The dispute between the Government of Nicolas Maduro and the Bank of England (BdeI) about the gold reserves that Venezuela kept in the entity’s safe (worth approximately 887 million euros) has resulted in a strengthening of the international legitimacy of the country’s opposition leader, Juan Guaido. The High Court has rejected the delivery to Caracas of the requested reservations and recalled in its ruling on Thursday that the British Government has recognized Guaido as the country’s interim president.
The decision is a triumph for Guaido, but it is not the last word on the matter, nor is it a green light for the opposition leader and his team to have access to the gold reserves. Rather, it is about the resolution of a preliminary issue to the litigation: Can the British court enter to judge the legal validity, according to Venezuelan justice, of Guiado’s decisions? In this specific case, the president of the National Assembly had appointed a Board of Directors with authorization to give specific instructions, on behalf of the Central Bank of Venezuela, to the Bank of England. The British High Court uses its jurisprudence to ensure that it cannot enter to assess the legality of this decision, as the Maduro Government claimed.
Maduro’s Executive had demanded the gold return to transfer it to the United Nations Development Assistance Program, thus facilitating the purchase of “sanitary materials, medicines and basic food” that would allow the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. The idea, along with the United States Federal Reserve, is the largest international custodian of gold reserves. He holds some 400,000 bars in his chambers, worth more than 200,000 million euros.
The Venezuelan Government has presented the management of the pandemic as a success, although its figures have been questioned by medical experts and by the opposition. The UN has identified it as a “priority country” in its fight against the virus, due to the weakness of its health system.
Guaido’s legal team, president of the National Assembly and recognized as interim president of Venezuela by almost 60 countries, argued against the handover. The sight, which lasted four days, has been a severe setback for Chavismo.
The legal representation of the Maduro Government has argued during the process that, for practical purposes, London continued to consider the country’s de facto Executive as its current interlocutor. The Venezuelan ambassador to the United Kingdom, Rocío Maneiro, remains at the head of the delegation, and the British official representative, Andrew Soper, continues at his post in Caracas. Now recognizing Guaido as head of state, lawyer Nicholas Vinall has said, “would be an intolerable intervention in the affairs of Venezuela” that would be “illegal under international law.”
The Maduro government legal team has already announced its intention to appeal the sentence. “The Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV) will request authorization from the court to appeal this judgment, which completely ignores the reality on the ground,” said Sarosh Zaiwalla, who represents the BCV.
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