Venezuela’s foreign minister blamed the United States for his country’s spiraling debt crisis, saying Washington’s “permanent attack” had left the economy crippled. Jorge Arreaza lashed out at Donald Trump, US and European sanctions, and American interference in Venezuela’s internal affairs at the Venezuelan embassy in Beijing during a three-day official visit.
“Our country is under permanent attack and aggression from the United States of America,” Arreaza said at a press conference, where he spared no words in praising China, one of the country’s largest creditors.
“Thank God humanity can count on the People’s Republic of China to guarantee peace or at least less conflict,” he said.
Venezuela is mired in a political and financial crisis. The government of President Nicolas Maduro has ratcheted up political repression this year as food and basic medical supplies run low and protesters intermittently take to the streets.
Experts say the cash-poor but oil-rich nation owes an estimated US$ 40 billion to China out of a total debt mountain of US$150 billion.
Venezuela partially defaulted on its debt last month, striking a repayment agreement with Russia, and Beijing has said it is confident the country can “properly handle” the debt crisis.
However, earlier this month a subsidiary of China’s state-owned oil company Sinopec filed a suit in the US against Venezuelan state-owned oil and natural gas company PDVSA, accusing the firm of failing to pay more than US$43 million for steel reinforcement bars. The two sides have since resolved the issue.
Asked if China and Venezuela had come to an agreement on the larger debt issue, Arreaza said the debt crisis was not the focus of his visit. China and Venezuela “have always built and designed financial mechanisms to exchange investments and cooperation in a just, fair and equal manner”, he said.
“Financial questions are always fundamental to guarantee our cooperation in other areas,” he added.
Arreaza also slammed the Trump administration’s first National Security Strategy for its strong criticism of China, Russia and Venezuela.
The 68-page document put out by the White House this week labels China a revisionist power and Venezuela a dictatorship, a conclusion that the foreign minister fiercely disputed.