Venezuela’s opposition has approved a measure to ask the U.S. government to unfreeze funding for a COVID-19 vaccine in the country, bringing the country one step closer to mass vaccination even as significant hurdles remain. 

On March 19, the “Delegated Commission” that the Venezuelan opposition considers the only valid legislature in the country presented a measure that authorizes $30 million in funding to facilitate access to a COVID-19 vaccine. The plan amounts to a request that the U.S. Treasury unfreeze $18 million so that Venezuela can pay outstanding debts to the World Health Organization (WHO) and access the WHO-linked COVAX initiative intended to provide COVID-19 vaccines to low-income countries, and another $12 million to bolster the country’s temperature-controlled supply chain for the vaccine.

The measure comes amid doubts regarding the future of a Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) mechanism in which the Maduro government and opposition have agreed, at least in principle, to coordinate the purchase and distribution of vaccines for the country’s population. A potential blow to this deal came on March 15, when Maduro’s Vice President Delcy Rodríguez announced that the AstraZeneca vaccine would not be authorized for use in Venezuela, in the wake of European governments’ concerns around certain potential cardiovascular side effects of the vaccine. Previously, PAHO authorities had announced that between 1.4 million and 2.14 million AstraZeneca vaccines had been set aside for Venezuela as part of the COVAX initiative.

Though Rodríguez stated in her address that the Maduro government is maintaining negotiations with a variety of vaccine providers “to guarantee the immunization of the entire population in the coming months,” a plan for the inoculation of the country’s population of 30 million remains to be seen. The government claimed to have secured a total of 700,000 vaccine doses between Russia’s Sputnik-V and China’s Sinopharm, but distribution has not been fully transparent. Out of the first shipments of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine intended to inoculate 100,000 individuals in the health sector, Tal Cual reports that only 66% have been fully accounted for to date, with the status of the remaining 34% unknown. Meanwhile,  Venezuela’s National Academy of Medicine claimed this week that the government only has enough vaccines to immunize 38% of the population at this time.


International Community

  • On Wednesday, the Supreme Court of Cape Verde ruled that Alex Saab, Colombian businessman and close ally of Nicolás Maduro, may be extradited to the U.S. where he faces prosecution for money laundering charges. The decision comes just two days after a regional court, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), separately ordered the immediate release and termination of all ongoing extradition proceedings against Saab in Cape Verde, where he has been detained since his arrest in June 2020.
  • This week, opposition leader Juan Guaidó met with the foreign political leaders that make up the IDEA (Democratic Initiative of Spain and the Americas) group including former Colombian President Andrés Pastrana, former Spanish Prime Minister José María Aznar, and former Venezuelan Foreign Minister Asdrúbal Aguiar. According to the Guaidó readout of the meeting, the politicians discussed the need for international cooperation to support the most vulnerable populations within Venezuela.
  • Groups within Venezuela are raising alarms about the potential for diesel shortages in the country, the result of a Trump administration decision to end exemptions in U.S. sanctions to allow for diesel swaps with Venezuela, to trigger a national food security crisis.
  • On Tuesday, The Senate Armed Services Committee held a public hearing in which Navy Admiral Craig Faller of the U.S. Southern Command discussed U.S. counter-narcotic policy in the Caribbean, and the role of Russia and China in supporting criminal networks in Venezuela. In his testimony Admiral Faller acknowledged that U.S. sanctions have not been successful in achieving their goal of regime change, and that they have aggravated Venezuela’s humanitarian and migratory crisis.


Human Rights