China says report of talks with Venezuela opposition 'fake news'

General view of opposition supporters taking part in a rally to commemorate the Day of the Youth and to protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government in Caracas, Venezuela February 12, 2019. — Reuters pic
General view of opposition supporters taking part in a rally to commemorate the Day of the Youth and to protest against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government in Caracas, Venezuela February 12, 2019. — Reuters pic

BEIJING, Feb 13 — China said today a newspaper report that Chinese diplomats had held talks with Venezuela’s political opposition to protect its investments in the Latin American country was “fake news”.

The Wall Street Journal said the diplomats, concerned about oil projects in Venezuela and almost US$20 billion (RM81.4 billion) that Caracas owes Beijing, had held talks in Washington with representatives of Juan Guaido, the opposition leader heading US-backed efforts to oust President Nicolas Maduro.

“In fact the report is false. It’s fake news,” Hua Chunying, spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, told reporters when asked about the article.

Guaido invoked a constitutional provision to assume the presidency three weeks ago, arguing that Maduro’s re-election last year was a sham.

Most Western countries, including the United States, have recognised Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate head of state, but Maduro retains the backing of Russia and China as well as control of state institutions including the military.

Venezuela’s “affairs” should be resolved via dialogue, Hua added, reiterating China’s previous stance.

China has lent more than US$50 billion to Venezuela through oil-for-loan agreements over the past decade, securing energy supplies for its fast-growing economy.

A change in government in Venezuela would favour the country’s two main foreign creditors, Russia and China, Guaido told Reuters in an interview last month. — Reuters