China consoles Maduro with an invitation to its space program

While it continues to deny financial aid, the Chinese government has invited Venezuela to participate in its international lunar research station project.

Venezuela will have a place in space, hand in hand with China. The Government of Nicolás Maduro stated this in a communiqué published on Saturday. According to it, the Bolivarian Republic has been invited to participate in the International Lunar Research Station ILRS project, a Chinese space development program with planned objectives to be met by 2030.

According to information from the Maduro government, Venezuela would be the first country invited to this initiative. This opens the way for Venezuela to become the first Latin American country to participate in a space-based program focused on lunar research.

Marglad Bencomo, executive director at the Bolivarian Agency for Space Activities (ABAE), visited Chinese space research institutions at the end of March, at which time this latest agreement was likely closed. According to Venezuelan media following the meeting, the Chinese international project aims to compete directly with the Artemis 2 mission.

The Venezuelan Government celebrates this as a strengthening of relations between the two countries. "The Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela reiterates the sincere brotherhood, friendship and solidarity that unites it with the Government of the People's Republic of China, with the commitment to continue deepening the strategic partnership that has brought so many benefits to our countries," concludes the communiqué which was signed in Caracas.

No financial loans

However, financial development aid from China to the Bolivarian government remains vetoed. According to the think tank specializing in Ibero-American affairs, The Dialogue, Venezuela has not received loans from China since 2016, despite being an important source of financing. Maduro has not met face-to-face with China's top leader, Xi Jinping, for five years. In 2018, Maduro made a surprise trip to Beijing to unblock economic aid, without any real success for his endeavours.

Chinese Development Finance... by Juan Pe

As of 2016, Venezuela received 44% of total Chinese financing in the South American continent, with over $67 billion being received since 2005. It is now at the bottom of the list, with Argentina receiving the largest amounts, in the midst of its brutal economic crisis.

China's economic assault on the region seems for some reason to no longer consider Venezuela. Brazil, Peru, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico and Colombia are ahead of the Bolivarian Republic in terms of the number of loans they have received from Chinese development aid entities.

Chart showing Chinese loans to Venezuela by year.
( The Dialogue )

According to The Dialogue, the reason is that the risk analysis is too high for China. Venezuela set a precedent by negotiating loan repayment terms with China. After establishing moratoriums for Venezuela, Chinese entities decided to stop lending to Venezuela. The think tank stresses, however, that development loans are for China an essential tool of diplomacy in Latin America.