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Congressional Bill Would Create Fund For Billions In Seized Venezuelan Assets

Venezuela Oil Troubles
Fernando Llano/AP
A storage tank in Venezuela owned by the state-run oil monopoly Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), which the country's socialist regime is accused of plundering for hundreds of billions of dollars.

A group headed by Venezuelan expats has helped create congressional legislation to ensure Venezuela's frozen billions are safeguarded for rebuilding the nation.

Venezuela’s authoritarian regime is accused of embezzling hundreds of billions of dollars — much of it laundered in South Florida. Thanks to a group headed by Venezuelan expats, a bill is now in Congress that would create a fund to safeguard the portion of those assets seized by the U.S. government for Venezuela’s future reconstruction.

Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio co-introduced the Preserving Accountability for National Assets Act, or PANA, last week along with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

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PANA would ensure that public Venezuelan money stolen by the regime — some of it now being frozen by U.S. courts — would go to a fund for rebuilding Venezuela and its democracy.

The bill is largely the result of efforts by the nonprofit Venezuelan Assets Recovery Initiative, or INRAV. It’s led in part by Venezuelan expats like its president and co-founder, Maria Alejandra Marquez of Miami.

“Currently there are at least $1.5 billion frozen in at least 38 cases in U.S. courts against corrupt Venezuelan officials and their associates,” Marquez said at a virtual press conference Wednesday.

But she pointed out that’s a fraction of the — mostly oil — wealth Venezuela’s authoritarian socialist regime is estimated to have plundered the past two decades.

“Since we started working two years ago, we realized this was going to be a long and complicated path," Marquez said, "because in the case of Venezuela we are talking about between $300 billion and $500 billion overall stolen.”

Last week a U.S. judge sentenced a Miami money manager to almost four years in prison for helping the Venezuelan regime loot more than a billion dollars in oil revenue.

INRAV calls its campaign to create the fund Un Fondo Para Venezuela.