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China downplays Venezuela debt risks

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China said Tuesday that cooperation with Venezuela on its massive loans was “proceeding smoothly”, voicing confidence that Caracas can handle its debt problems even as the South American country descended towards selective default. Venezuela is buried under a $150 billion foreign debt mountain, including $28 billion owed to its biggest creditor China and another $8 billion to Russia.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has indicated that his country was negotiating with its two allies. “China-Venezuela financing cooperation is proceeding smoothly,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular news briefing.

“We also believe the Venezuelan government and people have the ability to handle the debt issue of their country,” Geng said. Maduro said at the weekend that talks with China were “moving along perfectly” and noted that agreement had been reached with Moscow to restructure roughly $3 billion in loans.

Venezuela hosted a brief meeting with creditors in Caracas on Monday to discuss its total $150 billion foreign debt but the discussions ended without any agreement. S&P said on Tuesday it declared Venezuela in “selective default” because it failed to make $200 million in payments on two global bond issues by the end of a 30-day grace period, which fell on November 12.

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