RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The UK government clarified Monday that it “unequivocally” recognizes opposition leader Juan Guaidó as president of Venezuela, to the detriment of Nicolás Maduro, a precision that will be key in the ongoing litigation over access to Venezuelan assets deposited in England.
In an intervention before the Supreme Court, the highest British judicial instance, the legal advisor to the Foreign Office in London, James Eadie, affirmed that Guaidó “is the only individual who is recognized as having the authority to act on behalf of Venezuela as head of state”.
In the documents processed before the Supreme Court, the lawyer, who made a brief oral statement, points out that “it is clear that only one president and only one is recognized,” and argues that “it is not ambiguous” a statement to that effect issued by the Foreign Office on February 4, 2019.
In that statement, the ministry recognized Guaidó as “interim constitutional president of Venezuela” until “credible” elections are held, which lawyers for Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s camp believe may mean that Guaidó is recognized de “iure” (by right) but not “de facto” (de facto), since, in practice, he does not control the country’s institutions.
WHO CAN ACCESS THE GOLD
In the current process, which runs until Wednesday, the Supreme must determine who the British Executive recognizes as ruler for all purposes of Venezuela. In case it concludes that it is Guaidó, it has to decide whether it has the power to investigate his political appointments in that country since they have been invalidated by the Venezuelan Justice.
The Supreme Court’s ruling, which will be known later, is necessary so that the High Court can then authorize access to the gold reserves guarded by the Bank of England, valued at 1.6 billion euros (or 1.9 billion dollars), as well as 120 million dollars resulting from a gold swap executed by Deutsche Bank.
The board of the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV) appointed by Maduro, chaired by Calixto Ortega, wants access to these assets to finance through the UN the fight against covid-19, but the “ad hoc” board of the BCV appointed by Guaidó tries to prevent it.
Precisely, the Supreme Court is studying an appeal raised by Guaidó’s “ad hoc” board, which requests the annulment of an unfavorable ruling issued last October 5 by the Court of Appeals.
This court invalidated a July 2, 2020 ruling of the Superior, which granted the opposition leader’s team authority over the assets deposited in England.
THE LEGAL FRAMEWORK
Today’s session was focused on the presentation of Timothy Otty, a lawyer for Guaidó’s camp, who said that Guaidó is the one who should be able to access the assets due to the fact that the British Foreign Office recognized him as head of the Venezuelan state in his 2019 declaration.
In line with the ministry’s advisor, Otty rejected the position of Maduro’s BCV board lawyer, Nick Vineall, who claims that this government statement was “ambiguous” and points out that, in practice, London maintains diplomatic relations with Maduro’s administration.
Both Guaidó’s side and the London Executive argue that the British Justice should take the Government’s statement on Guaidó as valid under the “one voice” doctrine, which requires State institutions to act unitarily in foreign policy.
They also argue that, under the Acts of a foreign state doctrine, the court has no power to investigate whether or not Guaidó’s appointments on Venezuelan territory in his alleged position as head of state are lawful under Venezuelan law.
Vineall maintains, on the contrary, that the British Justice must take into account that both the position that Guaidó claims to hold, who did not run for the Venezuelan elections of December 2020, and his political acts and appointments, among them to the “ad hoc” board of the BCV, have been invalidated by the Supreme Court of Caracas.