Belgium, (Brussels Morning Newspaper) The EU welcomed the deal to unblock Venezuelan funds to provide humanitarian aid, stressing that it wants to see reforms.
Venezuelan government and opposition reached an agreement to form an UN-managed fund through which the country’s blocked funds would be disbursed to address the humanitarian crisis, according to Reuters reporting on Saturday.
US and European banks froze the money when the previous US administration stepped up sanctions against Venezuela in an effort to pressure Caracas to hold free elections.
Norway mediated the talks between the Venezuelan government headed by President Nicolás Maduro and the opposition, with talks resuming in Mexico City after roughly one year.
Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State, described the agreement as “an important step toward restoring democracy to Venezuelans” and added that the US “will look to the parties to achieve lasting agreements that set the course for free and fair presidential elections in 2024.”
The EU pointed out that the agreement “provides the template for how further progress can be secured.”
Reforms for access to funds
In a joint statement with Canada, the US, and the UK, the bloc pointed out that it was willing to review sanctions against Venezuela and called on the government to release political prisoners, respect freedom of the press and independence of the judiciary and electoral bodies.
Dag Nylander, the Norwegian mediator, noted that “the parties have identified a set of resources belonging to the Venezuelan state frozen in the international financial system,” stressing that the country will need the approval to access the money.
The situation in Venezuela has been deteriorating since Maduro won the 2018 election, which Western countries criticized as fraudulent and accused him of committing crimes against humanity in the crackdown on political opposition.
According to the UN, more than 7 million Venezuelans fled the country, with approximately three-quarters of the remaining population living below the poverty line of USD 1.90 per day.
Venezuela’s frozen funds, nearly 3 billion euros, are to be released gradually to finance food, healthcare, and education for the impoverished population as well as rebuild infrastructure. After the deal was closed, the US softened sanctions against Venezuela and allowed its energy giant Chevron to resume operations there. Profits from hydrocarbon sales will go towards repaying Venezuela’s debt to Chevron.