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Tuesday, Dec 06, 2022

UK says it sees Guaido as Venezuela’s ‘only legitimate president’ ahead of appeal hearing in battle for blocked gold

UK says it sees Guaido as Venezuela’s ‘only legitimate president’ ahead of appeal hearing in battle for blocked gold

The British Foreign Office has backed Venezuela’s opposition figurehead Juan Guaido in his battle for the country’s gold reserves. A court ruled earlier that London may have recognized President Nicolas Maduro as de facto leader.

While the European Union no longer formally recognizes Guaido as Venezuela’s interim president after he was ousted as head of parliament last year, the British government continues to throw its weight behind the opposition politician even after the UK Court of Appeals ruled back in October that such a stance may not reflect the reality on the ground.

Guaido, who vies for access to Venezuela’s $1 billion worth of gold reserves held up at the Bank of England, challenged the ruling, and the UK Supreme Court is set to hear the case on Monday.

In a statement to the court, the British Foreign Office said London sees Guaido as “the only individual recognized to have the authority to act on behalf of Venezuela as its head of state,” while endorsing regime change and calling for “a peaceful transition to democracy.”

"The UK government is clear that Juan Guaido has been recognised by Her Majesty’s Government since February 2019 as the only legitimate President of Venezuela"

In what was seen as a blow to Guaido and his supporters’ aspirations to get hold of the gold reserves, the UK Court of Appeals said in October that the case should be reconsidered after a lower court had ruled in favor of Guaido. While not awarding control over the reserves to either of the parties, the appeals court called Guaido’s recognition by London “at any rate less than unequivocal” and argued that it “leaves open the possibility that HMG [Her Majesty’s Government] may impliedly recognise Mr Maduro as the de facto President of Venezuela’’ as opposed to Guaido being the de jure leader.

The Venezuelan central bank (BCV), loyal to Caracas, has long argued that the Bank of England’s failure to release the funds has imperiled the sanctions-hit nation’s fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. In March, Maduro said Caracas would like to use some of the billions of the country’s funds blocked in foreign bank accounts, including in the UK, to purchase vaccines through the World Health Organization-led COVAX mechanism, but was unable to do so.

In January, lawyers representing BCV claimed Guaido shut down a proposal for his alternative “Ad Hoc” board of the national bank to pool efforts with Caracas in the fight against the virus and transfer some $120 million in funds held in Britain to the Gavi Alliance Covax Facility to secure the jabs.

While Guaido’s representatives rejected the claim as “false,” a letter allegedly drafted by Guaido’s legal team stated that he “cannot consent” to the proposal.

“Our clients will not lend their support to arrangements which ultimately leave it to the Maduro regime to decide who gets vaccinated,” the letter, allegedly penned by Guaido’s legal counsel Arnold & Porter in December and shared on social media, read.


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