The United Kingdom is set to deploy a warship to Guyana as a demonstration of both diplomatic and military support for the former British colony, according to information obtained by the BBC. The move is a response to renewed territorial claims by Venezuela over a disputed area of Guyanese land, known for its significant oil and mineral resources.
The UK Ministry of Defence has confirmed that HMS Trent, originally tasked with patrolling the Caribbean for drug smuggling activities, will participate in joint exercises with Guyana after the Christmas period. Guyana, the sole English-speaking nation in South America and a member of the Commonwealth has become a focal point due to Venezuela’s recent threats to annex the Essequibo region, raising concerns of a potential interstate conflict – the first in South America since the Falklands Conflict in 1982.
Venezuela has long asserted ownership over Essequibo, a vast region comprising about two-thirds of Guyana and known for its wealth in gold, diamonds, bauxite, and substantial offshore oil deposits. Despite Guyana’s booming economy, Venezuela is grappling with economic challenges. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro staged a controversial referendum on December 3 to affirm his country’s claim to Essequibo, a move widely contested. Maduro has since taken steps, including redrawing maps, appointing a new governor, and offering identity cards to residents in the disputed region.
Although Maduro and Guyana’s President, Irfaan Ali, have met and agreed not to resort to force, the territorial dispute remains unresolved. The Lloyd’s insurance market in London has now classified Guyana as one of the riskiest shipping zones.
A spokesperson for the UK Ministry of Defence stated that HMS Trent’s visit to Guyana is part of its broader engagements in the region during its Atlantic Patrol Task deployment. The vessel, equipped with a 30mm cannon, Royal Marines, Merlin helicopters, and unmanned aircraft, will anchor off Georgetown, the capital of Guyana, to conduct visits, joint activities, and training with the country’s navy and allies.
This deployment aligns with the UK’s increasing efforts to demonstrate international diplomatic support for Guyana. Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron emphasized the UK’s commitment to working with regional partners to uphold Guyana’s territorial integrity and prevent escalation. The decision follows a visit by Foreign Office Minister for the Americas, David Rutley, who assured Guyana of the UK’s unwavering support and encouraged the resolution of the border issue through diplomatic means.
In response, Venezuela’s Foreign Minister, Yvan Gil, criticized the UK’s involvement, accusing it of destabilizing the region and intervening in a territorial controversy that, according to Venezuela, was generated by the UK’s actions in the past. Venezuela disputes the border established in 1899 under an international agreement, and Guyana, formerly British Guiana, gained independence in 1966.