Venezuela’s government and opposition have asked the United Nations to manage the South American country’s billions of dollars held in foreign entities to combat the nation’s acute oil crisis, both sides announced on Saturday, during the resumption of the dialogue process in Mexico. .
Last month, several sources said Reuters that the funds, which will be gradually released, amount to more than 3 billion dollars.
Later, in a long-awaited announcement, the United States issued an expanded license allowing Chevron, the country’s largest oil company, to import oil or derivatives produced by its companies in Venezuela.
“This action reflects the longstanding US policy to deliver targeted sanctions based on concrete measures that alleviate the suffering of the Venezuelan people and support the restoration of democracy,” the Treasury Department said in a statement.
In 2019, under the administration of Donald Trump, the United States and the European Union imposed sanctions on Venezuela to deprive the government of Nicolás Maduro – whose re-election they did not recognize in 2018 – of oil revenues. Therefore, assets were frozen, including billions of dollars of the country deposited abroad.
“In order to meet the most urgent needs of the Venezuelan people, it is agreed to request the support of the United Nations (UN) for (…) the design, establishment and implementation of a single trust fund which would be called ‘ fund for the social protection of the Venezuelan people,” said the representative of Norway, Dag Nylander.
“The parties have identified a set of resources belonging to the Venezuelan state, frozen in the international financial system, which can be accessed progressively,” he added.
Nylander, a member of the Norwegian foreign ministry, described the agreement as a “historic milestone” that unites the parties, while assuring that a solution to the lingering crisis is solely in the hands of the Venezuelans themselves.
The money, the parties said, will be used to stabilize the electricity system, expand the World Food Program (WFP) which already operates in the country, improve public education infrastructure and deal with the consequences of this year’s rains which left more than 100 dead.
The announcement comes during the first meeting between the two sides after talks in Mexico City were halted in October 2021 over the Maduro government’s annoyance over the extradition of Colombian-born businessman Alex Saab to the United States. accused of money laundering. .
The “social protection” fund could prevent Venezuelans from fleeing their country by improving their living conditions through better access to food, medicine and medical care, and by funding infrastructure projects to repair the once-bustling oil country’s electricity grid. .
The United Nations estimated this year that more than 7.1 million Venezuelans have fled their country due to high inflation, food and medicine shortages and an ongoing crisis in public services. More than half of Venezuelan migrants and refugees do not have access to three meals a day.
At home, things are no better: 50% of the 28 million Venezuelans live in poverty, according to the National Survey on Living Conditions (ENCOVI), carried out by Venezuelan universities.
Venezuelan migration is an issue that affects the entire region. In Colombia there are 2.4 million Venezuelan migrants; in Peru almost 1.5 million and, respectively, in the United States and Ecuador half a million.
Faced with growing numbers of the Venezuelan diaspora, the United States announced in October a joint plan with Mexico to allow entry only to asylum seekers with relatives already living legally in the northern country.
The management of the social fund is part of a broad agenda of discussions which includes the lifting of economic sanctions, the definition of the conditions for the 2024 presidential elections, the release of political prisoners and the lifting of political prohibitions.
However, those issues would not be touched upon in this round of talks, sources told Reuters.
The new fund has raised concerns in the United States and Venezuelan opposition over the potential impact of injecting millions of dollars into the country’s economy, which is facing serious liquidity problems, as Maduro could get credit ahead of the presidential election.