VENEZUELA says payments to COVAX vaccine system have been blocked

VENEZUELA says payments to COVAX vaccine system have been blocked

The  Government of Venezuelan said Thursday that it has been unable to complete a payment for COVID-19 vaccines purchased through the COVAX facility, as the  Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS) prevented it from transferring money to pay for the vaccines.

Vice President Delcy Rodriguez explained that the bank blocked the last four installments of the payment of vaccines valued at USD10 million.

"Venezuela has paid all of its commitments with the COVAX mechanism. However, the Bank has arbitrarily 'blocked' the last payments and placed them under 'investigation'. That is a crime,"Vice President Delcy Rodriguez explained that the bank blocked the last four installments of the payment of vaccines valued at USD10 million.

"Venezuela has paid all of its commitments with the COVAX mechanism. However, the Bank has arbitrarily 'blocked' the last payments and placed them under 'investigation'. That is a crime," Foreign Affairs Minister Jorge Arreaza tweeted.

In a communication addressed to Ambassador Hector Rosales on June 7, the COVAX facility confirmed that Venezuela had transferred US$110 million for the COVID-19 vaccines. At that time, only US$10 million remained to be paid.

"The financial system that also hides behind the U.S. lobby, has the power to block resources that can be used to immunize the population of Venezuela," Rodriguez said.

Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza later tweeted a copy of a letter from COVAX saying it had received information from Swiss bank UBS that four operations, totaling $4.6 million, "were blocked and under investigation."UBS, when asked for comment, said that for legal and regulatory reasons it is "unable to comment on matters relating to potential client relationships."

The COVAX letter notes Venezuela has expressed interest in the Johnson & Johnson and Novavax vaccines.

Maduro's government this year began negotiating with opposition leader Juan Guaido to pay for COVAX vaccines using funds frozen in the United States via Washington's sanctions against Maduro.

In March, Venezuelan officials announced they had managed to pay for the vaccines on their own, and have since backed away from talks over using the frozen funds.

Rodriguez stressed that the blocking of the financial resources of a sovereign nation demonstrates the imposition of a hegemonic power amid the pandemic.

In recent weeks, authorities have started vaccinating medical personnel and senior citizens using doses provided by Russia and China. Venezuela has reported 246,764 coronavirus cases and 2,764 deaths, although critics say the actual figures are likely higher due to underreporting and limited testing.

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