In a move reminiscent of kicking a man when he’s down, which is illegal in boxing and most contact sports, Russia is forcing Venezuela to pay at least $100 million in March.
The timing couldn’t be worse. Venezuela’s economy is in freefall, inflation is rampant, and after an illegal election, Maduro is being propped up by Russia a la a dictatorship. Venezuela is in a state of turmoil and Russia is demanding payment. Will this lead to Russia ‘taking over’ Venezuela?
Russia’s finance ministry has called upon Venezuela to make its next scheduled debt repayment to the country on time.
The announcement comes just a day after the US imposed new sanctions on Venezuela’s state oil firm that could harm exports – a crucial revenue source for the struggling Latin American nation.
Russia has condemned the US sanctions and its deputy finance minister said earlier today that he expected Venezuela to have problems repaying its debts.
But the Ministry of Finance issued a statement a few hours later saying it still wanted a payment of $100m to be made by the end of March, as scheduled.
It said: “No changes in the agreement have been introduced and, correspondingly, Venezuela must fulfil the obligations it has taken upon itself to the creditor.”
The US sanctions bar state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela from collecting proceeds from crude sales to US refineries.
The US buys more Venezuelan crude than any other country and Washington believes its measures – also condemned by China – will force President Nicolas Maduro to step down.
The loss of revenues makes it harder for the government in Caracas to import basic goods like food and medicine, which has already forced people to flee the country.
According to Reuters, sources said the oil firm had responded to the sanctions by ordering customers with tankers waiting to load goods for the US to prepay – which could violate the American penalties.
Last week a Venezuelan opposition leader, Juan Guaido, declared himself president, and the US has recognised him as the country’s interim president.
Other countries have called for new elections in Venezuela.
Maduro assumed the presidency for a second six-year term on 10 January following an election last year branded fraudulent by opposition parties.