FILE PHOTO: Cutouts depicting images of oil operations are seen outside a building of Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA in Caracas, Venezuela January 28, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo/File Photo
April 24, 2019
By Mayela Armas
CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly on Wednesday took a key step toward authorizing a $71 million interest payment on state-owned oil company PDVSA’s 2020 bond, which is backed by shares in its crown jewel asset, U.S. refiner Citgo.
The assembly’s finance committee backed the payment, clearing the way for a full parliament vote expected next week.
Failure to make the payment could pave the way for creditors to attempt to seize up to half of Citgo’s shares as compensation.
President Nicolas Maduro’s cash-strapped government has remained current on the PDVSA 2020 bond payments even as it defaulted on some $8 billion in other debt.
But recent U.S. sanctions on PDVSA, intended to force Maduro to resign to allow opposition leader Juan Guaido to call elections, could prevent any Maduro-linked entity from making the payment.
The National Assembly, led by Guaido and recognized by the United States as Venezuela’s legitimate democratic body, authorized a parallel ad-hoc PDVSA board to negotiate the company’s debt earlier this month. It was unclear what funds the board planned to use to make payments.
Some $1.7 billion remains outstanding on the bond, issued in 2016 at an 8.5 percent coupon. It last traded at 87.5 cents on the dollar, more than triple the value of other bonds issued by PDVSA. The interest payment is due on April 27, but there is a 30-day grace period.
The payment would likely take place during that period, opposition lawmaker Juan Andres Mejia said, adding that the transaction would require a waiver from the U.S. Treasury, which enforces sanctions.
“We want to preserve the asset,” Mejia told reporters, referring to Citgo. “Maduro should not be making these payments. He does not have legitimacy.”
It would mark the first payment undertaken by Guaido’s interim government, a symbolic victory given that Maduro still controls the day-to-day business of government within Venezuela.
Guaido in January invoked the country’s constitution to assume an interim presidency, arguing Maduro’s 2018 re-election was illegitimate.
Maduro calls him a U.S. puppet seeking to oust him in a coup and has accused the opposition of trying to “steal” Citgo.
PDVSA did not respond to a request for comment.
(Reporting by Mayela Armas; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)
FILE PHOTO: Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro speaks next to Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel, wearing a Venezuelan flag sash, during their meeting at the Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela May 30, 2018. REUTERS/Marco Bello
April 17, 2019
By Zachary Fagenson, Matt Spetalnick and Lesley Wroughton
MIAMI/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration on Wednesday imposed new sanctions and other punitive measures on Cuba and Venezuela, seeking to ratchet up U.S. pressure on Havana to end its support for Venezuela’s socialist president, Nicolas Maduro.
Speaking to a Cuban exile group in Miami, U.S. national security adviser John Bolton said the United States was targeting Cuba’s military and intelligence services, including a military-owned airline, for additional sanctions and was tightening travel and trade restrictions against the island.
Bolton’s speech followed the State Department’s announcement on Wednesday that it was lifting a long-standing ban against U.S. citizens filing lawsuits against foreign companies that use properties seized by Cuba’s Communist government since Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution.
President Donald Trump’s decision, which the State Department said could unleash hundreds of thousands of legal claims worth tens of billions of dollars, drew swift criticism from European and Canadian allies, whose companies have significant interests in Cuba.
The Cuban government, which could be hindered in attracting new foreign investment, denounced it as “an attack on international law.”
Taking aim at Venezuela, Bolton said the United States was also imposing sanctions on the country’s central bank to prohibit access to dollars by an institution he described as crucial to keeping Maduro in power. Bolton also announced new sanctions on Nicaragua.
In a state television address, Maduro called the sanctions “totally illegal.”
“Central banks around the world are sacred, all countries respect them,” Maduro said, adding that the central bank would “confront and defeat” the sanctions. “To me the empire looks crazy, desperate.”
While accusing Cuba of propping up Maduro with thousands of security force members in the country, Bolton also warned “all external actors, including Russia,” against deploying military assets to support the Venezuelan leader.
“The United States will consider such provocative actions a threat to international peace and security in the region,” Bolton said, noting that Moscow recently sent in military flights carrying 35 tons of cargo and a hundred personnel.
However, Cuba appears unlikely to be budged by demands to dump Maduro, a longtime ally of Havana, and Maduro has also shown little sign of losing the loyalty of his military despite tough oil-related U.S. sanctions on the OPEC nation.
Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel responded defiantly. “No one will rip the (fatherland) away from us, neither by seduction nor by force,” he said on Twitter. “We Cubans do not surrender.”
ROLLING BACK OBAMA-ERA DETENTE
Amid Venezuela’s political and economic crisis, opposition leader Juan Guaido invoked the constitution in January to assume the interim presidency. The United States and most Western countries have backed Guaido as head of state. Maduro, backed by Cuba, Russia and China, has denounced Guaido as a U.S. puppet.
Bolton, a longtime Cuba hardliner, was frequently interrupted by applause in his address to veterans of the U.S.-backed Bay of Pigs invasion on the 58th anniversary of the failed operation to overthrow Castro. His speech was a sequel to one late last year branding Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua a “troika of tyranny.”
Bolton’s announcements included further measures to roll back parts of the historic opening to Cuba, an old Cold War foe, under his predecessor, Barack Obama.
The Obama administration’s approach, he said, “provided the Cuban regime with the necessary political cover to expand its malign influence.”
Among the Cuba measures announced by Bolton was reinstatement of limits on U.S. citizens sending remittances to Cuba at $1,000 per person per quarter. Remittances have surged since Obama started easing restrictions, becoming an important part of the economy and fueling growth of the private sector.
“Restricting remittances that can be sent to Cubans will directly hurt the Cuban people,” said Ben Rhodes, a former Obama adviser who negotiated the 2014 diplomatic breakthrough with Havana. “This is a shameful and mean-spirited policy.”
Bolton said the United States would also further restrict “non-family” travel to Cuba and cited military-owned Cuban airline Aerogaviota among five entities being added to the U.S. sanctions blacklist.
The Trump administration has previously sought to curtail Venezuela’s subsidized oil shipments to Cuba.
Also on Wednesday, Bolton announced sanctions on Nicaragua’s Bancorp, which he called a “slush fund,” and on Laureano Ortega, a son of President Daniel Ortega for what he described as “vast corruption.”
Trump’s toughened stance on Cuba as well as Venezuela and Nicaragua has gone down well among Cuban Americans in south Florida, an important voting bloc in a political swing state as he looks toward his re-election campaign in 2020.
Trump has added Cuba hawks to top posts. Bolton brought in Mauricio Claver-Carone, known as staunchly anti-Castro and an outspoken critic of Obama’s rapprochement with Havana, as his top Latin America adviser.
However, the risk, some former U.S. officials say, is that Trump’s team will overdo the targeting of Cuba in their anti-Maduro campaign and alienate some European and Latin American allies who have good relations with Havana but are also needed by Washington to maintain pressure on Venezuela.
Over the objections of key allies, Trump decided to allow a law that has been suspended since its creation in 1996 to be fully activated, permitting Cuban-Americans and other U.S. citizens to sue companies doing business in Cuba over property seized in decades past by the Cuban government.
Until now, Title III of the Helms-Burton Act had been fully waived by every president over the past 23 years.
Among the foreign companies heavily invested in Cuba are Canadian mining firm Sherritt International Corp and Spain’s Melia Hotels International SA. U.S. companies, including airlines and cruise companies, have forged business deals in Cuba since the easing of restrictions under Obama.
Toronto-based Sherritt said it would not be materially impacted by the Trump administration’s Helms-Burton decision and would continue to operate as usual focusing on meeting its nickel/cobalt production targets.
It was unclear, however, how Cuba property claims, some of which involve complex legal matters, will fare in U.S. courts.
The European Union said it will “consider all options at its disposal to protect its legitimate interests.”
Chrystia Freeland, minister of foreign affairs for Canada, which has coordinated with Washington on Venezuela, said: “Canada is deeply disappointed with today’s (U.S.) announcement.”
Kim Breier, U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, said a U.S. government commission has certified nearly 6,000 claims for property confiscated in Cuba with a current value of about $8 billion and that there could be up to 200,000 uncertified claims worth tens of billions of dollars if pursued.
(Reporting by Zachary Fagenson in Miami and Matt Spetalnick and Lesley Wroughton in Washington; Additional reporting by Makini Brice, David Alexander and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Sarah Marsh and Marc Frank in Havana; Philip Blenkinsop and Jan Strupczewski in Brussels; Julie Gordon in Ottawa; Deisy Buitrago and Luc Cohen in Caracas; writing by Matt Spetalnick; editing by Mary Milliken and Lisa Shumaker)
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testifies before a Senate foreign Relations Committee hearing on the State Department budget request in Washington, U.S. April 10, 2019. REUTERS/Erin Scott/File Photo
April 17, 2019
By Lesley Wroughton and Matt Spetalnick
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Trump administration is lifting a long-standing ban against U.S. citizens filing lawsuits against foreign companies that use properties seized by Cuba’s Communist government since Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Wednesday.
The major policy shift, which the State Department said could draw hundreds of thousands of legal claims worth tens of billion of dollars, is intended to intensify pressure on Havana at a time Washington is demanding an end to Cuban support for Venezuela’s socialist president, Nicolas Maduro.
But President Donald Trump’s decision, which was quickly denounced by Cuba as “an attack on international law,” could also further strain economic relations with U.S. allies in Europe and Canada, whose companies have significant interests on the island.
“Any person or company doing business in Cuba should heed this announcement,” Pompeo said at a news conference.
“Cuba’s behavior in the Western Hemisphere undermines the security and stability of countries throughout the region, which directly threatens United States national security interests,” he said.
Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, will discuss the administration’s decision in a speech on Wednesday in Miami, where he will also announce new sanctions on Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, countries he has branded a “troika of tyranny,” a senior U.S. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Trump decided to allow a law that has been suspended since its creation in 1996 to be fully activated, permitting Cuban-Americans and other U.S. citizens to sue foreign companies doing business in Cuba over property seized in decades past by the Cuban government.
Title III of the Helms-Burton Act had been fully waived by every president over the past 23 years due to opposition from the international community and fears it could create chaos in the U.S. court system with a flood of lawsuits.
“I strongly reject the announcement of State Secretary Pompeo,” Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said in a message on Twitter. “This is an attack on international law and the sovereignty of Cuba and third states. Aggressive escalation of #USA against #Cuba will fail.”
The move, which could deal a blow to the Cuban government’s efforts to attract foreign investment, marks a further step by Trump to roll back parts of the historic opening to Cuba, an old Cold War foe, under his predecessor, Barack Obama.
Pompeo said the Obama administration had played “a game of footsie with the Castros’ junta” and accused the Cuban government of widespread human rights abuses. “Detente with the regime has failed,” he told reporters.
PUSHBACK FROM EU, CANADA
Among the foreign companies heavily invested in Cuba are Canadian mining firm Sherritt International Corp and Spain’s Melia Hotels International SA. U.S. companies, including airlines and cruise companies, have forged business deals in Cuba since the easing of restrictions under Obama.
It was unclear, however, how such property claims, some of which involve complex legal matters, will fare in U.S. courts.
“The EU will consider all options at its disposal to protect its legitimate interests, including in relation to its WTO rights and through the use of the EU Blocking Statute,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said in a joint statement.
A joint EU-Canada statement said the U.S. move was “regrettable” and will have an “important impact on legitimate EU and Canadian economic operators in Cuba.”Kim Breier, U.S. assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, said the administration had been in close contact with allies in Europe and elsewhere before the Cuba decision and that a “vast number” of European firms operating there would not have any problems.
She said, however, that a U.S. government commission has certified nearly 6,000 claims for property confiscated in Cuba with a current value, including interest, of about $8 billion.
“There could be up to 200,000 uncertified claims … and that value could very easily be in the tens of billions of dollars,” Breier added. “It will depend on whether claimants decide to pursue legal cases or not.”
U.S. officials left no doubt that the Helms-Burton decision, which takes effect on May 2, is part of the Trump administration’s effort to force Cuba to abandon Maduro, something Havana has insisted it will not do.
Washington says Havana’s security and intelligence support is critical to Maduro’s grip on power amid Venezuela’s economic and political crisis.
Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido invoked the constitution in January to assume the interim presidency.
The United States and most Western countries have backed Guaido as head of state. Maduro, backed by Cuba, Russia, China and the Venezuela military, has denounced Guaido as a U.S. puppet who is seeking to foment a coup.
Trump’s toughened stance on Cuba as well as Venezuela has gone down well in the large Cuban-American community in south Florida, an important voting bloc in a political swing state as he looks toward his re-election campaign in 2020.
(Additional reporting by Makini Brice and Doina Chiacu in Washington, Sarah Marsh in Havana,Philip Blenkinsop and Jan Strupczewski in Brussels, Editing by Meredith Mazzilli and Tom Brown)
A worker directs trucks with logo of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) carrying humanitarian aid, at a warehouse where the aid will be stored, in Caracas, Venezuela, April 16, 2019. REUTERS/Manaure Quintero
April 17, 2019
CARACAS (Reuters) – The first shipment of humanitarian aid from the Red Cross intended to alleviate a dire economic crisis in Venezuela arrived in the once-prosperous, oil-rich country on Tuesday, a representative of the organization and a lawmaker said.
The delivery came after an about-face by President Nicolas Maduro, who last week said his socialist government had reached an agreement with the Red Cross to bring aid. Maduro had blocked previous efforts to deliver assistance and has denied the existence of a humanitarian crisis.
“The International Red Cross today delivered its first batch of support for Venezuela, together with the revolutionary government that I lead, and it was received in a legal and orderly way, complying with international protocols,” Maduro said in a speech broadcast on state television.
There was little hope that the shipment – intended to help hospitals cope with shortages of equipment and frequent power outages – would be anything more than a palliative measure for Venezuela, where over three million people have fled the chaos of hyperinflation and chronic shortages of food and medicine.
But opposition lawmaker Miguel Pizarro said the lack of “interference” by Maduro’s government with the entry of aid was a positive step and that more shipments would arrive in the days ahead.
“The same people who had previously denied the arrival (of aid), who had previously brought this country to the verge of confrontation, are today complying with humanitarian principles,” Pizarro told reporters at the Congress, adding that the Red Cross would handle the logistics of distribution.
Venezuela was plunged into a political deadlock in January, when Juan Guaido, the leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly invoked the country’s constitution to assume an interim presidency, arguing Maduro’s 2018 re-election was illegitimate.
Guaido has since been recognized as Venezuela’s rightful leader by most Western nations. Several countries, including the United States and neighboring Colombia, contributed to a February effort to deliver aid across Venezuela’s land borders, in the hopes soldiers would disavow Maduro’s orders to block it.
While that effort failed, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said in late March it was prepared to start an aid operation.
Tuesday’s shipment, which arrived via airplane from Panama, included 14 power generators, 5,000 liters of distilled water, and three surgery equipment kits capable of serving 10,000 patients each, according to the Red Cross.
Mario Villarroel, the Red Cross’ president in Venezuela, said on Twitter that the materials would be distributed to hospitals around the country.
The United Nations estimates that a quarter of Venezuelans are in need of humanitarian assistance, with 1.9 million suffering from malnutrition and some 300,000 whose lives are at risk due to lack of medicine.
(Reporting by Vivian Sequera, Shaylim Castro and Mayela Armas; writing by Luc Cohen; editing by G Crosse)
FILE PHOTO: Logos of ConocoPhillips are seen in its booth at Gastech, the world’s biggest expo for the gas industry, in Chiba, Japan, April 4, 2017. REUTERS/Toru Hanai/File Photo
April 16, 2019
By Luc Cohen and Mayela Armas
CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido will seek to annul an $8.7 billion arbitration award to U.S. oil producer ConocoPhillips as he moves to preserve foreign assets, Guaido’s chief legal representative said on Tuesday.
If accepted, the annulment request would halt enforcement of the award over the 2007 loss of Conoco’s projects in the South American country. It would follow a March decision by the World Bank’s International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) to impose the largest arbitration award against Venezuela.
Jose Ignacio Hernandez, whom Guaido has tapped as a special prosecutor, told Reuters his team separately has challenged the amount of the ICSID award, claiming “the methodology to determine the compensation was errant.”
Conoco would see no merit in a request for “annulment or rectification” and would “strongly defend” against such requests, company spokesman Daren Beaudo said.
George Kahale, a U.S. attorney who represented the Venezuelan government before the World Bank tribunal, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Venezuela’s information ministry also had no immediate response to a request for comment.
An annulment would be a boost to Guaido, who in January invoked a constitutional provision to assume an interim presidency. Backed by the United States and dozens of other countries, Guaido argues President Nicolas Maduro’s 2018 re-election was illegitimate.
Hernandez has been assigned to protect Venezuela’s assets abroad from possible seizure by creditors.
Cash-strapped Venezuela has balked at paying in other arbitration cases. Conoco has used legal seizures of Venezuelan oil assets to enforce earlier claims. Other creditors are attempting to seize shares in U.S. refiner Citgo Petroleum, Venezuela’s prize overseas asset, to collect on debts.
It was unclear if Guaido’s representatives have standing to challenge the award since the World Bank has not recognized Guaido. An ICSID spokesman said the body was not in a position to provide any further information on the case.
David Malpass, the newly named president of the World Bank, said last week that recognition would be up to its shareholders.
Hernandez said Guaido’s legal representation “cannot be questioned.”
Last month, a U.S. judge ruled that Guaido’s representatives could present arguments in a court battle with Canadian mining company Crystallex, which is pursuing Citgo to collect on an arbitration award in compensation for Venezuela’s expropriation of a gold mining project.
Venezuela’s nationalization wave, led by late President Hugo Chavez as part of his Socialist project, led to more than 20 international arbitration claims, which remain mostly unpaid.
(Additional reporting by David Lawder in Washington; editing by Gary McWilliams, Tom Brown and Dan Grebler)
Stepping up pressure on Cuba, President Donald Trump is poised to allow lawsuits against foreign companies that have benefited from Cuba’s seizure of American companies after the 1959 revolution, a senior administration official said Tuesday.
The move marks a change in more than two decades of U.S. policy on Cuba.
The 1996 Helms-Burton Act gave Americans the right to sue companies profiting from properties that Cuba confiscated. But every U.S. president since Bill Clinton has suspended the key clause because of fears of alienating U.S. allies and complicating relations with Cuba.
The official said going forward, there will be no more waivers. The official spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the official announcement.
The Trump administration had signaled plans to end the waivers. It’s taking the step in retaliation for Cuba’s support of embattled Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, whom the U.S. is trying to oust in favor of opposition leader Juan Guaido.
National security adviser John Bolton is expected to discuss the new policy during a speech Wednesday in Miami, which is home to thousands of exiles and immigrants from Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.
The speech at the Bay of Pigs Veterans Association is being delivered on the 58th anniversary of the United States’ failed 1961 invasion of the island, an attempt to overthrow the Cuban government.
Source: NewsMax Politics
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at a warehouse where international humanitarian aid for Venezuela is being stored, near La Unidad cross-border bridge between Colombia and Venezuela in Cucuta, Colombia April 14, 2019. REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez
April 15, 2019
BOGOTA (Reuters) – The United States will use all economic and political tools at its disposal to hold Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro accountable for his country’s crisis and will make clear to Cuba and Russia they will pay a price for supporting him, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday.
Pompeo made the comments in the Colombian border city of Cucuta, the final stop of a three-day trip to Chile, Paraguay and Peru, a clutch of fast-growing countries in a region where Washington’s concerns are focused on the Venezuelan crisis and China’s growing presence.
Maduro blames U.S. sanctions for the country’s economic problems and dismisses opposition leader Juan Guaido – who in January invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency, arguing the socialist leader’s 2018 re-election was illegitimate – as a U.S. puppet.
More than 3 million Venezuelans have fled hyperinflation, food and medicine shortages and political crisis.
“The United States will continue to utilize every economic and political means at our disposal to help the Venezuelan people,” Pompeo said after visiting with migrants at a Cucuta shelter and touring border bridges and a warehouse storing humanitarian aid.
“Using sanctions, visa revocations and other means, we pledge to hold the regime and those propping it up accountable for their corruption and their repression of democracy.”
Cucuta receives a significant portion of Venezuelan migrants arriving in Colombia, many of whom come with only what they can carry.
Although most Western nations, including the United States, have recognized Guaido as interim head of state, Russia, China and Cuba have stood by Maduro.
“You watch the political and diplomatic noose tighten around Maduro’s neck,” Pompeo told reporters accompanying him on the trip before taking off for the United States.
“Cubans must understand too that there will be cost associated with continued support of Nicolas Maduro,” he said. “And we’re going to have that same conversation with the Russians as well.”
Washington has imposed a raft of sanctions against Maduro’s government in an attempt to dislodge him from power, but he retains the backing of the country’s military. On Friday, the U.S. Treasury Department added four firms and nine ships to its blacklist, some of which it said carried oil to Cuba.
President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, said on Friday he would deliver a speech in Miami to Cuban exiles on Wednesday about actions the White House is taking on Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, countries he has called a “troika of tyranny.”
While no final decision has been made on punitive measures Bolton is expected to announce, the Trump administration has been considering a range of options, including new targeted sanctions and further tightening of business restrictions on the Communist-ruled island that had been eased by former President Barack Obama, according to two people familiar with the matter.
Critics have warned that heavy sanctions on Venezuela could hurt ordinary Venezuelans.
Pompeo urged Maduro to leave his post and Venezuela so the country can return to normalcy.
“I hope that you will care now, when you see the horror, when you see the tragedy, to change your ways and to leave your country,” Pompeo said.
During his trip, Pompeo echoed previous U.S. criticism of China’s growing presence in Latin America, warning of “predatory” lending practices and “malign or nefarious” actions.
China, whose booming economy over the past two decades has driven up demand for raw materials, is already the top trade partner for nations from tiny Uruguay to Brazil, Latin America’s largest economy and the world’s top soybean exporter.
(Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb; Additional reporting by Matt Spetalnick in Washington; Editing by Chris Reese and Peter Cooney)
World Bank Group President David Malpass and IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde at the IMF and World Bank’s 2019 Annual Spring Meetings, in Washington, U.S. April 13, 2019. REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan
April 13, 2019
By Rodrigo Campos
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The International Monetary Fund will not be able to help Venezuela deal with its economic crisis until a “large majority” of its members decide who to recognize as the country’s leader, the head of the global lender said on Saturday.
Managing Director Christine Lagarde said the IMF “can only be guided by the membership, so it’s not a question of us deciding” whether to help in the event that Venezuela’s government reaches out to the Fund.
“It has to be a large majority of the membership actually recognizing diplomatically the authorities that they regard as legitimate,” Lagarde said in a press conference at the IMF and World Bank spring meetings in Washington.
Venezuela is mired in a deep economic crisis marked by widespread food and medicine shortages, while hyperinflation has all but rendered its currency worthless.
More than 50 mostly Western countries including the United States and Venezuela’s largest neighbors have recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido, the head of Venezuela’s National Assembly, as the South American nation’s leader.
Russia and others recognize Nicolas Maduro, the socialist president and successor to the late Hugo Chavez, as the legitimate head of state.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said separately on Saturday that he has had discussions with the IMF about the process for recognizing Guaido as Venezuela’s leader.
“There were discussions we had this week at the IMF about that, and what their process would be to do that,” he said.
Earlier this week Lagarde and World Bank President David Malpass said separately they are preparing to move quickly to help ease Venezuela’s worsening humanitarian crisis, but the leadership question is standing in the way.
Based on the countries which have publicly supported Guaido or Maduro and their voting weighting inside the World Bank and IMF, Guaido’s representative could get slightly more than 50 percent of a vote according to a Reuters tally. No such vote has yet been called for.
An estimated 3.7 million Venezuelans have left the oil-rich country to escape deteriorating social and economic conditions, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Organization for Migration.
(Reporting by Rodrigo Campos; Additional reporting by Pete Schroeder; Editing by Paul Simao)
FILE PHOTO: Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro (R) embraces retired General Hugo Carvajal as they attend the Socialist party congress in Caracas in this picture provided by Miraflores Palace July 27, 2014. REUTERS/Miraflores Palace/Handout via Reuters/File Photo
April 12, 2019
By Silvio Castellanos, Miguel Gutierrez and Roberta Rampton
MADRID/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Spanish police on Friday arrested Hugo Carvajal, a former head of Venezuelan military intelligence, who Washington believes has a “treasure trove” of details he is willing to share about Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
Carvajal, a former general and close ally of the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, was arrested on drug trafficking charges on a warrant issued by the United States, a police spokeswoman said.
“He is, I would dare to say, the most knowledgeable person to now be outside of Venezuela and be willing and able to cooperate with … a treasure trove of information,” the U.S. administration official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“He will clearly be cooperating with us. He’s expressed that publicly,” the official said.
A court spokesman said Carvajal would appear before Spain’s High Court on Saturday. The court needs to decide within 24 hours of his arrest whether he will be jailed pending a decision on his extradition or if he will be set free.
The U.S. Justice Department said it had asked Spain to extradite Carvajal to face cocaine-smuggling charges that were filed in 2011 and unsealed in 2014.
Carvajal, head of military intelligence from 2004 to 2008, denounced Chavez’ successor Maduro in February and gave his support to Juan Guaido, who in January invoked the constitution to become Venezuela’s interim president.
Guaido was later recognized by the United States and dozens of governments, but Maduro remains in office with support of the military and has denounced Guaido as a U.S. puppet.
Guaido has offered amnesty to military leaders who took his side.
Carvajal recently said on Twitter that he would relay all the information he knows to the appropriate authorities, the senior U.S. administration official said.
“We look forward to receiving that information and to learning everything he knows … about how Maduro and his mafia operate,” the official said.
Washington expects to learn more about Maduro’s ties to Cuba, Lebanon’s Hezbollah, and Colombia’s National Liberation Army (ELN) and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the official said.
The arrest is “very bad news” for Maduro and will provide protection to Carvajal who “probably had a target on his head,” the senior U.S. administration official said.
This was the second time Carvajal has been arrested on the U.S. charges, which allege that he coordinated the transportation of 5,600 kg (1,235 pounds) of cocaine from Venezuela to Mexico in April 2006. That shipment was bound for the United States, according to charges filed in federal court in New York.
Carvajal was arrested on the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba in 2014, but the Dutch government accepted Venezuela’s argument that he had diplomatic immunity because he had been nominated consul to Aruba.
Carvajal also was sanctioned by the U.S. government in 2008 for “materially assisting the narcotics trafficking activities” of Colombia’s FARC rebel group.
The U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said Carvajal’s assistance to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia included protecting drug shipments from seizure by Venezuelan anti-narcotics authorities and providing them with weapons.
Carvajal also provided FARC with official Venezuelan government identification documents that allowed its members to travel to and from Venezuela, OFAC said.
In an interview with the New York Times published in February, Carvajal said any dealings he had with drug traffickers resulted from his role investigating them as intelligence chief.
Carvajal said he had met with FARC members in 2001 to engage them as a government negotiator in the kidnapping of a Venezuelan businessman, a trip that had been approved by presidents in both Venezuela and Colombia.
(Reporting by Silvio Castellanos and Miguel Gutierrez in Madrid and Roberta Rampton and Andy Sullivan in Washington; writing by Angus Berwick; editing by Angus MacSwan and Bill Berkrot)
FILE PHOTO: Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, who many nations have recognized as the country’s rightful interim ruler, speaks during a protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government in Caracas, Venezuela, April 10, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo
April 12, 2019
CARACAS (Reuters) – Two workers at Venezuela’s central bank were arrested on Friday after meeting opposition leader Juan Guaido, who has called on public officials to disavow President Nicolas Maduro, according to the employees’ lawyer and a source familiar with the matter.
The attorney, Alonso Medina Roa, said the two employees – Deny Albujar and Manuel Alberto Guisseppe – had also recently taken part in protests demanding better working conditions.
According to Roa, they have not yet appeared in court and the charges against them are unknown.
The arrests came as Maduro cracks down on the opposition amid a nearly three-month power struggle with Guaido, the leader of the opposition-controlled National Assembly who invoked the country’s constitution to assume an interim presidency in January.
He has been recognized as the OPEC nation’s rightful leader by more than 50 countries, which agree with his claim that Maduro’s May 2018 re-election was illegitimate. Maduro, a socialist, argues Guaido is a puppet of the United States attempting to oust him in a coup.
Both Albujar and Guisseppe, whose job titles were unknown, were present at a public meeting on Monday that Guaido held at the National Assembly with a few dozen state employees, the source said. Guaido discussed a proposed law to improve benefits to public workers in a new government once Maduro leaves power, the source said. None of the other participants has been arrested.
Albujar and Guisseppe worked at the bank for more than five years, the source added.
Neither the central bank nor Venezuela’s information ministry, which handles media for the government, responded to requests for comment.
Public workers in Venezuela have been demanding better salaries and benefits for several months, as their wages and living standards have been eroded by hyperinflation.
(Reporting by Caracas Newsroom; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)