CARACAS May 26 Venezuela said on Monday it had
payed debts owed to six international airlines, as the Socialist
government seeks to avoid more carriers leaving the country due
to outstanding payments.
The debt comes from the government requiring airlines to
sell tickets in local bolivar currency but Venezuela has been
slow to allow them to repatriate the earnings. Compounding the
problem is the country's raging inflation, one of the world's
highest at around 60 percent per year.
Venezuela owes airlines some $4 billion, according to a
International Air Transport Association estimate earlier this
The government paid all the 2013 payments owed to
AeroMexico, Insel Air, Tame Ecuador and Aruba Airlines, Finance
Minister Rodolfo Marco announced on Twitter.
President Nicolas Maduro's administration has also squared
away its 2012 debts with Colombia's Avianca and
Lacsa-Taca, Torres added.
"Efficiency!" Marco said in a Tweet, without specifying how
much the debts amounted to. "We continue to support airlines!"
he added in a flurry of tweets with pictures of him meeting with
Air Canada recently cut flights to Venezuela
because of security concerns. Alitalia suspended services due to
delays in repatriating revenue under currency controls and a
clutch of other airlines have reduced the frequency of flights.
About 20 other airlines are still awaiting payment.
Maduro has promised to pay the debts back in full, but has
also threatened to kick out any airlines that suspend service
over the payment disputes and has blamed the World Cup for the
halt of certain flights.
The issue has added to the economic problems facing the
country, including shortages of basic goods and raging
inflation. Those factors have fueled a wave of street protests
against the government since February.
Venezuelans wishing to fly abroad are finding it
increasingly hard to purchase tickets due to reduced numbers on
sale and sky-rocketing prices. Some sit up late at night to try
and book tickets online as soon as they become available.
Starting in July, the government will fix air ticket prices
at around 4.5 times more expensive than the current official
rate of roughly 11 bolivars per dollar, the Venezuelan Airlines
Association, or ALAV, said on Monday.
(Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer and Diego Ore; Editing by Lisa