Venezuela hopes to have gold frozen by Britain returned in order to buy food and medical supplies amid Covid-19 pandemic

Venezuela has reached a deal with the United Nations to use its gold – frozen by the Bank of England – to fund necessary food and medical purchases during the Covid-19 outbreak, Reuters reported, citing the nation’s central bank.

The news comes two weeks after the Central Bank of Venezuela launched legal action against the Bank of England, demanding the release of more than $1 billion in gold.

The UK has refused to hand over Venezuela’s gold, as the British government does not recognize the government of President Nicolas Maduro after what it called a “deeply flawed” 2018 election.

The Venezuelan central bank’s governor said on Wednesday that, according to the agreement, the funds from the gold sale will be directly transferred to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to ensure it is not used for other purposes. However, he did not reveal how much gold the Bank of England is going to sell.

“It’s not my word, it’s not me saying that I am going to buy food, medicine and medical equipment,” Governor Calixto Ortega told Reuters. “It’s the United Nations who is saying that, and they are not going to be involved in anything dark that is not neutral and independent.”

The Bank of England is the second-largest gold storage facility in the world after the New York Federal Reserve. The bank has a nearly $250 billion stockpile comprised of many nations’ assets, including Venezuela’s. However, since 2018 the Bank of England has repeatedly delayed the country’s requests to repatriate the gold. In January, the British central bank blocked Caracas from withdrawing $1.2 billion worth of gold, Bloomberg reported at the time, adding that the decision was preceded by the US officials’ call to cut off access to the country’s overseas assets.

As of Thursday, there were 1,245 coronavirus cases and 11 fatalities from the virus in Venezuela, according to Johns Hopkins University data.


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