Venezuela Squeezes Guyana

Happy Wednesday! Chevy may have already made the best holiday ad this year. But don’t make the mistake we totally made and watch it with raw onions around. 

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited Congress on Tuesday, meeting with lawmakers to advocate for additional U.S. aid to his war-torn country. House Speaker Mike Johnson told reporters he had a “good meeting” with Zelensky, but reiterated his objection to passing additional aid without also addressing border security. Zelensky capped the first day of his Washington visit with a joint press conference with President Joe Biden at the White House yesterday evening, where both leaders pushed Congress for additional military aid. The Biden administration declassified intelligence assessments yesterday that suggest Russia’s operations over the last few months have been structured to erode international support for Ukraine by pushing the conflict towards a stalemate, even at the expense of huge Russian losses. The reports were made public in an effort to strengthen the argument for continued assistance. 
  • Biden criticized the Israel Defense Force’s (IDF) bombing of Gaza in a speech at a fundraiser in Washington on Tuesday, describing the campaign as “indiscriminate” and warning that Israel will lose international support if it doesn’t change course. “Israel’s security can rest on the United States, but right now it has more than the United States,” Biden said. “It has the European Union, it has Europe, it has most of the world. … But they’re starting to lose that support by indiscriminate bombing that takes place.” National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan suggested yesterday that Israel should shift its tactics away from large-scale bombing and toward more targeted operations, and will visit Israel later this week to discuss the timetable for Israel’s military offensive in the enclave. “It doesn’t have to be that you go from [bombing] to literally nothing in terms of putting pressure on going after Hamas targets, Hamas leadership, or continuing to have tools in your toolbox to try to secure the release of hostages,” he said. “It just means that you’ve moved to a different phase from the kind of high-intensity operations that we see today.”
  • Yemen’s Houthi rebels struck a Norwegian tanker with an anti-ship cruise missile on Monday while the vessel traversed the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, which connects the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. No one was injured and the crew was able to put out the fire from the missile strike; the ship is now sailing to a safe port. A French military frigate operating in the area also shot down a drone from Yemen threatening the tanker, which was headed to Italy but had been selected to pick up cargo from an Israeli port next month. The Iranian-backed Houthis have claimed responsibility for a series of attacks targeting commercial vessels in the Red Sea since the start of the Israel-Hamas war on October 7.
  • The Consumer Price Index rose 0.1 percent month-over-month and 3.1 percent annually in November, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Tuesday, compared to a flat monthly rate and 3.2 percent annually in October. November’s inflation was slightly above economists’ expectations, and core inflation—a metric that strips out volatile food and energy prices—increased 0.3 month-over-month and 4 percent annually, up from the previous month. Nonetheless, the moderate increase is still expected to keep the Federal Reserve on track to hold rates steady at its meeting later today. 
  • New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu endorsed Nikki Haley for president Tuesday evening at a Haley campaign event in Manchester, New Hampshire. The popular Republican governor argued Haley is “the candidate with the momentum to win” and could move the party beyond Trump. “This is an opportunity for New Hampshire to lead this country,” he said. “For New Hampshire to say we’re not looking in the rearview mirror anymore.” Former President Donald Trump has a 27-point lead over Haley in the Granite State, according to the latest RealClearPolitics polling average. 

Trouble in Essequibo

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro shows off the referendum notification act during a press conference in Caracas on December 4, 2023—one day after Venezuelans voted in a referendum on the country's border with Guyana. (Photo by Gaby Oraa/Getty Images)
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro shows off the referendum notification act during a press conference in Caracas on December 4, 2023—one day after Venezuelans voted in a referendum on the country's border with Guyana. (Photo by Gaby Oraa/Getty Images)

There’s nothing like a little oil (or a lot of oil) to reignite a centuries-old feud—just ask Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro as he attempts to reassert claim over Essequibo, a territory that comprises some two-thirds of neighboring Guyana’s total area and, since 2019, the site of significant and growing offshore drilling.

As Venezuelan and Guyanese troops assemble on their respective sides of the border, the brewing territorial crisis hasn’t yet turned into an armed conflict between Venezuela and its English-speaking neighbor. But Maduro’s saber-rattling over Essequibo, which seems to be driven both by political and economic considerations, has officials in Georgetown, Guyana’s capital—as well as in Washington and in capitals around the region—on edge. 

Guyana, a former British colony on the northern coast of South America with a population of fewer than 1 million people, and Venezuela have never been the best of friends. At least some of that rivalry has to do with Caracas’ claim over Essequibo—a sparsely populated, oil- and mineral-rich area west of the Essequibo River. In 1899, the border was supposedly settled in an international arbitration process: Essequibo belonged to Guyana, then known as the colony of British Guiana. Venezuela maintained opposition to that decision, and when Guyana gained independence from Britain peacefully in 1966, the question came up again. An agreement negotiated in Geneva functionally froze the conflict, which gave no particular credence to either side’s claim and demanded neither party do anything to upset the status quo pending a peacefully negotiated resolution.

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