and Venezuela will enable him to postpone elections. Thirdly, it unites the people of Venezuela in a cause that they all hold dearly, something they were being taught since primary school for the last 60 years or so: that the Essequibo is Venezuela, and that Guyana stole it from them. And fourthly, he hopes that the few dollars he can potentially gain from the resources in the Essequibo will help to rebuild his country’s economy and circumvent US sanctions.
For Nicolas Maduro, the campaign for the Essequibo helps him to gain popular support, sideline political competitors, and cement him into the seat of government for a very long time. In light of all this, he desperately wants it to be successful, a desperation that puts Guyana in a real and present danger of facing a Venezuelan invasion in the upcoming days.