By Diego Ore
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – The Venezuelan government and opposition have asked the United Nations to manage a multibillion-dollar fund now in foreign banks that will be gradually thawed to fight a humanitarian crisis in the oil-rich country, announced delegates in Mexico. City on Saturday.
Sources told Reuters last month that the frozen funds amount to more than $3 billion.
The money, held in Venezuela’s foreign accounts, was frozen by US and European banks after the United States stepped up sanctions under President Donald Trump’s rule, designed to pressure President Nicolas Maduro to take steps towards of free elections.
Talks between Maduro’s government and its political opponents resumed on Saturday in Mexico City, brokered by Norway, after being on ice for more than a year.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken hailed the talks as “an important step towards the restoration of democracy for Venezuelans.
“We will look to the parties to reach lasting agreements that set the course for a free and fair presidential election in 2024,” he said on Twitter.
Maduro also posted a statement on Twitter saying, “We will always strive for dialogue with the entire Venezuelan society. We continue to take important steps for the good of our country.”
Following the announcement of a UN-managed fund, the US Treasury Department has issued a license to Chevron, the second-largest US oil company, to expand its operations in Venezuela, allowing Venezuelan crude to enter the United States. import.
The government delegation was led by congress leader Jorge Rodriguez of Venezuela’s ruling United Socialist Party (PSUV), and the opposition group was led by politician Gerardo Blyde.
Maduro had said the aim of the talks was to recover the “kidnapped” funds for public investment: “Then we will see what other issues can be discussed.”
The funds are intended to help stabilize the country’s power grid, improve education infrastructure and mitigate the effects of this year’s deadly rainfall and flooding.
It is part of a broad agenda that covers US sanctions against Venezuela, conditions for the next presidential election and the status of hundreds of political prisoners – although these issues will not be discussed in this round of talks.
“This agreement provides the model for how to secure further progress,” the European Union said in a statement.
According to UN estimates, more than 7.1 million Venezuelans have left their country this year. Many migrate to other Latin American countries or the United States, while Venezuela faces high inflation and food and medicine shortages. According to UN estimates, more than half of Venezuelan migrants do not have access to three meals a day.
In Venezuela, a survey conducted this year by local universities found that about 78% of the population is concerned about food shortages, compared to 88% in 2021.
Some Venezuelan and American critics expressed concern that the liquidity injection could bolster Maduro’s credentials ahead of the country’s 2024 elections.
(Reporting by Diego Ore Oviedo, Vivian Sequera and Sarah Morland; editing by Diane Craft and Leslie Adler)