Pro and anti-government protesters take to streets as president expands state of emergency to fight “economic war”.
Venezuela has reached a deal with its main financier China to improve the conditions of an oil-for-loans deal, giving the oil exporting country’s crisis-hit economy a break as it faces heavy debt payments, its top economic official has said.
Despite having the world’s largest crude reserves, Venezuela’s economy contracted 5.7 percent last year, its second year of recession.
The country is facing widespread food and power shortages. The improved China deal, as well as a steep cut to imports and a new, weaker foreign exchange rate would help Venezuela come out of a “very complicated” semester, according to Venezuelan Economy Vice President Miguel Perez.
“Today we can say that we’ve agreed to new commercial conditions that are adapted to the country’s reality,” Perez said in an interview with Reuters news agency on Monday.
“This will give the country important oxygen to go forward.”
The economy is likely to remain in recession until the end of 2017, he added.
China has lent some $50bn to Venezuela over the past decade.
Its struggling state-led economic model and the fall in oil prices have triggered severe shortages of food and medicine, raging triple-digit annual inflation, and a tumble in local business activity.
President Nicolas Maduro blames an “economic war” launched by right-wing businessmen and opposition politicians seeking to sabotage him and destabilise his socialist government.
Opposition parties have staged marches and demonstrations across several towns and cities in hope of toppling Maduro.
They are trying to pressure electoral authorities into allowing a recall referendum that would cut his term. The opposition submitted roughly 1.85 million signatures on May 2 in favour of the referendum.