The National Assembly (AN) of Venezuela has approved unanimously the Bill for the Protection of Assets, Rights and Interests of the Republic and its Entities Abroad, in its first discussion. The new law, approved on May 2 in an ordinary session of the AN, includes the protection of assets such as CITGO, Monómeros, the gold reserves in England, the Venezuelan State entities’ accounts in foreign banks, and the special drawing rights in the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
The law contains two chapters, 11 articles, and a final provision that defines the criminal nature of any action against the assets of the Republic abroad. The law was drafted based on the work of a joint committee of members of the permanent commissions of Economy, Finance and National Development; Foreign Policy, Sovereignty and Integration; and the Comptroller’s Office.
In the explanatory memorandum, it presents how the unilateral coercive measures imposed by the United States have attempted “to strip the Republic and its entities of their assets, rights and interests abroad, thus trying to negatively affect the national patrimony and the functioning of the country’s economy.” In this regard, the law has some novelties:
- It declares non-existent and ineffective any negotiation, offer, agreement, commitment or act of alienation or disposition made with respect to any asset, right or interest of the Republic or its entities located abroad, by persons who try to usurp or attribute to themselves the representation of the Republic or its entities, in contravention of the provisions of the Constitution and the law.
- It considers all such acts invalid and without any legal effect whatsoever, without the need for a judicial pronouncement.
- It establishes the criminal liability applicable to persons who illegally attempt to dispose of the patrimony of the Venezuelan people by usurping the representation of the Republic or its entities. This includes legal professionals who participate directly or indirectly in these negotiations, offers, agreements, commitments or acts of alienation or disposition.
- It qualifies the acts of dispossession against the patrimony of the Republic or its entities as organized crime. Therefore, the assets of the persons who participate in these illegal activities may be subject to seizure by the State.
Blockade is pillage
The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Treasury Department, through “Operation Guaidó,” issued a license authorizing the liquidation of the assets of the US subsidiary of Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), CITGO Petroleum Corporation, which the US government itself had placed under the control of the far-right opposition. This was done with the intention of indemnifying creditors such as the multinationals Crystallex, Owens Illinois, ConocoPhillips, and others that have sued Venezuela.
In 2019, the “interim government” allegedly assumed the defense of Venezuelan assets and appointed a litigation body led by José Ignacio Hernández, formerly an expert witness of the US-based container glass production company Owens Illinois. According to US journalist Anya Parampil, he was paid $163,000 to present his “alter ego” argument which led to the loss of the company’s assets instead of protecting them.
Bloomberg reported that the G3+1, a sector of the Venezuelan opposition that holds the so-called “National Assembly of 2015” (AN-2015), took control of Venezuelan bank accounts in the United States after Juan Guaidó was recognized by the Trump administration as “interim president” of Venezuela. The opposition has relied on these funds to finance its operations since 2019 after the US State Department certified “opposition officials” to regain access.
This decision permits the funds to be controlled by the new “president” of the AN-2015, Dinorah Figuera, another fugitive from Venezuelan justice system. She is a member of the opposition Primero Justicia (PJ) party, to which the disqualified pre-candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski also belongs.
On January 19, the AN-2015 appointed a Committee for the Administration and Protection of Assets of the Country Abroad, made up of Gustavo Marcano, Carlos Millán, René Uzcátegui, Yon Goicoechea, and Fernando Blasi. The committee is to “guarantee a transparent and non-partisan management of these assets,” however, their actions are unknown.
Everything indicates that said commission will be in charge of handling the aforementioned funds so that the G3+1 parties can use them in the eventual primary elections that the Unitary Platform, the political coalition of the G3+1, has agreed to carry out this year.
As for the subsidiary of the state-owned Petroquímica de Venezuela (Pequiven) in Colombia, Monómeros, the Venezuelan Attorney General’s Office has stated that opposition leaders and the executives under their orders usurped the functions of its board of directors and participated in acts of corruption with Venezuelan assets in the company. In view of this, arrest warrants were issued for the prosecution of those involved.
Venezuela regained full control of Monómeros in September 2022 after a meeting between the Colombian superintendent of Companies, Billy Escobar, and the president of Pequiven, Pedro Rafael Tellechea. However, the legal proceedings against those involved are still ongoing, and the eventual sanctions contemplated in the new law for the protection of assets abroad would be applied to them.
Application of asset seizure law
“The bill is intended to combat organized crime and novel economic crimes, which are unprecedented in the country’s history,” stated the president of the National Assembly, Jorge Rodríguez, who is also the head of the Venezuelan government’s delegation to the Mexico Talks. He pointed out that opposition leaders Hernández and Figuera are behind Crystallex’s lawsuit against CITGO’s assets, in association with a court in Delaware, United States.
Rodríguez added that if the opposition figures do not renounce the gifts from the OFAC, their assets in Venezuela will be seized, since what they have done are acts of organized crime, and the Organic Law of Asset Seizure will be applied to them. This law allows the seizure of properties derived from corruption, “and any property that these thieves possess in the territory of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela will be subject to the law,” Rodríguez said.
When the second partial agreement of Mexico Talks was signed, Rodríguez announced that the total value of blocked and frozen assets exceeds $20 billion. During the May 2 session of the National Assembly, he highlighted that the Venezuelan Anti-Blockade Observatory recorded that the unilateral coercive measures of the United States against Venezuela exceed 900 sanctions, which he described as a “non-traditional war, planned to appropriate the assets of CITGO,” a company that financed transplant operations and medicines for thousands of Venezuelan patients through the Simón Bolívar Foundation.
In that session, Acción Democrática Deputy Luis Eduardo Martínez expressed his support for the law, condemned on behalf of his party the actions of Washington against Venezuela, disassociated himself from sectors of anti-Chavismo promoting the blockade-looting of the State assets, and demanded justice.
A new commission was appointed to finalize the law, which will seek legal and institutional support with which to punish those who have taken advantage of the war against Venezuela to divert the assets of the nation and use the same assets to finance their coup plot.
The new law will allow Venezuela to produce a legal framework for the defense of its assets abroad, and promote punitive mechanisms against Venezuelan nationals representing foreign interests—de facto and de jure, who seek to dismantle the State and deprive the population of its sovereignty by joining corporate interests.
Translated by Orinoco Tribune.