Goldman Sachs admits it bought Venezuelan bonds

Goldman Sachs admitted it bought Venezuelan bonds after getting accused by the country’s opposition of trying to “make a quick buck off the suffering of the Venezuelan people.”

The president of Venezuela’s opposition-led Congress blasted Goldman for financing “dictatorship” under President Nicholas Maduro after Goldman bought $2.8 billion in bonds issued by state oil company PDVSA at a steep discount.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Goldman last week paid about 31 cents on the dollar for the bonds. Julio Borges, the leader of Venezuela’s National Assembly, threatened that a later government may refuse to pay them.

“It is apparent Goldman Sachs decided to make a quick buck off the suffering of the Venezuelan people,” Julio Borges, the leader of the opposition-controlled congress, said in a letter dated on Monday letter to Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein.

Borges charged in the letter that Goldman’s deal offered a “financial lifeline” to President Nicolas Maduro’s regime, which has been violently clamping down on protesters amid a lack of food, basic living necessities and law and order. Borges said the National Assembly will launch an investigation into the matter.

“We bought these bonds, which were issued in 2014, on the secondary market from a broker and did not interact with the Venezuelan government,” Goldman wrote in a statement late on Monday.

“We recognize that the situation is complex and evolving and that Venezuela is in crisis. We agree that life there has to get better, and we made the investment in part because we believe it will.”

Goldman didn’t comment on how much it paid for the bonds. According to the Journal’s report, its asset-management division last week shelled out $865 million for the $2.8 billion in bonds maturing in 2022, implying a price of 31 cents on the dollar and an annual yield of more than 40 percent.

With Venezuela’s inefficient state-led economic model struggling under lower oil prices, Maduro’s unpopular government has become ever more dependent on financial deals or asset sales to bring in coveted foreign exchange.

Maduro’s critics have for two months been staging street protests, which have left nearly 60 people dead, to demand that he hold early elections. Maduro says the protests are a violent effort to overthrow his government, and insists the country is victim of an “economic war” supported by Washington.

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