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Venezuela opposition pledges equal treatment for creditors in possible restructuring

Venezuelan bolivar notes are pictured in an open cash register at a parking lot in Caracas, Venezuela May 29, 2018. REUTERS/Marco Bello

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido’s economic advisors have proposed treating most creditors equally in a possible debt restructuring should the coalition oust President Nicolas Maduro from power, according to a document published on Wednesday.

The South American country has debts worth around $200 billion to a diverse group of bondholders, commercial suppliers to state-owned firms with unpaid accounts receivable, and companies whose Venezuelan assets were expropriated.

It is currently experiencing its worst economic crisis in history, marked by hyperinflation as well as chronic food and medicine shortages. The government has defaulted on most of its debt, but creditors are reluctant to negotiate a restructuring due to U.S. sanctions intended to force Maduro from power.

The promise of “equal treatment” is intended to discourage creditors from filing lawsuits against Venezuela or state-owned oil company PDVSA in U.S. courts in order to accelerate payment, according to the document written by Guaido’s lawyers released by the opposition-controlled National Assembly.

“We will not give any preferential treatment in the renegotiation to those claims that have been the object of a judicial decision,” the document reads. “As a result, the authorities request all parties to abstain from initiating judicial actions.”

The move comes more than five months after Guaido, a lawmaker who leads the Assembly, invoked Venezuela’s constitution to assume an interim presidency, arguing Maduro’s May 2018 re-election was illegitimate. He has been recognized by dozens of countries, including the United States.

Nevertheless, Maduro retains control of state functions and the backing of key allies including Russia and China. He calls Guaido a U.S.-backed puppet seeking to oust his socialist government in a coup.

There would be several exceptions to the opposition’s promise of equal treatment, according to the document. They would include bilateral loans from Russia and China, debt deals subject to corruption investigations, and debt subject to disputes in international arbitration tribunals.

Reporting by Corina Pons and Mayela Armas; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Sandra Maler