[News] Venezuela’s Ability to Fight COVID-19 is Badly Hamstrung by the 31 Metric Tons of Gold Stolen From Its Treasury

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Wed Oct 14 14:30:24 EDT 2020

Ability to Fight COVID-19 is Badly Hamstrung by the 31 Metric Tons of Gold
Stolen From Its Treasury
by Vijay Prashad – Carmen Navas Reyes
<https://www.counterpunch.org/author/crmnvsr3993/>- October 14, 2020

Map of the COVID-19 outbreak in Venezuela. Image Source: LuisZ9 – Own work,
data from Prodavinci – CC0

On October 5, 2020, the England and Wales Court of Appeal overturned
a lower court decision from July that denied the Venezuelan government
access to 31 metric tons of its gold stored in the Bank of London. No one
denies that the gold belongs to the Venezuelan government. However, the
bank refused to give the government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro
access to the gold; following the UK Foreign Office’s example
the bank said that the actual president of Venezuela was Juan Guaidó.

Mr. Guaidó, unlike President Maduro, has not won an election to the
presidency, nor is he in the line of succession to become president in any
eventuality. The anointing of Mr. Guaidó came
from the United States government, not the Venezuelan people; the UK
Foreign Office and the lower courts agreed with Washington, while the
England and Wales Court of Appeal relied for its decision on fact and logic.

The main finding of the Court of Appeal is that while the UK Foreign Office
has stated that it does not recognize the government of President Maduro,
it continues to conduct diplomatic affairs with the representatives of that
government. Ambassador Rocío Del Valle Maneiro González presented
her credentials to the Queen of England in 2015 and has for these past five
years represented the government of President Maduro in the UK. The current
British ambassador to Venezuela—Andrew Soper—presented
his credentials to President Maduro on February 5, 2018; he remains in
office in Caracas. Such basic diplomatic relations indicated to the Court
of Appeal that President Maduro—in the eyes of the UK government—“does in
fact exercise some or all of the powers of the President of Venezuela.”

Mr. Guaidó’s lawyer—Vanessa Neumann—said
<https://www.ft.com/content/d5e91ab8-f44f-437a-887e-7a5aa402976d> that the
Venezuelan government wanted the $1.95 billion (in today’s gold prices) so
that it could “illicitly finance itself.” But the Venezuelan government’s
lawyer—Sarosh Zaiwalla—argued that these funds would be used by the
government to break the chain of infection of COVID-19 and provide relief
to a population struck by the U.S. unilateral sanctions and by the
disruptions caused by the pandemic. The Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV) said
<https://bit.ly/2SMfpGb> that it wants to sell the gold, to have the funds
paid to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and to allow the
UNDP to assist in the government’s response to the pandemic. Even this
channel via the UNDP has been rejected by Mr. Guaidó, by the UK government,
and by Washington; there is no likely reason they would do this outside of
a desire to punish the Venezuelan people in the midst of this pandemic.

*Money for Medicines*

Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research and the Instituto Simón
Bolívar have been studying <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QvGkKmpqEdg>
the social impact of these very harsh sanctions imposed by the U.S.
administration since 2017. They have found that the primary and secondary
sanctions have starved the Venezuelan people of the means to conduct basic
commerce: to sell their oil and to buy food, medicines, and educational
materials (primary sanctions directly prevent citizens and firms of the
sanctioning country from having any dealings with the country being
sanctioned; secondary sanctions prevent a third party—either a country or a
firm—from dealing with the sanctioned country). Tens of thousands of
Venezuelans have
died unnecessary deaths because of the denial of trade in medicines and
medical equipment; this has challenged the already fragile system during
the pandemic. To allow these unilateral sanctions by the United States, and
its pursuit of regime change in Venezuela, to define the way Venezuela can
fight the virus and the disease is shocking. “Collective penalties,” says
the Fourth Geneva Convention (1949), “are prohibited.”

What does the Venezuelan government wish to buy with the $1.95 billion that
would be turned over to the UNDP? According to research by Tricontinental:
Institute for Social Research and the Instituto Simón Bolívar, the bulk of
the funds—$600 million—is planned to go toward the purchase of medicines
for 400,000 people in hospitals, for obstetric medicines for 550,000
pregnant women, and medicines for the 243 community pharmacies. Then, $450
million is planned to go toward disposable medical supplies for 400,000
surgeries, for 245 health centers, and for 3,000 pacemakers. Finally,
$250,000 has been planned for the supply of reagents for laboratories (for
hematology and serology), and for spare parts for various kinds of medical
equipment (including radiation therapy equipment). This is how the
Venezuelan government—in collusion with the UNDP—would like to “illicitly
finance itself.”

In May, three UN special rapporteurs wrote
<https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/05/1063372> that in Venezuela,
“hospitals are reporting a shortage of medical supplies, protective
equipment and medicine.” These are exactly the materials on the list from
the Venezuelan government to buy from the proceeds of the sale of the 31
metric tons of gold. These experts—Olivier De Schutter (extreme poverty and
human rights), Léo Heller (water and sanitation), and Kombou Boly Barry
(education)—said, “especially in light of the coronavirus pandemic, the
United States should immediately lift blanket sanctions, which are having a
severe impact on the human rights of the Venezuelan people.”

The independent research <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QvGkKmpqEdg> from
Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research and the Instituto Simón
Bolívar concurs with the opinions of these UN experts; the U.S.-driven
sanctions have negatively impacted the capacity of the Venezuelan people to
thrive and exercise their human rights. The unilateral sanctions must be
lifted. Short of that, we believe that Venezuela’s 31 metric tons of gold
in the Bank of London must be sold, the proceeds delivered to the UNDP, and
the medical supplies urgently shipped to Venezuela. Anything other than
that is a crime against the Venezuelan people.

*This article was produced by Globetrotter.*
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