The Associated Press reported today that 16 nations have agreed to work together to seize money in their respective jurisdictions that has been laundered, embezzled or otherwise stolen out of Venezuela’s coffers by corrupt regime officials and other members of their patronage networks. The news came via two anonymous U.S. Department of the Treasury officials, who said that the agreement involves France, Germany, Japan, the United States, Britain, and “all major Latin American nations”.
According to the anonymous officials, the goal of tracking and identifying the stolen money is to set it aside for eventually returning it to a post-dictatorship Venezuela. The Associated Press article also claims that the 16 nations also
…greed to prevent Venezuela’s bankrupt government from liquidating at fire sale prices valuable overseas assets such as oil refineries and Houston-based petroleum company Citgo in a quest for fresh cash that would prolong the government’s hold on power.
The 16-nation agreement was forged “on the sidelines” of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) spring meetings, which are taking place in Washington, D.C. this week. The meetings involved the finance ministers from the 16 nations.
News of the agreement are important, as they help to establish some semblance of certainty in an otherwise chaotic situation. Given the dire straits in which the Venezuelan economy currently finds itself, the country’s economic future is grim and uncertain to say the least, even in a future in which Maduro and/or the PSUV remain in power.
Alejandro Werner, the Director of the Western Hemisphere Department at the IMF, rated Venezuela’s current economic collapse as one of the top 15 of the past 50 years. Werner also said that he expects the Venezuelan economy to shrink a further 15% this year, as it did in 2017, and the country’s inflation rate to hit 13,000% at the end of the year.
UNASUR On Edge of Precipice As Six Countries Drop Out
The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) appears on the verge of collapse as six of its twelve members announced today that they will withdraw from the organization, citing “rudderless” leadership from its current president, Bolivia.
The countries that have withdrawn are Argentina, Brazil , Chile, Colombia, Peru and Paraguay.
The same six countries have grown increasingly vocal in their condemnation of the Maduro regime’s hard-line authoritarian tendencies.
UNASUR was founded in 2008 under a tide of leftist populism in the region, partially under the leadership of Hugo Chavez. During much of its existence, UNASUR was a steadfast supporter of the Chavez and Maduro governments. However, the deteriorating situation in Venezuela has caused widening rifts in the organization.
UNASUR’s only remaining members are Bolivia, Ecuador, Uruguay, Guyana, Suriname and Venezuela.
Peru: 200,000 Venezuelans Entered Country Over the Past Year
Eduardo Sevilla, Peru’s National Superintendent of Migration, said yesterday that 200,000 Venezuelans have entered the country over the last year officially as tourists, and that 36,000 of them have already received residence status over the past year.
Sevilla said that Lima is aware of the fact that a number of the Venezuelans who have entered the country are in fact in transit to other South American destinations, namely Chile, Argentina and Uruguay.
When making the announcement, Sevilla said:
Just as there has been a reported increase in the number of Venezuelan citizens passing through the Ecuador border, there has also been an increase in the numbers passing through the border into Chile, which tells us that we are both a destination as well as a transit country.
The socio-economic collapse that has brought Venezuela to its knees over the past several years has precipitated what is likely to be the largest exodus in the country’s history. It is estimated that between 2015 and 2017 alone, as many as 925,000 Venezuelans left the country in search of better lives elsewhere.
Panama Hopes for Dialogue with Maduro
Panamanian president Juan Carlos Varela said today that he was willing to talk out a solution with his Venezuelan homologue to the recent tensions between the two nations. When asked during a press conference today if he had plans to meet Maduro, Varela said:
In public life, talking is always an option (…) heads of state always run into one another in the different events that take place around the world.
Varela’s comments come after Maduro signaled earlier this week that he wanted to meet with Varela to discuss the rift between Panama and Brazil. On Wednesday, Maduro said that he had already met with Panamanian officials to discuss the issue, but that the talks had failed. Nevertheless, Maduro expressed “faith” in a solution, and said that he “wanted to solve this issue”.
Relations between Panama and Venezuela have soured since March 30, when Panama issued a warning to its financial institutions regarding conducting business with 55 Maduro regime officials and 16 Venezuelan companies over fears that they are involved in money laundering and other illegal activities. Venezuela reacted to the measure by banning 46 Panamanian nationals and 22 companies from conducting business in the country for the next 90 days.
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