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Venezuela calls for debt restructuring in response to Covid pandemic

VENEZUELA is calling for a comprehensive restructuring of international debt in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Addressing the UN heads of state meeting on international debt, President Nicolas Maduro said that more than 130 million people had been plunged into poverty during the pandemic.

A “profound revision of debt conditions” was needed to prevent them being used as “a weapon for control, blackmail or domination,” he stressed.

While the International Monetary Fund has expressed support for increased public spending to help economies recover, including the $1.9 trillion (£1.4tn) stimulus of the Joe Biden administration in the United States, analysis by Oxfam late last year showed that of 91 IMF loans negotiated with 81 countries after March 2020, 76 (94 per cent) encouraged or required austerity measures such as spending cuts, including by public-sector wage cuts, attacks on pensions and even reductions in healthcare spending.

In case studies such as a $6.5 billion (£4.7bn) IMF loan to Ecuador, the agency “advised” the government to cut healthcare spending and unemployment benefits to meet the conditions despite the ongoing virus-related deaths and joblessness crisis.

The Venezuelan leader also said the UN needed to act on “unilateral coercive measures” imposed, mainly by the United States, to force its will on smaller countries.

The US has directly seized Venezuelan assets held in the US, and confiscated shipments of Iranian oil sold to Venezuela. The Bank of England has also yet to relinquish $1.8bn (£1.3bn) of Venezuelan gold it holds.

“We demand once again the end of the economic, financial and commercial blockade against our people,” Mr Maduro said.

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