Venezuela’s Maduro heads to China for crucial visit

CARACAS – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro Moros will pay a state visit to China from Sept. 13 to 16 at the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The Socialist leader said before boarding a plane Wednesday that his agenda includes advancing commercial, energy and financial deals with China, whose economic backing has been crucial to his government.

The Asian giant is one of Venezuela’s biggest creditors, providing it loans, cash and investment in the last decade totaling more than $65 billion.

More than 2.3 million Venezuelans have fled the country’s hyperinflation and severe shortages.

Maduro has just launched a raft of sweeping economic reforms at home aimed at turning around the plummeting economy, with inflation expected to hit 1 million percent this year. The revamp includes a new currency, boosting the minimum wage more than 3,000 percent and raising taxes.

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The 56-year-old has served as president of the National Assembly, minister of foreign affairs and Venezuela’s vice president.

He assumed office as acting president on March 5, 2013, and was formally inaugurated as president of Venezuela on April 19. He was reelected for a second six-year term in the presidential elections on May 20, 2018.

This is Maduro’s fourth visit to China.