February 13, 2019 / 8:14 AM / in 3 months

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

BEIJING, Feb 13 (Reuters) - China said on Wednesday 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 $20 billion that Caracas owes Beijing, had held talks in Washington with representatives of Juan Guaido, the opposition leader heading U.S.-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 $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. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard Writing by Ryan Woo; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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