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Venezuela's Maduro travels to China in search of fresh funds

By Corina Pons
Reuters

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro attends an event with the Youth of the PSUV in Caracas

FILE PHOTO: Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro attends an event with the Youth of the Venezuela's United Socialist Party (PSUV) in Caracas, Venezuela September 11, 2018. Miraflores Palace/Handout via REUTERS

By Corina Pons

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is traveling to China to discuss economic agreements, as the crisis-struck OPEC nation seeks to convince its key Asian financier to disburse fresh loans.

"I am going with great expectations and we will see each other again in a few days with big achievements," the leftist leader said on Wednesday in a state broadcast from the airport, without providing details.

Venezuela's Information Ministry did not respond to a request for comment. China's Foreign Ministry also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Vice President Delcy Rodriguez is currently in China and on Wednesday met with Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said in a brief statement late Wednesday.

The two countries have long had friendly ties and cooperation has been "steadily progressing" in all fields, the ministry cited Wang as telling Rodriguez.

Over a decade, China plowed more than $50 billion into Venezuela through oil-for-loan agreements that helped Beijing secure energy supplies for its fast-growing economy while bolstering an anti-Washington ally in Latin America.

The flow of cash halted nearly three years ago, however, when Venezuela asked for a change of payment terms amid falling oil prices and declining crude output that pushed its state-led economy into a hyperinflationary collapse.

Venezuela's Finance Ministry in July said it would receive $250 million from the China Development Bank to boost oil production but offered no details. Venezuela previously accepted a $5 billion loan from China for its oil sector but has yet to receive the entire amount.

Local consultant Asdrubal Oliveros, who tracks Chinese loans closely, said on Wednesday Venezuela was close to clinching a fresh loan of $5 billion to finance oil projects. Beijing was waiting for Maduro to announce a series of economic measures, including a steep devaluation and more flexible currency controls, before extending fresh funds, Oliveros said.

(Additional reporting by Vivian Sequera and Alexandra Ulmer, and Ben Blanchard in Beijing and Brenda Goh in Shanghai; Writing by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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