May 28, 2020 09:10 UTC
  • Venezuela reaches deal with UN to buy food, medicine with gold

Venezuela has reached a deal with the United Nations to purchase food and medicine with gold amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to its central bank governor.

Based on the agreement signed with the UN Development Programme (UNDP), part of Venezuela’s gold in Bank of England accounts would be used to that end, central bank Governor Calixto Ortega told Reuters on Wednesday.

This comes after Venezuela’s central bank made a legal claim earlier this month in a bid to force the Bank of England to hand over a portion of the 31 tonnes of gold in accounts belonging to the government of President Nicolas Maduro.

Ortega said the UNDP would receive the funds directly, noting, “It’s not my word, it’s not me saying that I am going to buy food, medicine and medical equipment.”

“It’s the United Nations who is saying that. They are not going to be involved in anything dark that is not neutral and independent,” Ortega said in an interview in his downtown Caracas office.

For any program to be implemented, it is essential that the Bank of England releases the gold, but so far, the bank has declined to comment.

Meanwhile, the UNDP issued a statement, saying it was “approached recently to explore mechanisms to use existing resources held by the Central Bank of Venezuela in financial institutions outside the country to fund the ongoing efforts to address the urgent humanitarian, health, and socioeconomic needs arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The US has imposed several rounds of illegal sanctions against the oil-rich South American country aimed at ousting Maduro and replacing him with Juan Guaido.

The sanctions, which include the illegal confiscation of Venezuelan assets abroad and an economic blockade, have caused enormous suffering for millions of people in the country.

Ortega also expressed hope that the legal case in the UK would be resolved in the weeks to come.

“This is the worst a nation can experience,” Ortega said. “We have no income, no way of generating cash flow, and no access to funds we have deposited abroad in the middle of a pandemic.”

Venezuela had previously requested $5 billion from the International Monetary Fund to be able to fight the coronavirus pandemic, however, the IMF turned down the request.