Guyana’s Attorney General Anil Nandlall said Thursday that Guyana’s government has reassured neighboring Venezuela there is no plan for the U.S. to establish a military base in the South American country and that it has not made a formal request for one.

Nandlall spoke to The Associated Press days after Daniel P. Erikson, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Western Hemisphere, visited Guyana and one day after Guyanese officials announced they were seeking help from the U.S. to improve its defense capabilities.

Nandlall and other officials in Guyana have sought to temper tensions with Venezuela over a disputed region known as Essequibo rich in oil and minerals that represents two-thirds of Guyana and that Venezuela claims as its own.


“We have not been approached by the United States to establish a military base in Guyana,” said Guyanese Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo, adding that the government does not conduct public policy at press conferences.

Erikson visited just weeks after a long-standing dispute over Guyana’s Essequibo region deepened, with Venezuela holding a referendum in December to claim sovereignty over the area.

Nandlall told the AP that Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro remains “convinced that Guyana could host” a U.S. military base. He said Maduro raised the issue when he attended an emergency mediation meeting in St. Vincent last month to talk about the territorial dispute with Guyanese President Irfaan Ali.

“(Ali) reiterated that this is not so, but we will encourage cooperation with our allies in defense of our territorial integrity and sovereignty,” Nandlall said.

Guyana and Venezuela have agreed to refrain from using force, but the dispute continues, with Venezuela insisting that Essequibo was part of its territory during the Spanish colonial period, and that a 1966 agreement nullified a border drawn in 1899 by international arbitrators.