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Venezuela's debts to China, Russia would be restructured through Paris Club: Guaido advisor

By Luc Cohen
People wait in line outside of a currency exchange house in Caracas

By Luc Cohen

GUAYAQUIL, Ecuador (Reuters) - Loans to Venezuela from President Nicolas Maduro's allies Russia and China would be renegotiated though the Paris Club if Maduro leaves power, an advisor to the opposition said on Wednesday, responding to concerns about favorable treatment for the two countries.

Ricardo Hausmann, who represents opposition leader Juan Guaido at the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), said Guaido's team has not determined how loans might be restructured under its governance because bilateral debt talks typically take place under the auspices of the Paris Club creditor group.

"It is not as if the chapter on bilateral debt says we are going to treat it differently. It is treated differently in international practice through the Paris Club," said Hausmann, a Harvard economics professor and former planning minister, at the IADB's annual meeting in Guayaquil, Ecuador.

"We have not come out with any specific guidelines on the treatment of bilateral debt for that reason."

Earlier this month, Guaido's advisers published a plan pledging equal treatment for creditors during an eventual restructuring process of Venezuela's $200 billion in debt if Maduro leaves power. Maduro has overseen a collapse in the OPEC nation's economy.

The document carved out some exceptions, including for the billions of dollars in loans from Russia and China, which drew criticism from a group of bondholders known as the Venezuela Creditors Committee, who said the "burden" should be shared equally between public and private creditors.

Guaido, who heads the opposition-controlled National Assembly, in January invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency and challenge Maduro to step down, arguing his 2018 re-election was illegitimate.

Most Western countries and some multilateral organizations, including the IADB, recognize him as Venezuela's rightful leader.

But Maduro, who calls Guaido a U.S.-backed puppet seeking to oust him in a coup, has retained control of the military and state institutions. China, Russia and Cuba continue to recognize him as president.

An internal document obtained by Reuters on Tuesday showed that U.S. President Donald Trump's administration plans to divert more than $40 million originally intended as humanitarian aid for Central America to support the opposition in Venezuela.

Hausmann said he had no knowledge of the reported plans.

"It would surprise me if it were true," Hausmann said.


(Reporting by Luc Cohen in Guayaquil; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)