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Venezuelan opposition to pay debts to law firms, leader says

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2023-01-09T20:52:45Z

The president of Venezuela’s opposition national assembly, Dinorah Figuera, said on Monday a new committee meant to manage the country’s assets abroad will pay off debts to law firms in the United States.

Venezuela owes some $20.7 million to U.S. law firms representing it in fights against creditors. So far it has repaid close to $30 million, according to documents seen by Reuters.

“There is willingness to honor our commitments,” Figuera told journalists in an online forum, adding that the payments will be managed by the committee, whose five members will be named.

The committee is a key part of recent moves by the opposition legislature, which appointed Figuera and two vice presidents last week after disbanding the interim government of Juan Guaido.

Venezuela owes more than $60 billion to creditors and is facing demands over nationalizations conducted 15 years ago by late President Hugo Chavez and bond payments delayed since 2017.

Because of its backing abroad, the opposition is able to control assets in other countries.

The United States has so far protected Venezuela’s state-owned oil refiner Citgo Petroleum from creditors, a protection the opposition hopes the United States will extend when it expires this month.

The committee will conduct an “inventory” of cases, Figuera said.

Figuera said the legislature will also soon make changes to the boards of state companies, including oil company PDVSA.

In a statement on Monday, the U.S. Treasury Department renewed permission for U.S. citizens to engage in business with the opposition assembly and the boards it appoints.

Venezuela traditionally has only one legislature, but currently has two parallel bodies – one of government-allied lawmakers and another for the opposition.

Opposition lawmakers have declined to participate in elections since the 2018 re-election of President Nicolas Maduro, which they say is fraudulent, and have continued to operate an assembly despite the 2021 installation of a second legislature by government allies.

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