BRASILIA, JUNE 3 -- Brazil plans to propose a partial lifting of the foreign debt payment moratorium it declared in February, paying half of the interest it owes to private creditors and refinancing the rest, according to Finance Minister Luiz Carlos Bresser Pereira.
Bresser Pereira told reporters late Tuesday that in about 20 days he would present to the country's private bank creditors a plan allowing for half payment of interest on about $68 billion in medium- and long-term foreign bank debt.
The plan apparently involves the swapping of some of the debt for equity in Brazilian enterprises, which many banks have touted as a means of easing Brazil's debt load while removing shaky loans from the banks' portfolios.
"If our creditors accept our proposal, we will have the conditions to lift the moratorium and easily find new formulas to transform part of the debt into investments in the country," Bresser Pereira said.
Brazil suspended interest payments on the bank debt Feb. 20, claiming its shrinking foreign trade surplus made it unable to continue meeting payments without severely depleting reserves.
Brazil has a total foreign debt of about $111 billion, making it the Third World's biggest debtor.
The action had a severe impact on Brazil's U.S. bank creditors, most of which declared their Brazilian loans to be nonperforming and had to trim hundreds of millions in dollars from their earnings as a result.
In the past several weeks, Citicorp and other major U.S. banks added billions of dollars to their reserves for covering potentially bad loans, largely because of Brazil's payment suspension.
Although Brazil and the banks have stated they expected debt payments eventually to resume, the banks said the uncertainty that Brazil's unilateral action injected into the Third World debt situation prompted them to take the step.
A finance ministry official who asked not to be identified said Brazil would continue meeting 100 percent of payments on debt with foreign government lenders.