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Panama Seeks $1 Billion From Venezuela Over Trade Zone

Panama’s President Ricardo Martinelli called on Venezuela to pay its debt to his country as Latin America’s biggest oil exporter struggles to contain four weeks of unrest.

Venezuelan companies have failed pay the Central American nation for use of a free-trade zone following partial devaluations of Venezuela’s bolivar. Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on March 5 broke off diplomatic and commercial relations with Panama, accusing Martinelli of stoking foreign intervention. Maduro today said Panama charged a 20 percent markup on Venezuelan companies, in comments on state television

“Venezuela is very wealthy and they owe Panama more than $1 billion, the state must pay,” Martinelli said today in comments broadcast on Telemetro television. “Panama is only searching for peace with Venezuela.”

The countries are not major trading partners, though companies such as Copa Holdings SA continue business with Venezuela. Shares of Panama-based carrier fell 10.4 percent yesterday, the most in 13 months, to $124.50, before rebounding 1.3 percent today.

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