- The Biden administration could put U.S. troops on the ground in Guyana to defend the threatened democracy against a Venezuelan invasion, experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
- Although an invasion is unlikely, recent U.S. actions send a signal to Venezuela that America is prepared to intervene if Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro acts on his pledge.
- “The U.S. should work to create strong disincentives for Venezuela to carry out any aggression, including helping to establish stronger military deterrence. It remains to be seen how compelling these disincentives will be and how Maduro will respond to them,” Daniel Batlle, an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Institute and a former State Department official, told the DCNF.
The Biden administration could be compelled to put U.S. military boots on the ground to defend Guyana, a democratic South American country with a history of cooperation with the U.S., from a potential Venezuelan invasion, experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has threatened to annex by force large swaths of oil-rich territory in neighboring Guyana following a manufactured referendum as troops mass on both sides of the border in a bid to consolidate support for the country’s 2024 elections. A full-scale invasion resembling Russia’s attempt to conquer Ukraine is unlikely, but possible, placing pressure on the U.S., and international partners, to respond in defense of a democratic country, the experts told the DCNF.
The Biden administration would want to intervene to show it will “credibly defend its friends against external aggression,” just as it has done with Israel and Ukraine, Evan Ellis, a research professor of Latin American studies at the U.S. Army War College Strategic Studies Institute, told the DCNF. “Once we make that commitment, it sends a very strong signal that we can’t just walk away from.”
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has pledged “unwavering support” for Guyana’s sovereignty.
Other experts questioned the administration’s commitment to defending democratic partners in light of sweeping sanctions relief Biden offered Venezuela in the fall of 2023 in exchange for yet-unfulfilled promises to conduct legitimate elections and free political prisoners — which could further embolden Maduro.
“It is unclear what precisely is motivating the current administration in its policy toward Venezuela, but it is clearly not democracy, human rights, or electoral freedom. I do not see how anyone, including the Maduro regime, will take American threats seriously when they offer sanctions relief under such insane conditions,” former Deputy Special Representative for Venezuela Carrie Filipetti told the DCNF.
U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) has made conspicuous shows of force as Maduro carried out a national referendum on the annexation question. Such displays are “firm, clear signals” from the U.S. that if Venezuela takes action, “it will not be unopposed,” Ellis told the DCNF.
SOUTHCOM and the Guyana Defense Force (GDF) conducted flight operations in country on Dec. 7, according to the U.S. Embassy in Guyana.
“This exercise builds upon routine engagement and operations to enhance security partnership between the United States and Guyana, and to strengthen regional cooperation,” the embassy said in the statement.
In an unusual step, U.S. Air Force special operations later showed several videos of an AC-130J Ghostrider gunship, equipped with precision-guided missiles and cannons capable of “measured, but ruinous fire” that can rip people and armored vehicles to shreds, training against targets.
Guyanese President Irfaan Ali and Maduro met Thursday to hash out an agreement on where the border line should be drawn, and both sides agreed not to use force, the Associated Press reported. But they did resolve the issue.
“I have made it very clear that on the issue of the border controversy, Guyana’s position is non-negotiable,” Ali said in a national broadcast, indicating that any negotiations over the territory are likely to be fraught.
Maduro claimed sovereignty over the territory encompassing two-thirds of Guyana, which also includes the coastline near two massive offshore oil deposits, according to The New York Times. The claim depends on a referendum held to shore up his control over domestic politics and built on an internationally-unrecognized pretext of historical control over Essequibo.
On Dec. 5, Maduro ordered state-owned oil companies to begin granting licenses and doing exploration in Essequibo, the Financial Times reported.
He likely won’t order an invasion, experts told the DCNF. The Venezuelan military is afraid of revealing systemic deficiencies, but more importantly, Maduro could put his regime at risk by becoming embroiled in protracted fighting through inhospitable jungles against guerilla forces.
And, there’s the possibility of U.S. involvement, most likely alongside other countries.
“Maduro could essentially stumble into hostilities, whether it’s sending troops to the border or something that sparks military action, and that’s always a risk,” Ellis told the DCNF.
“The U.S. has to be careful of portraying the image that it is acting unilaterally in South America, especially in a militarized manner,” Aileen Teague, a professor at Texas A&M University who studies U.S. history and relations with Latin America, told the DCNF. “Working through diplomatic channels is the United States’ best option for success. ”
Any American-led intervention would not take place without extensive coordination with regional and global partners, including Brazil, which has massed troops on the border to ward off Venezuelan aggression, the experts said.
But the U.S. can “wreak havoc on those Venezuelan forces within that jungle environment by taking advantage of the ability to control the air and do select targeting,” Ellis explained, to “essentially make the few roads that are there impassable” for the Venezuelan military and supply lines.
“You basically turn an occupying force very quickly into a lot of Venezuelans trapped in a jungle,” he said.
Investigative reporter, defense.
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