SAO PAULO, BRAZIL, JULY 1 -- Brazil today widened its moratorium on foreign debt repayments by announcing it has suspended $1 billion in principal payments to the Paris Club of Western creditor nations.
The move, which a government spokesman said was not an aggressive gesture towards creditors but a means of defending Brazil's dwindling hard-currency reserves, came just a day after Finance Minister Luis Carlos Bresser Pereira addressed the congress in Brasilia to lay down conditions for ending the four-month moratorium on interest payments to private creditor banks.
The Paris Club was informed of the suspension Tuesday night. It affects $1.05 billion of principal payments due this year to agencies such as export-import banks, but the finance ministry spokesman said interest payments of $242 million would be made. The suspension did not affect multilateral lending agencies such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, he said.
The suspension follows the rejection of a Brazilian request for an extension of a provisional agreement reached in February with the Paris Club.
Delaying repayments until an agreement is reached on global renegotiations now seems to be Brazil's strategy. In the congress, Bresser Pereira laid down three conditions for ending the moratorium on interest payments on $68 billion worth of commercial debt. He said in negotiations due to start later this month Brazil would demand:
A refinancing of $4.3 billion in interest payments this year and $3 billion in 1988.
A restoration of Brazil's hard-currency reserves, reported to have declined further from the last published figure of $3.6 billion.
A reduction in spreads -- the lender's mark-up on loans beyond its own costs of funds -- with longer rollover and grace periods.
"These are the conditions for Brazil to end its moratorium. ... We must be friendly with the international creditors. There is no reason why we should gratuitously offend our creditors, and we must negotiate," Bresser Pereira told congressmen in his first detailed testimony on his economic policy since taking office in April.
Regarding Brazil's relationship with the International Monetary Fund following a two-year estrangement, Bresser Pereira repeated President Jose Sarney's recent assertion that both Brazil and the fund have changed.
He said the proof of changing attitudes from creditors would be a green light from the IMF for his economic adjustment plan. "If they can change, we too can change," he said.
An IMF technical team in the capital to examine the adjustment plans was not a mission that could restart negotiations, but was simply working an an annual report, he said. Whether or not to return to fund monitoring was "a decision that must be taken in a mature manner," he said.