Mexico City, Mexico, April 14, 2021 (venezuelanalysis.com) - The president of the Venezuelan National Assembly (AN) accused opposition leader Juan Guaidó of trying to “steal” US $53 million in Venezuelan funds currently frozen by the US Treasury Department.
Since 2019, the US has sequestered $342 million held by the Venezuelan Central Bank (BCV) in the United States alongside other assets as part of efforts to oust the Maduro government from power. Washington put this money at the disposal of the opposition but its use requires a license from the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).
Jorge Rodríguez, head of the National Assembly and a member of the ruling Socialist party, revealed a leaked conversation between opposition politicians where they discussed the proposal to be presented to OFAC, which was prepared by Guaidó’s team.
“Guaidó will ask the Office of Foreign Assets Control for more than 53 million dollars in order to steal them along with his accomplices,” Rodríguez said in a press conference on Tuesday while calling on US authorities to investigate the opposition for misuse of funds.
In an acerbic tone, the AN president criticized the opposition’s yearly funding proposal line by line and claimed that efforts to control the resources are driven by internal divisions.
According to the leaked information, nearly half of the funds are destined for “defense of democracy,” with Rodríguez claiming they are used to finance destabilization efforts by the opposition inside the country.
The remainder of the funds are allocated to maintain Guaidó’s parallel “government.” If approved, his office alone would receive nearly $2 million USD, with his “foreign affairs minister” Julio Borges receiving $5.6 million.
Under President Joe Biden, Washington has continued to back the former lawmaker as “interim president”, despite the expiration of the mandate for the previous National Assembly in January after newly elected representatives took their seats the 2021-2025 term. The United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) won a commanding majority in the legislature following elections on December 6, 2020 in which over 100 parties and 14,400 candidates took part. Meanwhile, the European Union now refers to Guaidó and allies as “representatives of the outgoing National Assembly,” no longer acknowledging the “interim presidency.”
Rodríguez accused the opposition leader and his allies of perpetuating the “interim presidency” myth due to their interest in obtaining Venezuelan funds and assets.
“We have proven on many occasions how Guaidó has stolen millions of dollars from the people... They persist in deceiving their financiers in the United States of America,” the PSUV lawmaker asserted.
A January report by the Washington Post revealed that the former National Assembly president had reached out to two Miami entrepreneurs in order to try to seize $40 billion in Venezuelan government assets across the Caribbean. The plot collapsed after the pair were given a handwritten note with a list of demands, which were described as “illegal” and an “extortion” by Jorge Reyes, one of the two men involved in the scheme.
Attorney General Tarek William Saab recently stated his office had opened an investigation into Guaidó over his efforts to access Venezuela’s assets abroad that he said could instead be used to fight the pandemic. The opposition leader had likewise been previously involved in a string of scandals, including accusations of embezzlement and ties to Colombian paramilitaries.
In the leaked audio, former opposition lawmaker Sergio Vergara criticized the OFAC proposal for failing to allocate money to Venezuela’s pandemic response while also axing a controversial program to give bonuses to healthcare workers. The Venezuelan government of Nicolás Maduro had previously reached a reported deal with the opposition to utilize $30.3 million in frozen Venezuelan assets to pay for vaccine doses as part of the United Nations’ COVAX program.
However, Maduro revealed that the country had acquired 11.3 million additional Covid-19 vaccines after Caracas was able to “liberate” resources which had been unilaterally blocked by Washington. Rodríguez said on Tuesday that the government would continue to seek to use the OFAC frozen funds to pay for the South American country’s vaccines.
Vergara also highlighted the high costs of maintaining the residence of Carlos Vecchio, Guaidó’s envoy in Washington. Vergara had previously been in the headlines as one of the opposition figures associated with the Operation Gedeon paramilitary invasion attempt, resigning from his advisory role in an attempt to shield Guaidó from responsibility.
Edited by Ricardo Vaz from Mérida.