The Venezuelan embassy in Miami, Florida, may be forced to shut down after allegedly failing to pay rent since August.
The landlord of the building where the consulate is located filed an eviction notice in a Miami-Dade county court on Feb. 15. He claims the socialist nation’s government owes roughly $142,000 in unpaid rent, according to The Associated Press.
Venezuela actually owned the building — situated in the upscale Brickell neighborhood — until 2005, when it sold the property for about $70 million.
In 2012, the consulate — which by that point only took up one floor — was closed by the late President Hugo Chavez, forcing Venezuelan citizens living in the area to travel to New Orleans if they wanted to vote in Venezuela’s national elections.
Still, the government kept paying nearly $21,000 a month in rent until August.
According to Russ Dallen, a Miami-based investor and expert in Venezuelan bonds, the eviction notice is just more evidence of Venezuela’s “dire” financial situation.
“The fact Venezuela can’t come up with such a small amount of cash tells you what dire straits they’re in,” Dallen told the AP.
The eviction notice was filed around the same time that incumbent Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the consulate to be reopened before April 22, when the presidential election is scheduled to take place.
This would allow Venezuelan citizens in Miami, many of whom oppose the current government, to vote.
“I have given the instruction to the foreign minister to proceed immediately to open the Miami consulate so that all Venezuelans can enroll in the electoral registry,” Maduro told the country’s Supreme Court earlier this month, as reported by Reuters.
“In Venezuela there will be no coup d‘etat. In Venezuela so there will be presidential elections and the people will decide who is their president in a free way.”
It’s unclear how the eviction notice will affect Maduro’s directive.
In recent months, Venezuela’s economic turmoil has had a visible effect on the nation’s diplomatic staff.
An internal government memo dated Nov. 15 and obtained by Bloomberg revealed that the country’s diplomatic missions were being encouraged to renegotiate their rent payments.
“We’re evaluating the situation of rents for all of our diplomatic missions to obtain substantial savings,” Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza said in the memo.
“We encourage you to begin a renegotiation of your rent with the owner of the property. If a renegotiation isn’t successful, you’ll be expected to deepen your efforts in the search for a more viable — and affordable — option to support the savings of the republic’s financial resources.”
Moreover, The Times in London reported earlier this month that three officials from Venezuela’s London embassy — as well as their families — were being forced to move out of their homes and into a government-owned building because the state could not pay their rent.
Venezuela currently has about 80 embassies around the world, including in places like Benin and Jakarta. There have been late rent lawsuits in some of these countries, and Venezuela is reportedly trying to figure out which embassies it should close, and which ones should remain open.
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