Seven people were on board the military vehicle; there is no evidence of Venezuelan involvement in the case
A military helicopter from the Guyanese Army disappeared in the Essequibo region, close to the border with Venezuela on Wednesday (6.Dec.2023). To journalists, the head of the GDF (Guyana Defense Forces), Brigadier Omar Khan, stated that 7 people were on board the vehicle.
According to the military, defense forces lost contact with the Bell 412 EPI helicopter after it took off from the Olive Creek settlement in western Guyana. Its destination was the village of Arau.
“The aircraft transmitted an emergency locator transmitter signal at 11:20 a.m. [horário local]from coordinates [localizadas] approximately 48 km east of Arau, on our western border”, the defense forces said in a statement. Here is the full text (PDF – 132 kB, in English).
Khan said the area had seen severe weather, which could have caused the disappearance. A search and rescue team was sent to the region, but poor weather conditions made the search for the aircraft difficult.
The brigadier also stated that the soldiers on board were traveling to inspect the troops in Essequibo, Guyanese territory claimed by the Venezuelan government. However, he said there was no evidence of Venezuelan involvement in the case when asked if the helicopter had been brought down by an attack.
“We do not have any information to suggest that there were any Venezuelan aircraft flights in that area. Speculation is not what I want to address. Our priority is to save the lives of our officers and ranks. This event, this incident, I am sure, generated additional anxiety in this period we are in.”these.
Countries face a moment of tension after Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro claimed the Essequibo region. The area corresponds to 74% of Guyana’s territory and has been the subject of dispute for more than a century.
On Tuesday (Dec 5), Maduro announced measures to create a Venezuelan province in Essequibo and released a new map of the country that includes the region. The measure was carried out after the Venezuelan population approved the annexation of the territory in a referendum held on December 3.
Guyanese President, Irfaan Ali, stated in a speech on Tuesday (Dec 5) that Maduro’s actions are a “imminent threat to territorial integrity” of Guyana and that the country “will intensify precautionary measures to protect its territory”.
Venezuelans voted on Sunday (Dec 3) in a referendum on the annexation of part of Guyana’s territory. The measure, of a consultative nature, was announced by Maduro on November 10.
Essequibo has 160 thousand km² and is administered by Guyana. The area is rich in oil and minerals, and has access to the Atlantic Ocean.