CARACAS: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has insisted that his cash-strapped country would "never" default, as he prepared to meet with creditors in Caracas to discuss rescheduling part of the country's massive $150 billion debt.
"Never, default will never reach Venezuela," he declared on his weekly television show. "Our strategy is to renegotiate and refinance all the debt." Maduro pointed to ongoing negotiations with his allies China and Russia, to which Venezuela owes, respectively, USD 28 billion and USD 8 billion.
He said talks with China were "moving along perfectly" and noted that agreement had been reached this week with Moscow to restructure roughly USD 3 billion in loans. That was seen to give Caracas at least a few weeks' breathing room to make other upcoming payments.
But sanctions imposed by the United States in August -- the White House cited the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, the creation of "an illegitimate Constituent Assembly" and "rampant public corruption" -- have made it hard for the country to raise money from international investors.
Venezuela's huge levels of debt have left it in a desperate state, unable to import badly needed food, medicine and other goods.
Maduro accused the financial rating agencies, which this week lowered Venezuela's debt rating, of being part of a "financial war" waged by the United States, a favorite target of his.
The downgrading of Venezuela's ratings by Standard and Poor's and Fitch was seen as increasing the likelihood of a default.