Rus­sia hands Maduro $8.6 bil­lion life­line

The Dominion Post - - World -

As Washington tries to build an eco­nomic wall around Venezuela, Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro keeps dig­ging tun­nels.

On Thurs­day, Maduro said Rus­sia had agreed to in­vest more than US$5 bil­lion (NZ$7.2b) in boost­ing Venezue­lan oil pro­duc­tion and an ad­di­tional US$1 bil­lion (NZ$1.4b) in min­ing – prin­ci­pally for gold.

Af­ter meeting Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin this week, Maduro said the Rus­sian Gov­ern­ment and pri­vate sec­tor would also in­vest in Venezuela’s di­a­mond sec­tor, bring in new satel­lite tech­nol­ogy and pro­vide about 600 tonnes of wheat in 2019. In ad­di­tion, Rus­sia will con­tinue to sup­ply and main­tain Venezuela’s mil­i­tary arse­nal.

Venezuela has the world’s largest oil re­serves and is thought to have one of the world’s largest gold re­serves, but it has been mired in an eco­nomic cri­sis that has led to food and medicine short­ages, and the mi­gra­tion of more than 3 mil­lion peo­ple in re­cent years.

Washington has been us­ing a com­bi­na­tion of tar­geted and sys­temic sanc­tions to ham­string Venezuela’s econ­omy. Last month, the White House pro­hib­ited US res­i­dents and cit­i­zens from deal­ing in Venezuela’s ‘‘cor­rupt’’ gold in­dus­try – a move that was seen as a way to dis­rupt trade be­tween Venezuela and Tur­key.

Speak­ing in Moscow, Maduro called the sanc­tions ‘‘il­le­gal from the point of view of in­ter­na­tional law and crim­i­nal from the point of view of hu­man­ity’’.

He also sug­gested that Washington’s stance was forc­ing Venezuela and other na­tions to forge a new path and build a ‘‘new world’’.

As part of that new world, Maduro said Venezuela would con­tinue to lessen its dependence on the dol­lar. In par­tic­u­lar, Maduro said that, start­ing next year, Venezuela would grad­u­ally only ac­cept the dig­i­tal cur­rency, Petro, as a means of pay­ment. The Petro is gov­ern­ment backed and its value, in the­ory, is tied to Venezuela’s oil and min­eral re­serves, but it has strug­gled to be­come rel­e­vant.

Yes­ter­day, as Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan vis­ited Venezuela, the two na­tions agreed to un­spec­i­fied agree­ments in gold min­ing and en­ergy pro­duc­tion.

The Rus­sian com­mit­ments, if they come through, are a big boost for Maduro who is due to be­gin a new six-year term on Jan­uary 10.

More than three dozen na­tions, in­clud­ing the United States, have said they will not recog­nise Maduro as a le­git­i­mate pres­i­dent in his new term. They say the May elec­tion was flawed and mired by fraud. But an­a­lysts say the in­ter­na­tional con­dem­na­tion is un­likely to move the nee­dle, par­tic­u­larly if Venezuela con­tin­ues to have the fi­nan­cial sup­port of al­lies like Rus­sia, China and Tur­key.

‘‘This visit put has us in an ad­van­ta­geous sit­u­a­tion for the bat­tle for stability, devel­op­ment and pros­per­ity in the years to come,’’ Maduro said. – Mi­ami Her­ald

AP

Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, right, shakes hands with his Venezue­lan coun­ter­part Ni­co­las Maduro dur­ing their meeting at the Novo-Ogary­ovo res­i­dence out­side Moscow.

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