Venezuela could pay with oil for COVID-19 vaccines, Nicolas Maduro, the President of the struggling South American nation that is home to the world’s biggest oil reserves, said on Sunday.
Venezuela was struggling with the collapse of its economy and oil production even before the pandemic. COVID-19, however, exacerbated the crisis as oil prices plunged in 2020 while Venezuela continued to struggle with reversing the decline in its oil production. Crude oil exports have also significantly dropped since the United States imposed sanctions on Venezuela’s oil exports in early 2019, essentially banning American refiners from importing oil from Venezuela.
“Venezuela has the oil vessels and has the customers who will buy our oil,” Reuters quoted Maduro as saying during a television address on Sunday.
“We are ready and prepared for oil for vaccines, but we will not beg anyone,” Maduro added.
According to Maduro, Venezuela has two options to procure vaccines under the COVAX mechanism of the World Health Organization (WHO) for getting vaccines to poorer countries.
One of those options would be the unfreezing of Venezuela’s money and accounts, and the other is the Oil for Vaccines plan, Maduro said.
Venezuela started last month its vaccination program with the Russian vaccine Sputnik V that it had agreed to buy from ally Russia in December last year.
Earlier this month, the Latin American country also approved the COVID vaccine of Sinopharm, a company from China, another major ally of Maduro’s in recent years.
Meanwhile, Venezuela’s crude oil and refined product exports plummeted in 2020 to their lowest level in 77 years, as the U.S. continued to step up sanctions against Maduro’s regime and anyone found dealing with it.
Most recently, Maduro started hinting this year that it may open up its oil industry to foreign investment, and said earlier this month that the Venezuelan National Assembly would consider reforms to the country’s oil law that would open the door to “new business models.”