29 January 2015, News Wires – Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro said he was seeking financing to counter a dramatic fall in oil prices that have hurt the cash-strapped Opec country but did not provide further details.
“We’re looking for resources,” he said during a speech to unveil a plan to combat Venezuela’s recession and shortages of everything from toilet paper and flour to certain medicines.
“We’re dedicated, 24 hours a day every day, to looking…. so that the country can function,” added Maduro, who visited a half dozen countries including China during a nearly two-week tour earlier this month.
With oil prices down by more than half since mid-2014, Venezuela’s economic crisis has hit Maduro’s popularity hard and hiked pressure on the government to find fresh funds.
China in the last few years has provided billions of dollars in loans that are repaid through oil and fuel shipments. Maduro said earlier this month he had secured more than $20 billion in investment from China for economic, social, and oil-related projects.
Venezuela’s oil export basket closed at $38.50 per barrel on Tuesday, Maduro said, down from an average of $88.42 in 2014.
Last week he said he was shaking up complex currency controls and also prepared Venezuelans for a rise in the world’s cheapest fuel prices to shore up the economy.
But details have been scarce and economists have panned lack of major structural changes. Many are pushing for an end to currency controls they pinpoint as the root of Venezuela’s economic woes.
“The bourgeoisie says the solution is that I free prices,” Maduro said on Tuesday in reference to price controls on everything from toothpaste to gasoline that have fueled lucrative smuggling.
“(They say) this will be solved if Maduro devalues to 50 (Bolivars per dollar),” he added, to a roaring chorus of “No’s” from red-clad “Chavistas” in the audience.
“The time of neo-liberal (crisis) packages is over,” he thundered back. “The revolution will find the roads to solve the problems,” he added without elaborating.