US seeks US$10 bln trade finance fund for Venezuela

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says the US is looking to help Venezuela to rebuild their economy. (Reuters pic)

WASHINGTON: The United States is working with a group of countries to build a $10 billion fund to help Venezuela rebuild trade once a new government is in place, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Saturday.

The United States has joined dozens of other countries in recognising Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president but embattled President Nicolas Maduro remains in power.

Mnuchin said that, during the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, officials had discussed how to aid in the Caribbean country’s recovery.

But those institutions must sit on the sidelines until there is clear international recognition of a government in Caracas and a way to put funds into use in the country which has seen its economy collapse, while people are fleeing because they cannot get basic food and medicines.

“Every single time I’ve had one of these meetings I can’t believe how much worse it gets on the ground for the people of Venezuela. This is a humanitarian crisis,” Mnuchin said.

In addition to the potential for financing from the IMF and World Bank, he hosted a meeting on Thursday of the friends of Venezuela, which includes many Latin American and European countries, as well as Japan, where ministers also discussed the need for the oil exporting power to restore trade.

“We’re going to be working on trying to put together a consortium of about US$10 billion of trade finance that would be available for the new government to spark trade,” Mnuchin said.

About 3.7 million refugees have fled the worsening crisis in Venezuela in recent years – a third to neighboring Colombia – the most dramatic and fastest exodus in the world after war-torn Syria, according to the United Nations. That figure could reach five million by the end of the year.