MEPs demand that bank of Portugal release

A coalition of MEPs sent, on Thursday (30), a letter to the president of Novo Banco demanding that he release Venezuelan public funds. Since July, the Venezuelan state has been trying to access around US$ 12.7 million (approximately R$ 68 million) for the purchase of vaccines and medical supplies. The Portuguese bank did not even respond to requests made by emails.

“We ask that you act in accordance with international law in this case of extreme urgency and release the funds deposited at Novo Banco, which belong to Bandes, with the aim of saving the lives and health of Venezuelan children”, accuses the document signed by 37 European parliamentarians.

On September 15, the National Bank for Economic and Social Development of Venezuela (Bandes) returned to request to the director of Novo Banco, Antonio Ramalho, who transferred 10 million euros to an account managed by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) in Brazil, in order to avoid the US blockade. The original order for the transaction was placed on July 23 and remains unreturned.

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The amount would be allocated to the purchase of 30 million syringes; 6 million measles, mumps and rubella vaccines; 5.5 million vaccines against diphtheria and tetanus; 2 million polio vaccines; and 1 million yellow fever vaccines.

In 2020, the Venezuelan government and opposition had already agreed to create a fund to combat covid-19 that would be managed by PAHO and fed with public assets deposited in banks abroad. The pact was reiterated in the first negotiation round of the Mesa de Dialogue Nacional, located in Mexico.

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In July of this year, the Portuguese justice had already allowed Venezuela to manage its accounts in Portugal, as long as each movement was authorized by a judge. The sentence was a response to a process opened in 2020 by the Bolivarian government. Novo Banco, however, has continued to block around US$1.5 billion of Venezuelan public money since 2018.

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“It is a robbery. There is no reason to withhold payments. We hope that the legal order can be restored very quickly. We believe in justice, justice has to act,” declared the deputy minister of foreign affairs for Europe, Yvan Gil.

Although it is on Portuguese soil, Novo Banco’s biggest shareholders are American. In 2018, Lone Star finance company bought 75% of the bank, in an operation equivalent to 1 billion euros. The case is being investigated in Portugal, as there are allegations that the Bank’s new directors would have unduly benefited from the sale.

Edition: Arturo Hartmann

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