More than US$30 billion were illegally diverted from Venezuela in two months, the country’s communications and information minister has revealed, accusing the US of orchestrating the operation.
Around $1 billion of the stolen funds from national assets in international banks was transferred to the personal accounts of opposition leaders, according to Communications and Information Minister Jorge Rodriguez. The money is meant to finance “terrorist cells against the country,” he added.
“They have resorted to stealing the assets that Venezuela holds in different banks. This money is being confiscated at the request of the [US President Donald] Trump administration. Over $30 billion has been stolen in the past couple of months,” Rodriguez said on Saturday as cited by VTV state television.
The scheme was allegedly coordinated by US-backed opposition leader and self-proclaimed ‘interim president’ Juan Guaido, as well as his key aids – Leopoldo Lopez, and the recently detained Roberto Marrero, among others. Information gathered from Marrero’s cell phone indicates that Venezuelan lawyer Juan Planchart received some part of the stolen money, according to the minister.
Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro accused “the devil’s puppet” Guaido of plotting his assassination. Earlier in March, he accused Washington of stealing $5 billion in Venezuelan funds allocated for buying substances necessary for medicine production and their delivery to hospitals and pharmacies.
The US has been tightening sanctions and economic pressure on Maduro’s government and openly calling for regime change, while pledging support to Guaido. Last week, the Treasury Department slapped the country with sanctions on state-run mining company Minerven and its head, Adrian Antonio Perdomo Mata. Other restrictions target the Venezuelan oil sector, which is crucial for the country to keep the economy afloat, as oil revenues account for about 98 percent of its export earnings.