Ratings agency Standard & Poor's says Venezuela has defaulted on its debt after it failed to make payments due on some of its bonds.
Venezuela's total external debt, which also includes loans from countries like Russian Federation and China, is thought to be as much as $140bn.
The Venezuelan government said Monday that the country has successfully begun the process of refinancing its foreign debt during a meeting earlier in the day in Caracas with bondholders from various countries.
S&P said there was "a one-in-two chance that Venezuela could default again within the next three months".
Separately, the Luxembourg Stock Exchange said it was halting trading of Venezuela's 2019 and 2024 bonds due to an "event of default".
Instead, the head of the Venezuelan commission, Vice-President Tareck El Aissami, read a statement blaming sanctions imposed by the United States for Venezuela's difficulties in making the payments.
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American investors can't participate in a restructuring anway, as sanctions prohibit them from receiving new bonds that Venezuela would issue.
The agency said it acted after a 30-day grace period had passed on payments on two bonds. And many creditors also can't negotiate with El Aissami: He, too, is sanctioned by the US Treasury, which accuses him of drug trafficking.
A committee of 15 financial firms met in NY "to discuss whether a Failure to Pay Credit Event had occurred" with respect to PDVSA, but ended up postponing a decision until Tuesday.
But Maduro remains defiant, insisting on Sunday that his country would "never" default and pointing to ongoing negotiations with China and Russian Federation.
A default can be declared either by the major ratings agencies, big debt-holders or by the government itself.
Under the sanctions, no U.S. citizen can do business with Venezuelan individuals on the list.
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