A day prior, Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza made public a letter from COVAX officials stating that four payments totaling some $4.6 million had been blocked. Altogether, Caracas has made 12 payments for a total sum of over $100 million.
“This is criminal theft, these are criminal sanctions, the criminal actions of the United States against Venezuela. I demand that the Joe Biden government stop blocking money for the purchase of vaccines,” Maduro said at a public address on Friday.
At the same time, the president stressed that the COVAX facility has received enough Venezuelan funds to begin vaccine shipments.
“The COVAX system has already received sufficient funds to immediately start supplying vaccines. It has no reason not to. We paid more than $100 million,” Maduro said in the speech.
Venezuela has been relying on a mix of international sources for its COVID-19 vaccination campaign, mainly relying on Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine as well as China’s Sinopharm and AstraZeneca supplied through the WHO-led COVAX scheme.
The US imposed a series of sanctions on Venezuela since 2017 in an attempt to force Maduro’s resignation, who was accused by the US of corruption, human rights violations and manipulation of his 2018 re-election.