The US Is Increasing Its Urgent Military Aid to Guyana as Neighboring Venezuela's Threats Linger

Guyana President Irfaan Ali
Guyana President Irfaan Ali attends a press conference after meeting behind closed doors with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, in Argyle, St. Vincent, Thursday, Dec. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Lucanus D. Ollivierre)

GEORGETOWN, Guyana — The U.S. government is increasing its urgent military assistance to Guyana, officials said Monday, as neighboring Venezuela threatens to seize a large part of the country's territory it has long claimed.

The U.S. is pledging to help Guyana buy new aircraft, helicopters, a fleet of military drones and, for the first time, radar technology. The details were not immediately clear, and Guyanese officials declined to say how much they expect to pay.

Confirmation of the plan came a day after the U.S. deputy national security advisor, Jon Finer, and Western Hemisphere senior director Juan González met with authorities in Guyana about improving defense capabilities.

Their visit was the latest engagement by top defense and administration officials, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, on improving Guyana’s ability to defend itself from external threats.

“That cooperation is fundamentally defensive in nature and grounded in our desire for Guyana to be able to defend its territorial integrity against any possible threats,” Finer told reporters late Sunday.

He added that “we do not think that it is appropriate for countries to make threats or to contemplate publicly the use of force against another country.” It was a veiled reference to Venezuela, which amassed a small number of troops along its eastern border late last year and threatened to annex Guyana’s mineral-rich Essequibo region after holding a referendum to approve the annexation.

Tensions between the countries have cooled following talks mediated by Brazil and Caribbean leaders in December. A second round of talks involving foreign ministers was held in Brazil in late January to prepare for an upcoming summit between Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and Guyanese President Irfaan Ali.

At the height of tensions, the U.S. military assisted Guyana with overflight surveillance flights, and military advisers were present to help the Guyanese military, which is poorly equipped and has fewer than 5,000 troops for a country of some 800,000 people.

Guyana's president has said his administration would soon buy a fleet of at least four U.S. helicopters along with drones, fixed-wing planes and other equipment.

Chief of Staff Brig. Gen. Omar Khan told The Associated Press on Monday that officials also would buy radar systems to improve air and sea domain awareness and capabilities.

“Like institutions, a capability cannot be bought. It has to be built,” he said.

Related: British Warship Arrives in Guyana as Tensions Heat up in Border Dispute With Venezuela 

Story Continues