Venezuelan Government and Opposition Reach Deal to Fight Coronavirus

Spain has agreed to transfer $10 million in frozen Venezuelan funds to the Pan American Health Organization’s medical efforts in the country.

By Lucas Koerner and Ricardo Vaz
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The Venezuelan government has collaborated with several multilateral agencies. A 12-ton Unicef aid shipment arrived from Germany last Friday. (VTV)
The Venezuelan government has collaborated with several multilateral agencies. A 12-ton Unicef aid shipment arrived from Germany last Friday. (VTV)

Santiago de Chile, June 4, 2020 (venezuelanalysis.com) – The Venezuelan government has signed an agreement with the country’s opposition-controlled parliament to coordinate efforts against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez made public the document on Tuesday, which contained the signatures of Health Minister Carlos Alvarado and National Assembly Health Advisor Julio Castro, with Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) representative Gerardo de Cosio present as a “witness and guarantor.”

The agreement commits the government and the opposition to work together in the areas of detection of new cases, timely treatment, supervision of quarantine, protection of health personnel, public communication regarding risks, among others.

Both parties likewise agreed to accept the “technical and administrative assistance” of the PAHO as well as cooperate with the multilateral body to secure “financial resources that contribute to the strengthening of the country’s response capacity.”

Speaking on behalf of President Nicolas Maduro, Rodriguez said that the government was prepared to “do everything that must be done” to combat the pandemic.

For his part, opposition leader Juan Pablo Guanipa revealed on Wednesday that Juan Guaido’s “interim government” would finance the PAHO’s medical efforts in the country to the tune of US $10 million, with the approval of the Maduro administration.

The funds will come from Venezuelan accounts frozen in Spain, Madrid’s minister for EU affairs, Arancha Gonzalez, confirmed on Thursday.

Guaido proclaimed himself “interim president” in January 2019 and was immediately recognized by the US and its allies. Washington imposed punishing economic sanctions on Venezuela, which it continues to escalate, freezing the country’s foreign assets as well as decreeing a sweeping trade embargo. A number of US allies in Europe and Latin America have likewise blocked Venezuelan accounts and in some cases turned over state assets to Guaido.

In recent months, Guaido has been under increasing pressure to use frozen Venezuelan state funds to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. In April, the opposition leader announced that he would use US-based funds to pay healthcare workers $100 monthly bonuses, but the plan sparked controversy after it was revealed that $13.6 million would be earmarked for parliamentary expenses, including $5000 salaries for anti-government legislators.

The deal comes as Venezuela sees an uptick in coronavirus cases in recent weeks, despite numbers remaining much lower than in neighboring countries

As of Thursday evening, there were 2087 confirmed cases and 20 deaths. According to Venezuelan authorities, 78 percent of infections are Venezuelan migrants who have returned to the country in recent weeks. While community transmission has been kept to a minimum, a hotspot was identified in a market in the western city of Maracaibo.

Despite the upsurge in infections, the Maduro government has moved to partially lift some of the quarantine restrictions. Starting this week, businesses such as banks and shops, as well as medical practices, are permitted to work for five days on a restricted schedule before closing for another ten.

The measures do not apply to border municipalities where most of the “imported” cases have been found. Government officials have also called on citizens and business owners to enforce social distancing and limit occupancy so as to prevent fresh outbreaks.

Lucas Koerner reporting from Santiago de Chile and Ricardo Vaz from Mérida.