Calling Venezuela one of “the most corrupt nations on Earth,” Bank of Nova Scotia Chief Executive Officer Brian Porter urged governments around the world to seize assets tied to wrongdoing and use them to support democracy in the troubled South American country.
The CEO of Canada’s third-largest lender, which has significant operations in Latin America, took the unusual step of weighing in on Venezuela’s political and humanitarian crisis through an op-ed piece published in the National Post on Tuesday.
“Once the richest and most stable democracy in Latin America, Venezuela’s democracy, economy and society have collapsed in recent years, in that order,” Porter wrote. “The time has come for governments around the world to take strong action by naming and shaming the perpetrators of the crimes committed against the Venezuelan people and by standing with Venezuela’s beleaguered democratic movement.”
Porter’s op-ed comes as Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido seeks international support for the removal of President Nicolas Maduro, whose government is facing painful sanctions and economic collapse. In his piece, Porter referred to Guaido as “Venezuela’s legitimate president” who “has shown tremendous courage” in asking for help from other nations.
“Now we must heed that call and stand with the Venezuelan people,” Porter wrote.
Porter urged governments throughout the Americas and Europe to both support Venezuelan refugees and initiate a coordinated effort to identify and seize assets from corrupt regime officials. The proceeds, along with additional aid, should be used to provide financial support to the democratic movement in Venezuela, he wrote.
Scotiabank, based in Toronto, does business in more than 30 countries, with significant operations in Latin America and the Caribbean, and a focus on the Pacific Alliance countries of Mexico, Chile, Colombia and Peru.
The bank also has a history in Venezuela. In 1997, it opened a representative office in Caracas and agreed to spend $88 million for a 25 per cent stake in Venezuelan lender Banco del Caribe. In 2014, Scotiabank took a C$129 million ($98 million) writedown on the Venezuelan investment as the country suffered hyper-inflation and economic turmoil, which led to government restrictions that limited the bank’s ability to repatriate cash and dividends from the country.
“Once the richest and most stable democracy in Latin America, Venezuela’s democracy, economy and society have collapsed in recent years, in that order.”– Bank of Nova Scotia Chief Executive Officer Brian Porter
In its annual report last year, Scotiabank disclosed C$670 million in cross-border exposure to Venezuela and Uruguay, without breaking the countries out separately. The total was described as mostly an “investment in subsidiaries and affiliates,” with C$127 million of the amount in loans tied to those countries.
In his op-ed Tuesday, Porter cited the European Union for having “strongly condemned” Maduro’s regime and supporting Guaido. Closer to home, he praised Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland and Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne for showing “tremendous courage and leadership” for “unambiguously condemning the Maduro regime’s abuses.”