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Goldman Sachs’ Purchase of Venezuelan “Hunger Bonds” Incites Protests

First Posted: May 31, 2017 04:16 AM EDT
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Protesters gathered in front of Goldman Sachs Inc.'s headquarters in Manhattan to express their anger towards the purchase of Venezuelan government bonds, which will provide more money to the socialist government of Nicolas Maduro as the country continues to suffer a spiraling humanitarian crisis.

Goldman's purchase of securities, also known as "Hunger Bonds" because of the country's extreme poverty, were for $2.8 billion in bonds from the state-run oil company PDVSA for only $865 million. That is roughly 31 cents on the dollar, reports the Wall Street Journal.

Nearly 30 protesters, including Esther Beke - a visiting instructor at Pratt Institute - stood outside of Goldman Sachs with signs that showcased their displeasure with the bank and President Maduro, Tuesday.

Beke's mother, who died from cancer last year, could not get the chemo therapy treatments she needed to fight her illness because of the severe medical shortages in Venezuela.

"You know when a company like Goldman Sachs provides money, it's not going to be for that, it's going to be to buy bullets, to buy tear gas and to keep killing people," Beke told CNN. "This idea that there isn't any medicine for anybody, it's heartbreaking."

"We express our moral outrage about the rapacity of this transaction between Goldman Sachs and the Central Bank of Venezuela..." said Eduardo Lugo, a protester to the Associated Press. "It has given support to repression and systematic violations of human rights."

Venezuelan political leaders were also furious with Goldman's purchase. Julio Borges, president of the opposition-led Congress, wrote in an open letter to Goldman's CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, that he was "outraged" the bank was financially helping the Maduro administration.

"It is apparent Goldman Sachs decided to make a quick buck off the suffering of the Venezuelan people," Borges said.

Even though Goldman did not respond to Borges's open letter, they did admit purchasing the bonds in 2014 in a secondary market and not directly from the Venezuelan government.

"We are invested in PDVSA bonds because, like many in the asset management industry, we believe the situation in the country must improve over time," the statement said.

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