The British government reiterated on Monday that it recognises opposition figure Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s president, a move aimed at quashing a bid by the Nicolas Maduro-backed Venezuelan central bank to repatriate nearly $1 billion of its gold stored in London.
Jul 18, 2021
Legal teams representing Maduro and Guaido will be at the UK Supreme Court on Monday in the latest stage of a long-running tug-of-war over what amounts to about 15% of Venezuela’s foreign currency reserves.
Lawyers representing the central bank say selling the gold would fund the response to the coronavirus pandemic and bolster a health system gutted by more than six years of economic crisis.
The Bank of England, whose vaults house the gold, has refused to release it, however, after the British government in early 2019 joined dozens of others countries in backing Guaido on the basis that Maduro’s presidential election victory the previous year was rigged.
“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,” the British Foreign Office said in a statement, having been invited by the Supreme Court to clarify its position ahead of Monday’s case.
“He (Guaido) is the only individual recognised to have the authority to act on behalf of Venezuela as its head of state,” a Foreign Office spokesperson added, saying the South American country needed “a peaceful transition to democracy”.
The dispute over the gold began in May 2018 when Maduro secured re-election in a vote that the main opposition coalition boycotted and called a sham. Afterwards, Boris Johnson, then the British foreign minister, said: “We may have to tighten the economic screw on Venezuela.”
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