The Venezuelan military has announced, on the 30th of November, 2023, that it is constructing a new naval base 70 km away from Guyana. When Venezuela’s Admiral Neil Villamizar Sánchez, Chief Commander of the Bolivarian Navy of Venezuela, made the announcement on X (formerly Twitter), he spoke in the context of “recovering” the disputed Essequibo county of Guyana. According to Neil Sánchez, the new naval base is part of a broader strategy. It will strengthen maritime logistics, especially in the Orinoco Delta.
According to the published footage, the new base will be able to accommodate combat boats. In addition, it is equipped with helipads.
Venezuela has long been threatening Guyana that it will annex and take control of the disputed Essequibo county through unilateral action backed by the military. This has raised fears on several occasions that Venezuela might invade Guyana. However, the dense jungles and rugged terrain separating Guyana from Venezuela make the prospects of an invasion dismal for Venezuela and puts the Venezuelan military at a clear disadvantage. Further, Brazil won’t allow them to access its Region 9 border.
In light of the above-mentioned, an attack by sea might be more workable for a Venezuelan invasion. However, Venezuela’s navy is poorly equipped. Years of economic challenges and sanctions have diminished its once impressive mid-tier fleet of frigates and submarines. Yet, with the help of Iran and its few allies, it has recently gained some new capabilities. In 2023 Venezuela received at least four Peykaap-III class missile boats from Iran. The design was originally North Korean but has been iteratively improved in Iran. They are armed with 2 x Kowsar or Nasr lightweight anti-ship missiles and 2 x lightweight anti-ship torpedoes. These boats represent a significant threat to merchant ships and any Guyanese government vessels. The Venezuelan Navy has a modest amphibious assault capability. The backbone are four South Korean built Hood class landing ships (LSTs), and four smaller The Friars Class landing ships. These can transport recently acquired Chinese amphibious fighting vehicles and tanks. It would be reasonable to presume that Venezuela could pull off a small-scale amphibious landing. The ships can also be used for logistics and, to an extent, patrol.
However, it is important to note here that strong opposition from international powers and a conglomerate of nations suggest that Guyana need not worry about a Venezuelan invasion since it is unlikely that they would want to run such a monumental risk which might trigger an international reaction. The most forceful of statements from the international community so far came from UK Foreign Secretary, David Cameron, who said that Venezuela’s aggression towards to Guyana is “wrong” and “must cease.”