Anti-Maduro protests rage as OAS meets on Venezuela crisis

Protesters yesterday vented their fury at Goldman Sachs over the United States banking giant's decision to buy US$2.8 billion (RM11.99 billion) in Venezuelan government bonds, saying the move gives a lifeline to President Nicolas Maduro.

Julio Borges, president of the opposition-led Congress, wrote in an open letter to Goldman's CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, that he was "outraged" the bank was financially helping the Maduro administration.

"Given the unconstitutional nature of Nicolas Maduro's administration, its unwillingness to hold democratic elections and its systematic violation of human rights, I am dismayed that Goldman Sachs chose to enter this transaction with the Maduro regime", Borges wrote in a letter earlier this week.

He said he meant to recommend to "any future democratic government of Venezuela not to recognise or pay on these bonds".

Many economists say the only way to improve the country's situation is to scrap price and currency control systems that have hobbled the private sector.

Venezuela grows little of its own food after the government nationalized much of the farmland, then abandoned managing it.

Although the US$2.8 billion deal is a boost to the economy, opposition leaders accused Goldman Sachs of providing a "lifeline" to a "dictatorship".

"Tonight, millions of venezuelans will go to bed hungry and without the possibility of obtaining the medicines that they need, or exhausted and bloody following their legitimate peaceful protests for democracy and the right to vote, as victims of a brutal regime that Goldman Sachs made a decision to support", he continued.

On Thursday of last week, the worldwide reserves for Venezuela rose $749 million to reach over $10.86 billion but that is down over 50% from three years ago. "We agree that life there has to get better, and we made the investment in part because we believe it will", the bank added.

As well as deaths, the unrest in Venezuela has led to hundreds of injuries and, according to local rights group Penal Forum, almost 3,000 people arrested of whom 1,351 remain held.

The Lutheran World Federation say it is deeply concerned about the grave situation in Venezuela and has called for the building of a society where everybody is included.

The Wall Street Journal first reported Goldman Sachs' purchase from the Central Bank on Venezuela on Sunday. Yes, Maduro's government is one of the worst ones now infecting the planet, but there are many, many countries with human rights records which range from spotty to absolutely abysmal and American firms invest in them all the time. The price is a 31 percent discount to trading Venezuelan securities that mature the same year.

Venezuelan opposition accuses the government of mismanaging the oil-rich country, causing severe shortages of basic consumer goods.

Goldman Sachs' did not respond to Fox News' request for comment about the bond deal. "We don't want to make a quick buck and take on reputational risk", said Michel Del Buono, managing director at Makena Capital Management, which makes investments on behalf of endowments and has forgone Venezuelan debt.

  • Leroy Wright