Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Statement by representative of the Russian Federation Evgeny Varganov at side-event "Helping Venezuela Confront a Humanitarian Emergency amid the COVID-19 Pandemic"

Dear participants,

We decided to take part in today’s unofficial gathering to shed light on the real state of affairs in Venezuela, which is hard to find in the Concept Note. We feel it is necessary since many of you are not fully aware of the Security Council’s closed consultations of April 28 on this very topic – humanitarian situation in Venezuela amid pandemic.

That April event was proposed by organizers with the sole purpose – to respond to an earlier discussion initiated by Russia on the attempts to use the situation with pandemic to increase political and military pressure on the legitimate Government of Venezuela. And that is exactly what is happening today again. Distorting facts, politicizing and weaponizing pandemic, and humanitarian situation as a whole, became a sorrowful trend within and around the United Nations.

Since there is a call in the Concept Note to raise awareness and analyze, let us get straight down to that.

As of last Sunday, July 26, Venezuela had 14,263 confirmed cases and 134 deaths. That is out of 8,5 mln of cases and 337 thousands deaths in the Americas, according to World Health Organization. In the region, Venezuela ranks 17 out of 35 with 0.16% of all confirmed cases in Latin America.

To be franc these numbers are still a drastic increase since Council’s discussion in April, when there were only 325 confirmed cases with 10 deaths. Such an increase, however, is natural, because Venezuela did not close its borders to thousands of returnees, whose expectations on security and financial wellbeing were not met in other countries.

It is important to say that as for now Venezuelan government has carried out almost 1,5 million tests – free of charge. That is almost 50 thousands tests per million, putting Venezuela among top five countries in the region with the highest number of tests. 98 % of all confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country are being treated within the national health system, which is public. 

So what exactly are we discussing today? Why not those countries in the region which experience much more severe impact of pandemic?

Instead, organizers preferred to focus on what they like to call “humanitarian crisis”, meaning the challenges that the country faces amid pandemic. But let’s be honest, COVID-19 created or revealed challenges in every single country across the globe. So what makes Venezuela different? I will tell you – the difference is where those challenges stem from.

Since 2014 the Venezuela and Venezuelans face enormous financial pressure posed by unlawful sanctions: 58 various restrictive measures imposed by the US, 8 – by the EU, 5 – by Canada, 2 – by Lima Group, 2 – by Panama, 2 – by the UK and 1 – by Switzerland.

We of course heard the arguments that European measures are targeted on the individuals and allegedly do not hinder humanitarian needs. Well, that is simply not true. Needless to say that in addition to its own sanctions EU and its financial entities support and implement US sanctions.

Let me give you some facts. In April 2019 frozen Venezuelan assets and transfer bans for 4,8 mln Euro did not allow to pay for urgent transplantation surgeries in the Italian hospitals, where Venezuelan patients died, including two children.

The Concept Note does not mention that it is due to unlawful sanctions that Venezuelan health system is unable to get necessary amount of equipment and medicine. As a result 300 thousands Venezuelan lives are under threat including 80 thousands with AIDS, 16 thousands who need dialysis, another 16 thousands in urgent need of anti-cancer treatment. 4 million diabetics depend on foreign supplies of insulin. All of that could have been delivered and paid for by the Venezuelan government. 

In the meantime in February 2019 upon request of the US, Portuguese bank frozen 1,7 billon Dollars. In March 2019 Belgian institution frozen 34 million Dollars. In April a French bank frozen 34 mln Dollars, while the bank of Liechtenstein – frozen 21 mln. I’m not even mentioning the infamous decision of the Bank of England on the Venezuelan gold reserves, which forever undermined credibility of once reputable financial institution. 

Dear Ambassador Christophe Heusgen, German institutions blocked 38 mln of Venezuelan assets, which could have been used for healthcare.

Overall financial damage to the country amounts to 116 billion Dollars.

The facts that I stated make it clear that the position of some countries which introduce or support unlawful sanctions and then try to arrange discussion on the humanitarian situation is nothing but hypocricy. 

The latest example is that a number of countries within the United Nations blocked the decision to allow the Venezuelan government to make a necessary payment to the UN budget, despite the country has enough resources for that. As a result, Venezuelan delegation lost the right of vote and instead of listening to the official position UN Members are being offered unofficial side events, with no representatives of Caracas even present.

For those who support the idea of today’s gathering I would like to say the following. Only one single step is necessary to drastically improve humanitarian situation in Venezuela. This step is well known to the Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelete, who called to lift sanctions amid pandemic. 

In conclusion, I would like to welcome the efforts of Venezuelans to reach common ground on humanitarian response. We encourage them to unite in the face of pandemic and foreign interference.

At the same time we warn foreign stakeholders against attempts to use humanitarian situation in the country to try achieve political benefits. It seems necessary to remind that conditional and partial return of frozen sovereign assets is not a “humanitarian assistance” – it’s a cashback after larceny.

I thank you.