More Venezuelan Migrants At US Border Open Talks On US$3-Billion UN Aid
Migrant arrivals at the US-Mexico border have prompted conversations about unfreezing Venezuelan assets stored in foreign banks, which would give much-needed food and medicine.
According to nine sources familiar with the discussions who told Reuters, Venezuelan legislators are debating ideas for a fund that could transfer more than US$3 billion in humanitarian aid to Venezuela through the United Nations. The fund would reportedly involve US State and Treasury departments.
Based on Panama’s National Migration Service data, a record-setting 151,582 migrants crossed the treacherous Darien jungle between January and September, escaping poverty and violence in the aim of reaching the United States. Vast majority of the migrants–107,692 according to records–are coming from Venezuela.
“There has already been an unprecedented number of Venezuelans who have put their lives at risk by crossing the dense jungle between Central and South America,” the head of the International Organization for Migration’s mission in Panama, Giuseppe Loprete, told Reuters.
In 2019, the United States and other Western countries placed sanctions on Venezuela in order to prevent President Nicolas Maduro’s regime from accessing oil money, freezing billions of dollars in Venezuelan government-owned accounts abroad. According to several academics and rights groups, the sanctions have exacerbated the country’s troubled economic situation.
Earlier this year amid the dwindling oil supply, the administration of President Joe Biden seemed to be easing the restrictions for the world’s largest oil reserves. The government allowed US crude giant Chevron to revamp its Venezuelan oil infrastructure and renegotiate its license with state-owned oil company PDVSA.
However, the Biden administration has stated that any sanctions relief for Venezuela will be granted only if Maduro takes concrete steps to restore democracy.
The UN did not comment on the report but spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the global organization continues to convince Venezuela and the local opposition to engage in “an inclusive and meaningful dialogue that leads to negotiated solutions, with human rights as a central component.”
According to Adrienne Watson, a spokesperson for the United States National Security Council, any negotiations about sending humanitarian help to Venezuelans are being undertaken by Venezuelans.
“We stand ready, consistent with U.S. law, to calibrate our sanctions policy on the basis of a Venezuelan-led process,” Watson said.
Since 2017, Washington DC has so far provided US$1.94 billion in humanitarian aid to Venezuela and countries hosting Venezuelans, but the funds have done little to reduce migration, with over 6 million Venezuelans abandoning the country.
Currently, the Department of Homeland Security is accepting migrants with family members living legally in the United States to enter from Venezuela or a third nation.
A new fund may face opposition from some hardliners in the United States Congress who support maintaining pressure on Maduro. Some in Venezuela’s opposition groups are also concerned about the political ramifications of releasing aid that Maduro could claim credit for ahead of a potential presidential race in 2024.
Sources told Reuters that the United Nations developed a preliminary plan to administer the fund in mid-October. Since then, US authorities and opposition leaders have enlisted the help of international development banks, think tanks, and specialists to research proposals.
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