Venezuela’s Maduro travels to China in search of fresh funds

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro attends an event with the Youth of the Venezuela's United Socialist Party (PSUV) in Caracas, Venezuela September 11, 2018. Miraflores Palace/Handout via REUTERS

CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is travelling to China to discuss economic agreements, as the crisis-struck OPEC nation seeks to convince its key Asian financier to disburse fresh loans.

“I am going with great expectations and we will see each other again in a few days with big achievements,” the leftist leader said on Wednesday in a state broadcast from the airport, without providing details.

Venezuela’s Information Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

China’s Foreign Ministry, in a brief statement carried by the official Xinhua news agency, said Maduro would visit from Thursday until Saturday at the invitation of President Xi Jinping. It gave no other details.

Vice President Delcy Rodriguez is currently in China and on Wednesday met with Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a brief statement late Wednesday.

The two countries have long had friendly ties and cooperation has been “steadily progressing” in all fields, the ministry cited Wang as telling Rodriguez.

Over a decade, China plouged more than $50 billion into Venezuela through oil-for-loan agreements that helped Beijing secure energy supplies for its fast-growing economy while bolstering an anti-Washington ally in Latin America.

The flow of cash halted nearly three years ago, however, when Venezuela asked for a change of payment terms amid falling oil prices and declining crude output that pushed its state-led economy into a hyperinflationary collapse.

Venezuela’s Finance Ministry in July said it would receive $250 million from the China Development Bank to boost oil production but offered no details. Venezuela previously accepted a $5 billion loan from China for its oil sector but has yet to receive the entire amount.

Local consultant Asdrubal Oliveros, who tracks Chinese loans closely, said on Wednesday Venezuela was close to clinching a fresh loan of $5 billion to finance oil projects. Beijing was waiting for Maduro to announce a series of economic measures, including a steep devaluation and more flexible currency controls, before extending fresh funds, Oliveros said.

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