NGOs supportive of Venezuela’s Maduro regime have marched on the Portuguese consulate in Caracas for the second time in the last three months to demand the government release €1.543 billion ‘illegally held by Novo Banco’.
Reports Latin American TV network Telesur: “Most of the protesters were senior citizens who carried banners that read: “Release our medicine, Portugal”; “We need health supplies”; “Say No to the U.S. blockade” and “Respect Venezuela”.
Only last month the US-based Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) pubished a study saying sanctions imposed by the United States – and backed by several countries, including Portugal – are responsible for the death of more than 40,000 people “due to the lack of timely health care”.
Portugal officially recognised the US-backed ‘pretender to the presidency’ Juan Guiadó back in early February.
Maduro however has dug in his heels, and the ‘transition of presidents’ which Portugal said it was hoping would go ahead ‘peacefully’ hasn’t happened.
Last week Maduro took went back to his ‘old theme’ of hammering the US and Portugal for all the money he claims they have ‘stolen’.
In the case of the ‘gringo Americano’ government, Maduro says over €26.8 billion is being held back.
Says Telesur, other banks holding millions include the Bank of England, Citibank, North Capital and Sumitomo.
Speaking to his troubled country over national television last week, Maduro said nothing was going to stop the path of the Bolivarian revolution in health and other areas of our lives. No one is going to take our rights to a future, happiness and peace…”
Since then there have been conflicting news stories of a ‘failed coup’ (instigated by Guiadó), high-profile arrests, MPs seeking refuge in foreign embassies and lots of insults hurled by both men at each other.
But the Portuguese government has remained silent (see update below), with no reactions to appeals either made last week, or in February.
Thus the €1.7 billion appears to be staying exactly where it is: in the ‘good bank’ that every year requests yet more millions (even billions) from its own government to keep it going (click here).
Reacting finally to the latest Venezuelan demands over ‘stolen’ funds, the foreign affairs ministry has said it is “very concerned” by what it interprets as “aggressive declarations” made towards Portugal.
Speaking to journalists in Brussels on three days after the latest demo, head of diplomacy Augusto Santos Silva said that the ministry has been aware of “hostile public declarations made by high-ranking members of the Maduro regime over the last few months”, and has verified “threats of retaliation against Portuguese and their establishments” in the country.
Portugal’s stance is one taken in line with sanctions imposed by the United Nations and the European Union, stressed Santos Silva – underlining that this is not a country where banks obey the government.
“The banks have an activity that is regulated by law and by respective sectorial dispositions”.
They are supervised by regulatory body Bank of Portugal, and European regulators, the Central European Bank, he added, with the bottom line being: “the Portuguese government has not blocked Venezuelan assets or assets of any other country”.