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Saturday 4th
posted by James Tweedie in World

VENEZUELA began a complete restructuring of its foreign debt yesterday in response to US financial sanctions.

In a televised address on Thursday night alongside Vice-President Tareck El Aissami, Mr Maduro announced the refinancing of all foreign debt payments as part of “the struggle against the blockade and financial persecution.”

He said state oil company PDVSA would make a $1.12 billion interest payment on bonds to the JP Morgan bank yesterday, out of an existing debt estimated at $120bn.

And he appointed Mr Aissami to chair the commission responsible for the debt restructuring.

Washington imposed sanctions on Venezuela in August banning US investors from buying more bonds in PDVSA, which dominates Venezuela’s economy and foreign exports.

The sanctions were a response to the election of the new constitutional reform assembly that the right-wing opposition opposed with bloody riots which left 124 people dead.

Opposition parliamentary speaker Julio Borges and his deputy Freddy Guevara lobbied for the sanctions in Washington and Brussels.

Mr Maduro said: “The financial and commercial persecutions have become more open.

“They have begun to close our bank accounts around the world, and due to the US sanctions, they vetoed the legal refinancing of the bonds Venezuela has issued,” he added

“We will never surrender before the the US empire, nor any other empire of the world, never will they see us on our knees,” Mr Maduro declared.

Meanwhile Attorney-General Tareck William Saab announced that five senior PDVSA managers and 27 other high-ranking officials had been arrested for embezzlement.

They include Francisco Jimenez, head of procurement wing Bariven, where Mr Saab said more than 1,400 contracts had been overcharged for, costing the country 10bn bolivars (£695 million).