Venezuela hosted a brief meeting of creditors on Monday as the struggling yet oil-rich country sought to stave off a default seen as inevitable by experts, while the EU stepped up the pressure with new sanctions on Caracas.
Venezuela's foreign debt renegotiation committee will meet with creditors at 2 p.m. (1800 GMT) on Monday at the government's White Palace in downtown Caracas, the finance minister said on Saturday.
Venezuela on Thursday announced plans to restructure its burgeoning foreign debt, a move that may lead to a default by the cash-strapped OPEC nation whose collapsing socialist economy has left its population struggling to find food and medicine.
Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA began making a major bond payment, easing short-term worries about default but leaving the populist government with less cash to attend to food shortages and economic depression.
Tareck El Aissami, the recently appointed vice president in Venezuela, took out a full-page in The New York Times on Wednesday to rebuke sanctions against him and other Venezuelan officials leveled by the US government over drug trafficking charges. El Aissami, who was named alongside an alleged associate, was declared by the US Treasury Department to be a specially designated narcotics trafficker for allegedly playing a significant role in international narcotics trafficking.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Wednesday shuffled his cabinet by naming a new economy czar to oversee the OPEC country's decaying populist system and a new oil minister to confront the economic difficulties caused by low oil prices. He also appointed a new vice-president, state governor Tarek El Aissami, a hard liner that could replace Maduro if he is forced to step down.
An outbreak of a mysterious hemorrhagic fever syndrome in the Venezuelan state of Aragua and the country’s capital Caracas has left ten people dead in the last three weeks. Reports indicate that nine people have so far succumbed to the disease in the northern state and a tenth person has died in the capital.
Blackouts blamed on forest fires left without power whole areas of north and central Venezuela, including Caracas, officials said. The power outages began last Thursday due to the collapse of electrical lines located 250 kilometres west of Caracas, Electricity Minister Ali Rodriguez said.
Venezuelan authorities say they recorded 48 homicides for every 100,000 inhabitants last year, making it one of the most dangerous places in South America. Venezuela has a population of 28 million and a report for United Nations last year put the homicide rate for South America as a whole around 20 per 100.000 people.