Venezuela’s Foreign Minister admits his country owes a total of $700 million to Colombian exporters. This is $100 million more than Caracas admitted in January.
“Following intense labor we have certified the pending payments. The existing accumulated debt is $700 million of which $365 has been paid,” Minister Nicolas Maduro said in a press conference.
The statement contradicts statements made by a high government official in January, who said that after a revision to filter “simulated imports,” “over-billing and other perversions in order to obtain [foreign] currency,” the Venezuelan government concluded that importers owed $600 million to Colombian businesses.
According to Manuel Barroso, head of the Venezuelan Currency Administration Commission (Cadivi), the Venezuelan government “by the end of 2010 authorized” the payment of “about $500 million” of the debts.
The foreign minister said that the Venezuelan authorities are still busy certifying part of the debt and promised that as soon as this process is completed, the money will be paid “immediately.”
However, when asked when that will be, Maduro answered that “all depends on how private companies work … The speed of the definite payments depends on the speed of these businesses.”
In Colombia, there is skepticism about Venezuela’s will to fully pay the debt. “Santos has said that Chavez is fulfilling promises, but is still failing to pay the debt to Colombian businesses. And if he hasn’t paid, is because Chavez hasn’t wanted to,” Conservative Party president Jose Dario Salazar told W Radio.
The debt was incurred when — following clashes with Colombia’s then-President Alvaro Uribe — Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez froze trade with Colombia in July 2010 and Venezuelan importers stopped paying outstanding debts to Colombian exporters.
After Colombia’s current President Juan Manuel Santos and Chavez took the first steps to normalize relations, Venezuela began revising and paying these debts.