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Exclusive-U.N. could manage more than $3 billion in funds to help Venezuela by Stocksak


© Stocksak. FILE PHOTO – Yeseivi Lugo from Venezuela, a migrant girl, is seen in a tent at the Paso del Norte International Border Bridge, Ciudad Juarez Mexico, October 21, 2022. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez/File photo

Marianna Parraga and Mayela Armas.

WASHINGTON/CARACAS – Nine people close to the talks say that top officials from the U.S. Treasury and State departments are discussing plans for a fund that could release more than $3 billion to provide humanitarian assistance to Venezuelans through UN agencies.

These proposals could be a way to revive Venezuela’s political dialogue. They also come as more Venezuelans attempt to reach the United States. This has led to clashes between U.S. politicians about immigration.

Sources told Stocksak that migrants crossing the border to Mexico are prompting the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden to call for the unfreezing of Venezuelan funds in foreign banks that would provide the necessary food and medicine.

The National Survey of Living Conditions (ENCOVI), a survey conducted by Venezuelan universities, found that 94% of Venezuelans lived in poverty last year, while more than half of them experienced severe or moderate food insecurity.

Some analysts and rights organizations have claimed that the U.S. and Western sanctions contributed to the country’s deep economic crisis.

The United States and other Western countries, under the former President Donald Trump, imposed sanctions against Venezuela in 2019 to prevent President Nicolas Maduro from accessing oil revenue. They also frozen billions of dollars in Venezuelan-government accounts abroad.

The sources claimed that Washington and its European allies see the release of funds as crucial to secure a “social accord” between Venezuela and its government.

Venezuela’s information ministry and the U.S. State and Treasury Departments did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for the United Nations, said that they are continuing to urge Venezuela and its opposition to engage in “an inclusive dialogue that leads to negotiated resolutions, with human rights as a key component.” He declined to comment on whether or not the U.N. has accepted to manage an aid programme.

He stated that “resource mobilization continues to be a key challenge” and that plans for 2022-2023 help are 16.5% funded. The U.N. is requesting support.

HUNTING FOR MONEY

Maduro first proposed a U.N.-administered funds in 2020 when he called on a “legally binding international instruments on development” to end poverty and inequality. Later, he failed to release funds all over the globe.

In Trump’s strategy of “maximum pressure”, Maduro’s appeals did not inspire action.

Although $1.94 Billion has been provided by Washington in humanitarian aid to Venezuela since 2017, it has not done much to stop the flow of over 6 Million Venezuelans fleeing their country.

Some hardliners in America’s Congress may oppose the creation of the new fund. They support Maduro’s continued pressure. Some opposition parties in Venezuela are also concerned about the political consequences of Maduro claiming credit for funds released ahead of a possible 2024 presidential election.

The Department of Homeland Security has now restricted entry from Venezuela and third countries to applicants with legal relatives living in the United States.

According to sources, U.S. officials believe that the aid fund can prevent Venezuelans from fleeing. They claim that it will improve living conditions by providing access to food, medicine, health care, and funding infrastructure projects to stabilize Venezuela’s power grid.

Stocksak was told by sources that the United Nations had drafted a proposal to supervise the fund in October. Officials from the United States and opposition leaders have since reached out to international development banks, think tanks, and experts to review proposals.

Many details and the launch date are still unknown. Two people said that the fund could be made public once Maduro’s and the opposition’s envoys meet in Mexico to discuss presidential election plans.

Four sources claimed that the opposition envoys had discussed the aid package with U.S. officers during their meeting last week in Washington. Two other sources say that Maduro’s government was also approached by U.S. officials on the subject.

Creditors and holders of Venezuelan debt are paying attention to the possibility that Venezuelan money could flow again for investments and imports.

Venezuela’s creditors include the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Development Bank of Latin America (DBLA), which have contributed to aid projects or helped with funds. There are billions of dollars worth of unpaid loans and credit cards.

It could be one of the largest funds ever managed by the United Nations. However, the amount that could legally be released is not yet known.

(By Marianna Perraga, Matt Spetalnick in Washington, and Mayela Armeas in Caracas. Additional reporting by Michelle Nichols. Daphne Psaledakis. Humeyra Pamuk. Editing by Gary McWilliams.

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