Strapped for Cash Chavez Asks US$ 4 Billion from Brazil

Hugo Chavez Hugo Chavez, the president of Venezuela, whose administration is facing cash shortages as oil revenues plunge, is negotiating loans from Brazil's development bank to fund infrastructure projects, revealed the Brazilian newspaper Folha de S. Paulo.

The investment projects, which involve the participation of large Brazilian companies, would allow Chavez to stimulate economic growth without having to tap Venezuela's dwindling cash reserves, reported the São Paulo daily.

The Brazilian government owned Development bank, BNDES is the country's biggest lender to companies and has played a pivotal role in helping Brazilian multinationals withstand the global financial crunch. The bank also finances Brazilian exports and investments.

Folha cited BNDES President Luciano Coutinho saying the bank could commit US$ 4.3 billion to Venezuela. Coutinho visited Venezuela this week to negotiate the final details of the loan accord, which could be announced when Chavez visits Brazil on May 26, according to Folha.

Paulo Braga, BNDES spokesperson said Friday the loan would be mainly for infrastructure and industries and involve US$ 4.3 billion "if all projects discussed were put into practice."

Some of the loans may involve trade finance deals and two credit facilities worth a total US$ 723 million to expand the subway in the capital Caracas. Odebrecht SA, Brazil's largest construction group, is handling the expansion. Other Brazilian companies with projects in Venezuela include Braskem and builder Andrade Gutierrez.

However, a potential obstacle to the accord is a current limit on financing of exports to Venezuela, the newspaper said. The Brazilian Finance Ministry and a government council for exports might have to raise such limit for the loans to be made, pointed out Folha.

Speculation has been growing that Venezuela's oil dependent economy external and fiscal finances are quickly deteriorating. Standard & Poor said recently the government may be forced to devalue the currency, which is pegged to the dollar at a fixed rate, as falling oil prices cut revenues by at least US$ 10 billion.

Mercopress

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