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Panama urges Venezuela to pay debt despite rupture

March 8, 2014

PANAMA CITY (AP) — Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli has called on Venezuela not to use its decision to break ties with his country as an excuse not to pay back a debt that tops $1 billion.

Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro announced earlier this week that he was breaking diplomatic relations with Panama over its push for Organization of American States-sponsored mediation in the South American country’s crisis. Maduro considers the OAS biased in favor of Washington.

Foreign Minister Elias Jaua said Venezuela had also suspended debt negotiations over $1 billion owed to Panamanian exporters.

On Friday, Martinelli urged Venezuela not to use the rupture “as an excuse not to pay.”

“Venezuela is, it appears, practically bankrupt and this shouldn’t be because it is a rich country,” he said.

Venezuelans fed up with food shortages and violence have been staging street protests since mid-February.

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