THE High Court decision enabling the Bank of England to withhold a billion dollars in Venezuelan gold from its rightful owners simply puts a legal stamp of approval on an act of theft.
Washington’s “maximum pressure” policy pushing regime change in the Latin American country has already involved large-scale piracy — the seizure and freezing of Venezuelan assets abroad — as well as crippling sanctions to derail its economy, with a cost estimated in tens of thousands of lives because of the impact on its health system even before the global pandemic.
As Venezuela’s ambassador to Britain Rocio Maneiro told the Morning Star last year, US measures to isolate Venezuela financially mean that “we cannot borrow money … we cannot use our own money.”
The Bank of England prevents Venezuela accessing gold that Caracas deposited there for safekeeping on the grounds that it is not clear who the legitimate government of Venezuela is.
Venezuela requests that the money be transferred to the United Nations Development Programme to help its fight against coronavirus.
The High Court now rules that Britain has “unequivocally” recognised Juan Guaido, the former president of the National Assembly who declared himself president of Venezuela with US backing last year.
This despite the fact that the recognition of Guaido’s entirely theoretical government — despite a series of bungled attempts at an armed seizure of power his never-elected “administration” controls no territory and represents no citizens — was illegal under international law.
Despite the fact that the constitutional excuse used by Guaido to declare himself president, though he had never even stood for the post, stemmed from his position as president of the National Assembly, a position he no longer holds as he was voted out of it in January. (He claimed this position entitled him to step into the presidency because the office was vacant, a fiction based on the opposition’s refusal to recognise the re-election of Maduro in 2018.)
And despite the fact that the British government continues to deal, as it has to, with the actual government of Venezuela, for example when applying for visas for Foreign Office staff, although as the recent row over the Venezuela Reconstruction Unit revealed it lied to Caracas about the purpose of their visits.
Though the Venezuelan government will naturally appeal against the ruling, a real solution to this mess is not going to arrive through the courts.
The British government’s decision to pretend that Guaido is anything more than a pretender rests on its slavish adherence to the foreign policy whims of an aggressive and erratic White House.
The same motivation is now prompting it to engage in increasingly provocative posturing over Hong Kong, claiming it is ready to offer a chance of “eventual” citizenship to up to three million people from the Chinese city — showing a moving consideration for their status strangely denied to unaccompanied child refugees, desperate asylum-seekers trapped in Covid-threatened holding camps or those fleeing poverty and war who are left to drown in their thousands in the Mediterranean.
Under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership Labour’s foreign policy was not transformed along anti-imperialist lines, but it could be relied upon to resist endorsing US regime change projects, declining to recognise Guaido and objecting to the military coup in Bolivia.
The current Labour front bench merely eggs the Tories on to ever more reckless brinkmanship. It is clear that we cannot look to Parliament to provide leadership for the anti-imperialist movement.
Pressure on the Tories to drop the Guaido farce and acknowledge the legitimacy of the real Venezuelan government will have to be built up through the labour and peace movements.
So too will pressure on both main party leaderships to change course and reject the new cold war on China inspired by US President Donald Trump.
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