Venezuela opposition govt hails victory after UK court blocks $1 bln gold to Maduro

Opposition leader Juan Guaido leaves the National Assembly after initially blocked by National Guard from entering, in Caracas, Venezuela on Jan. 7, 2020. (File photo: AFP)

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was dealt an expensive and humiliating blow on Thursday, when the UK High Court ruled his administration cannot access $1 billion of gold stored in the Bank of England, because London does not recognize Maduro as a legitimate leader.

Venezuela’s rival administration led by Juan Guaido – which the UK considers the official leadership of Venezuela - called the ruling “absolutely historic and without precedent,” in an interview with Al Arabiya English.

“This is a huge victory for the Venezuelan people,” said Guaido’s Ambassador to the UK Vanessa Neumann in an interview with Al Arabiya English.

The case, brought to the court by lawyers for Maduro’s government, sought access to over half of $1.8 billion of gold reserves deposited four decades ago by the Central Bank of Venezuela.

The Bank of England is pictured in London on March 11, 2020. (AFP)

The Bank of England is pictured in London on March 11, 2020. (AFP)

The UK High Court blocked Maduro’s access to the reserves, saying the UK government recognizes Guaido as the constitutional president of Venezuela.

“It must follow [that the UK] does not recognize Mr. Maduro as the constitutional interim president of Venezuela,” said UK Justice Teare in remarks on Thursday.

Neumann said the Maduro government is now putting out “propaganda that the UK and Guaido have stolen the gold.”

“No one has stolen anything, except Maduro who stole the elections in 2018,” said Neumann. Over 60 countries - including the UK and US - recognize Guaido, not Maduro, as Venezuela’s legitimate leader.

Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro making a televised announcement at the Miraflores Presidential Palace, in Caracas, on March 15, 2020. (AFP)

Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro making a televised announcement at the Miraflores Presidential Palace, in Caracas, on March 15, 2020. (AFP)

“The gold will be in the bank for the foreseeable future,” she added.

“Maduro’s gold historically goes to Iran”

Maduro’s representatives have argued the gold is needed to fund the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic in Venezuela.

Neumann said she doesn’t know what the Maduro government intended to do with these gold reserves, but that history shows most of the gold in Maduro’s possession goes to his ally Iran.

“Most of the gold they have gotten has gone to Iran – that’s what they have been doing with it,” she said.

Military personnel remove gold bars from a military plane to be taken to Venezuela's Central Bank, at the Carlota military airport in Caracas on March 1, 2018. (AP)

Military personnel remove gold bars from a military plane to be taken to Venezuela's Central Bank, at the Carlota military airport in Caracas on March 1, 2018. (AP)

Venezuela is known to have some of the world’s largest gold reserves. Illegal gold mining in the country’s eastern region has resulted in gold being transferred to Iran via planes owned by Maduro, according to Neumann.

Maduro, who assumed office in 2013 after the death of his mentor Hugo Chavez, has been accused of undermining democracy and running a dictatorship. He has set up and maintained close relations with the Iranian government, which have recently come under fire.

Iran sent a flotilla of five tankers of fuel to gasoline-starved ally Venezuela in May. Tehran has said it will continue the shipments if Caracas requests more, despite Washington’s criticism of the trade between the two nations, which are both under US sanctions.

A worker of the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA waves an Iranian flag as the Iranian-flagged oil tanker Fortune docks in Puerto Cabello, Venezuela, on May 25, 2020. (AFP)

A worker of the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA waves an Iranian flag as the Iranian-flagged oil tanker Fortune docks in Puerto Cabello, Venezuela, on May 25, 2020. (AFP)

Dire situation in Venezuela

Venezuela, once one of the richest countries in South America, is now suffering one of the Western Hemisphere’s worst humanitarian crises.

Government repression and economic recession have caused a mass exodus of more than 4.6 million people leaving the country in the last four years, according the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

The coronavirus outbreak has exacerbated shortages of food and medicine in the country. Maduro’s government has reported 4,365 COVID-19 cases and 38 deaths, but the official numbers have come under domestic and international skepticism.

A woman washes her protective face masks with runoff water from the Avila mountain in Caracas, Venezuela on June 21, 2020. (AP)

A woman washes her protective face masks with runoff water from the Avila mountain in Caracas, Venezuela on June 21, 2020. (AP)

The Venezuelan Academy of Physical, Mathematical and Pure Sciences released a report in early May that estimated a much higher number of cases than reported and that the claim by Maduro’s officials that the country had “flattened the curve” was false.

A week later, a top Maduro official called on the scientists who penned the report to be arrested and raided by security agencies, according to Science Magazine.

Guaido condemned the threat, saying that “the light of science will always be the enemy of the darkness of the dictatorship,” in a tweet.

A man waits to get some food at a garbage dump in Las Minas de Baruta neighborhood, Caracas, Venezuela, on March 14, 2019. (AFP)

A man waits to get some food at a garbage dump in Las Minas de Baruta neighborhood, Caracas, Venezuela, on March 14, 2019. (AFP)

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Last Update: Thursday, 02 July 2020 KSA 17:40 - GMT 14:40
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