Venezuelan Rivals Maduro and Guaido Tussle for Power
By Staff, Agencies
Venezuela’s Central Bank filed a claim in a commercial court in London earlier in June to force the Bank of England to transfer some $1.13 billion-worth of its gold, stored there for safekeeping, to enable President Nicolas Maduro to fund Caracas’s COVID-19 pandemic response.
A UK judge is soon anticipated to rule in the case of who has the rightful claim to $1 .8 billion worth of Venezuelan gold stashed in the Bank of England's vault in London, reports AP.
A decision by Justice Nigel Teare is expected in the next few days, as Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro says the bullion is vitally needed to fund the cash-starved nation’s struggle with the coronavirus pandemic.
The Bank of England froze an estimated $1.2 billion worth of Venezuelan gold in its vaults in 2019, after the UK sided with a number of Washington’s allies in recognizing the opposition’s self-proclaimed “interim president” Juan Guaido as the Latin American nation’s legitimate leader.
The bullion is just part of the tens of billions of dollars in Venezuelan assets frozen in banks abroad.
For over a year Venezuela has witnessed a power struggle between President Nicolas Maduro, who was inaugurated for a second term in January 2019 after winning elections in May 2018 with 67 percent of the vote, and opposition lawmaker Juan Guaido, who proclaimed himself “interim president” and demanded fresh elections, alleging that Maduro had rigged the presidential election two years ago.
Although UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt recognized Guaido as the constitutional interim president and Prime Minister Boris Johnson met with the opposition leader earlier this year, the United Kingdom continues to have diplomatic ties with Maduro's government.
Accordingly, Rocio Maneiro, Maduro's ambassador, represents the Latin American country at its Embassy in London, while British Ambassador Andrew Soper is stationed in Caracas.
Guaido’s named envoy to the UK has not yet been granted diplomatic credentials by the British side.
Arguing that Maduro has retained command over most branches of Venezuela's government, including the military, experts suggest that he is in a rightful position to claim the gold.
“If a government is in de facto control of a territory, and this is recognized by the maintenance of full and normal diplomatic relations, this should be treated as formal recognition. On our case, the law is clear,” said Leigh Crestohl, an attorney representing the Central Bank of Venezuela administration appointed by Maduro.
Guaido has been alleging that Maduro's government is “illegitimate and corrupt”, as he urges the London court to order the Bank of England to withhold the gold.