CARACAS: On Thursday, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza summoned the UK’s top diplomat in the country “to present a formal protest and demand explanations” for the creation of a “Venezuela Reconstruction Unit” in the British Embassy.
“We summon the Charge d’Affaires of the United Kingdom to present a formal protest and demand explanations for the creation in his Chancellery of a Unit for the Reconstruction of Venezuela,” Arreaza said in a Twitter post on Thursday, accusing UK Deputy Ambassador to Venezuela Duncan Hill of trying to “justify the unjustifiable.”
“We demand that the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland withdraw from Washington’s coup plans and from any destabilizing initiative,” Arreaza continued. “We demand respect for our sovereignty, for our people and for the purposes and principles of the UN Charter.”
Arreaza’s comments come a day after a damning expose by The Canary, which revealed the existence of the “Venezuela Reconstruction Unit,” as well as the extent of cooperation between the British government and Venezuelan opposition figure Juan Guaido, who has been held up by the US, UK and other European governments as the legitimate leader of Venezuela instead of democratically elected President Nicolas Maduro.
Documents obtained by Canary writer John McEvoy via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) included a list of figures who attended January 2020 meetings between Guaido and UK Foreign Minister Dominic Raab.
“Notably, the list also includes ‘Head [of the] Venezuela Reconstruction Unit, FCO’, John Saville. The existence of this unit has never been publicly acknowledged by either the FCO [Foreign & Commonwealth Office] or Saville, who was formerly UK ambassador to Venezuela (2014-2017). Saville’s biography on the UK government’s website, for instance, bears no mention of the unit,” McEvoy wrote.
A spokesperson for the FCO told the Canary, “The UK is committed to working with international partners to bring an end to the appalling crisis in Venezuela The FCO’s Venezuela Reconstruction Unit was set up in Autumn 2019 to coordinate a UK approach to international efforts to respond to the dire economic and humanitarian situation in Venezuela.”
In February 2019, just days after Guaido declared himself the interim president of Venezuela and called for a national uprising to depose Maduro, then-UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt extended Guaido formal recognition, and just days later, refused Caracas’ attempted withdrawal of the $1.2 billion in Venezuelan gold held in the Bank of England’s vaults.