You are now being redirected to the BCE.ca website (Bell Canada Enterprises), where you can view our Accessibility plan, and submit your feedback using our Accessibility webform.
Mar 31, 2023
Venezuelan Opposition Stiffs Lawyers While Awaiting $347 Million
(Bloomberg) -- Venezuela’s opposition leader Leopoldo López said that a void in the group’s leadership, following the ousting of Juan Guaidó as its recognized president, has made it “impossible” to pay for legal representation to defend the dozens of billion-dollar lawsuits that the nation faces in the US.
The opposition, which relied on Venezuelan government accounts frozen by sanctions in the US to finance its operations, hasn’t been issued a license by the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control to access the funds, López said in a interview in Washington. Accounts holding $347 million were previously in control of Guaidó, who the US recognized as Venezuela’s lawful president.
By February, the opposition had an estimated $9.4 million debt with seven law firms representing Venezuela’s legal battles abroad, according to a report presented before its lawmakers by former Attorney General Enrique Sánchez Falcón. It also owes approximately $2,000 in monthly wages to their more than 100 lawmakers, according to four people familiar with the situation.
Venezuela faces at least 145 trials worth $26 billion abroad, most of them in the US, according to Sánchez Falcón’s last update in February. Among the top cases is a trial at a District of Columbia court for the expropriation of oil rights to ConocoPhillips, for which the company obtained an order to get paid $10 billion by the country.
“With the dismantling of the interim government the possibility to continue the legal support is something that is still to be defined,” López said in a visit to Bloomberg’s Washington bureau. “Right now, without a specific license that allows that, that’s not possible. It’s the same for lawmakers.”
Read more: US Takes Custody of Venezuela Embassy in Wake of Guaidó Vote
The severe funding shortage is the most recent setback for the opposition following the dissolution of Juan Guaidó’s so-called interim government at the start of the year. In February, the opposition also lost access to Venezuela’s diplomatic properties in the US.
Earlier in the week, López testified in a hearing of the US Senate Foreign Affairs Committee on Democracy and Human Rights on the need for the US to lead the way in pioneering new forms of targeted sanctions for corrupt officials in countries such as Venezuela.
The opposition leaders and US authorities are said to be in ongoing conversations to obtain a certification and regain access to the funds, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter.
The US State Department didn’t respond to a request for comment on talks with the opposition regarding the plan. The Treasury Department declined to comment on the issuance of new licenses.
“We hope that there is a license that can allow Venezuelans’ interest to be represented rightly in the different courts,” López said, without referencing the plan directly. “They need to have a representation in Venezuela’s interest.”
Read More: Venezuela Offers to Suspend Deadline on $60 Billion of Bonds
--With assistance from Daniel Flatley.
(Updates with Treasury declining to comment in ninth paragraph)
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.
BNN Bloomberg Picks
Former Bank of Canada economist says communications likely played into rate hike decision
Tim Hortons to launch credit card through mobile rewards app
READ: Full text of Bank of Canada's latest interest rate decision
This is what $1 million can buy you in Canada's housing market
Child care keeping women out of workforce despite COVID rebound: Report
Apple unveils sleek, $3,500 'Vision Pro' goggles