Washington Green-Lights Fund for Social Investment in Venezuela (+México Talks)
Orinoco Tribune, May 19, 2023 —
Bloomberg has reported that the United States government assured the United Nations (UN) that contributions to its humanitarian fund for Venezuela will finally begin to be disbursed, due to recent changes that could allow the relief effort to begin operations this month.
The decision of the Biden administration to give the green light for the humanitarian fund, announced this Thursday, May 18, originates from an agreement reached last year between delegations of the Venezuelan government and representatives of the far-right Venezuelan opposition, within the framework of the México Talks.
It was agreed then that the US government were to transfer $3.2 billion from Venezuelan—illegally frozen in US banks—to fund urgent social investments required in Venezuela to counter the criminal effects of the blockade, promoted by Washington against Venezuela, that affects the most vulnerable of the population in the Latin American state.
The US news outlet reported that early this month, the Biden administration notified the UN that it will allow the fund to operate inside the US, without fear of making it vulnerable to lenders seeking debt repayment. This is something that, for many analysts, looks more like an excuse for a delay of almost six months to comply with the agreement that had already been reached during the second round of the México Talks on November 26, 2022.
According to sources involved with the issue, the US has said it is willing to work with banks that have Venezuelan assets, in order to guarantee their safe transfer. Last year, the White House told the UN that it could not guarantee that the funds would be safe from creditors. However, it has recently rectified that decision.
Humanitarian agreement (México Talks)
As part of a humanitarian agreement, this fund is intended to finance electricity grids, water networks, healthcare, and education projects in Venezuela, to be put in place by the Venezuelan government. Access to frozen assets has turned out to be more difficult than expected, according to US sources. Venezuelan authorities heavily criticized this, announcing that unless the established agreements were complied with, they would suspend participation in the México Talks.
The spokesperson for the UN secretary general, Farhan Haq, said that the international body remains committed to efforts to implement the agreement, “which has the potential to support millions of vulnerable Venezuelans.”
The first contributions to the new fund are expected to come from Venezuelan accounts in Europe, according to the aforementioned sources.
However, they do not rule out the fact that it will most likely take a few months to start disbursement of the funds. In addition, it is not clear if President Nicolás Maduro will return to the dialogue table, due to the extraordinarily delay of the White House in complying with the established agreement.
It is important to note that the Venezuelan government has conditioned future negotiations on further easing of sanctions and the release of Venezuelan diplomat Alex Saab, imprisoned in the US since 2021 in clear violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.
International Conference on Venezuela
On April 25, Colombian President Gustavo Petro organized the International Conference on Venezuela in the city of Bogotá, in an attempt to revive the México Talks. A high level US delegation led by Juan Gonzalez, President Biden’s advisor for affairs in the western hemisphere, took part in the conference.
One of the agreements reached during the conference—attended by representatives of 20 countries—was that “the resumption of the México Talks should be accompanied by the fast-track release of the funds for the Fiduciary Fund for Social Investment for Venezuela, as agreed on November 26, 2022.”
For many analysts, this new move by the Biden administration can be seen as the first actualized result of the important conference organized by the Colombian president.