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Rejected Venezuela returns to IMF seeking $1 bn in aid to fight coronavirus

Maduro ordered a nationwide quarantine starting Tuesday to slow the pace of infection

Alex Vasquez Ben Bartenstein & Fabiola Zerpa | Bloomberg 

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro waves as he arrives for a rally with supporters in Caracas, Venezuela. Photo: Reuters
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro waves as he arrives for a rally with supporters in Caracas, Venezuela. Photo: Reuters

is returning to the Monetary Fund with a request for $1 billion in assistance after a bigger financial rescue package was rejected by the Washington organisation, according to five people familiar with the request.

Nicolas Maduro’s administration is arguing the emergency funds could be allocated through programs designed to purchase food, medicine and improve some hospitals’ infrastructure to care for patients, three of the people said.

An IMF press official said that the fund has the deepest sympathy for the humanitarian crisis facing the Venezuelan people and referred to a Wednesday statement in response to Venezuela’s previous $5 billion request, which said that the IMF can’t consider requests from Maduro’s government because it isn’t recognised by the community. Officials at Venezuela’s Information Ministry didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Maduro ordered a nationwide quarantine starting Tuesday to slow the pace of infection. Venezuela’s health system, depleted by a seven-year recession, is in precarious shape, suffering vast shortages of anything from antibiotics and protective equipment to soap and water. The government has reported 42 confirmed cases.

The IMF said it’s ready to mobilise its $1 trillion lending capacity to help nations counter the outbreak. However, the IMF’s primary purpose is to ensure the stability of the monetary system, and it isn’t a humanitarian organisation.

Venezuela’s relationship with the IMF has long been contentious. In 2007, late President Hugo Chavez pledged to cut ties with the fund, considering it a body that serves the interests of the US.

First Published: Sat, March 21 2020. 22:18 IST
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