TCRLA_Public/190823.mbx        T R O U B L E D   C O M P A N Y   R E P O R T E R

                 L A T I N   A M E R I C A

          Friday, August 23, 2019, Vol. 20, No. 169

                           Headlines



A R G E N T I N A

AES ARGENTINA: Fitch Downgrades LT Issuer Default Rating to CCC
ARGENTINA: Bonds May Be Worth Less Than 40 Cents in a Default


C A Y M A N   I S L A N D S

CAYMAN ISLANDS: Gov't. to Meet Bond Payment of US$312MM Due Nov. 24


D O M I N I C A N   R E P U B L I C

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: Tax Reform Coming Sooner or Later, Says DGII


E C U A D O R

ECUADOR: Fitch Affirms B- LT IDR; Alters Outlook to Stable


J A M A I C A

JAMAICA MERCHANT: Fitch Affirms Series 2016-1 Notes Rating at BB+


M E X I C O

MAXCOM TELECOMUNICACIONES: S&P Cuts ICR to 'D', Off Watch Neg.
MEXICO: Tomato Growers Reach Agreement to End U.S. Duties


P U E R T O   R I C O

SEARS HOLDINGS: ESL Objects to Confirmation of Plan


S U R I N A M E

SURINAME: Fitch Affirms B- LT IDR; Alters Outlook to Negative


V E N E Z U E L A

VENEZUELA: Hold Secret Talks With U.S.

                           - - - - -


=================
A R G E N T I N A
=================

AES ARGENTINA: Fitch Downgrades LT Issuer Default Rating to CCC
---------------------------------------------------------------
Fitch Ratings has downgraded the Foreign and Local Currency Issuer
Default Ratings of 16 corporate issuers as a result of Fitch's
recent downgrade of Argentina's sovereign rating to 'CCC' and
country ceiling to 'B-'.

  -- AES Argentina Generacion S.A.

  -- Albanesi S.A. (Central Termica Roca S.A., Generacion
Mediterranea S.A.)

  -- Agua y Saneamientos Argentinos S.A.

  -- Arcor S.A.I.C.

  -- Capex S.A.

  -- CLISA - Compania Latinoamericana de Infraestructura y
Servicios

  -- Compania General de Combustibles S.A.

  -- Genneia S.A.

  -- IRSA Inversiones y Representaciones S.A.

  -- IRSA Propiedades Comerciales S.A.

  -- Mastellone Hermanos Sociedad Anonima

  -- Pampa Energia S.A.

  -- Rio Energy, UGEN, UENSA (MSU Energy)

  -- Petroquimica Comodoro Rivadavia S.A.

  -- Telecom Argentina S.A.

  -- YPF S.A.

The downgrade of Argentina's sovereign rating reflects elevated
policy uncertainty following the August 11 primary elections, a
severe tightening of financing conditions, and an expected
deterioration in the macroeconomic environment, which increases the
likelihood of a sovereign default or debt restructuring. The
primary election results point to heightened risks of policy
discontinuity following the October 2019 general elections. This
has prompted a collapse in market sentiment, including a sharp
depreciation in the peso and widening of sovereign debt spreads,
which poses a major setback to macroeconomic stabilization efforts
and sovereign financing conditions.

Fitch expects the developments to have an adverse effect on
corporate issuers, especially those exposed to the government as an
off-taker, challenging corporates' liquidity positions and
discouraging investments in expansion projects.

Fitch has assigned a Negative Outlook for all the Argentine
corporate issuers reviewed, given the short-term uncertainty of the
operating environment. Uncertainties include the volatility of the
Argentine peso, ambiguity of future federal government policies
that inhibit the ability to pass through operating costs for
companies, particularly in the energy sector, and the near-term
expectation that the fiscal challenges of the Argentine government
could result in further policy adjustments in the electricity
market.

KEY RATING DRIVERS

Exposure to the Sovereign: Argentine utilities, AES Argentina, Agua
y Saneamientos Argentinos, Albanesi, Genneia, Rio Energy, UGEN,
UENSA and waste management and construction entity CLISA, have been
downgraded to 'CCC' in line with the sovereign, as each issuer's
revenues are highly exposed to the government. Argentine
electricity utilities are exposed to CAMMESA, which acts as an
agent on behalf of an association representing agents of
electricity generators, transmission, distribution and large
consumers or the wholesale market participants (Mercado Mayorista
Electrico; MEM).

CAMMESA is highly reliant on financial support by the Argentine
government in the form of subsidies that account for a large
portion of the electricity system's revenues, and correspondingly,
a significant portion of Argentina's fiscal deficit. Thus, Fitch
aligns these issuers' ratings with their counterparty risk,
CAMMESA/Argentina 'CCC.' These ratings are constrained by the
macro-economic environment, including high inflation and steep
currency devaluation, which increases uncertainty regarding the
regulatory environment.

Agua y Saneamientos Argentinos' rating is in line with the
sovereign given its strong dependence on the government and cash
injections to support its operations. CLISA's ratings reflect its
exposure to Argentina's business climate and volatile economic
conditions. CLISA's Long-Term IDR mirrors the company's
counterparty risk, which closely resembles that of the Argentine
government, as more than 65% of the company's cash flow generation,
measured as EBITDA, is concentrated in the public sector. The waste
management business, where the counterparties are various
municipalities and provinces, accounts for the majority of this
figure.

Weaker Operating Environment: Capex, Compania General de
Combustibles S.A., Mastellone Hermanos Sociedad Anomina (Hermanos),
Petroquimica Comodoro Rivadavia S.A (PCR) and Pampa Energia's
ratings have been downgraded to 'B-' in line with the revised
country ceiling. The Rating Outlook is Negative. These issuers
operate in a strategic sector for the country and are exposed to
government intervention, such as Decree (566/19), announced on Aug.
16, 2019. The decree caps oil prices at $59bbl at an exchange rate
of P$45.19 per USD, and gasoline and diesel prices for refiners.

Capex, Pampa Energia and PCR are integrated upstream and utilities
companies with modest crude exports. Fitch estimates that both
Capex's and Pampa Energia's cash balances abroad and 50% of EBITDA
generated from crude exports cover the next twelve months of debt
service by more than 1.0x. This could therefore offset the inherent
risk of their power generation businesses and exposure to CAMMESA.
PCR has operations in Colombia and Ecuador (B-), where the sum of
cash flows from both operations adequately cover hard currency
gross interest expense for the next 12 months. Therefore, the
applicable country ceiling of Ecuador applies.

Mastellone is the largest dairy company and the leading processor
of dairy products in Argentina. The company is first in the fluid
milk market by physical volume with a market share of approximately
66%. Export and foreign sales (Brazil and Paraguay) represent about
11% of revenues. As of June 30, 2019, the company had no short-term
debt, with cash and cash equivalents of USD12 million. Most of the
cash balance is held in Argentina. Mastellone's debt is entirely
comprised of the USD200M bond due in July 2021. Arcor owns about
43% of Mastellone.

Foreign Currency IDR Capped by Country Ceiling: The Foreign
Currency IDRs of IRSA Inversiones y Representaciones S.A., IRSA
Propiedades Commercials' (IRSA) and Telecom Argentina are
constrained by Argentina's 'B-' Country Ceiling. Fitch believes
that a default would most likely be driven by transfer and
convertibility restrictions, not by a material deterioration of the
company's business or financial profile. In cases where there is a
two-notch gap between the Foreign and Local Currency IDRs, Fitch's
"Country-Specific Treatment of Recovery Ratings" criteria allows
for Recovery Ratings to be notched above the Argentine soft cap of
'RR4'; therefore, Fitch has assigned a recovery rating of 'RR3' to
both IRSA entities and and Telecom Argentina's outstanding
international bonds. Arcor's Foreign Currency IDR is rated at 'B'
or one-notch above the country ceiling of 'B-' as cash abroad, cash
generated by exports and cash flow from foreign operations exceed
1.5x for 12 months of hard currency debt repayment.

Links to Sovereign: YPF's ratings reflect the close linkage with
the Republic of Argentina resulting from the company's ownership
structure as well as recent government interventions. Argentina
controls the company through its 51% participation, presence of
provincial government officials on the board of directors and
different regulations. In addition, the repuclic can sometimes
govern the company's strategy and business decisions.

The Argentine government has a history of significant interference
in the oil and gas sector. Via Decree No. 1277, the government set
regulations related to investment levels in the oil and gas sector
and domestic price reference points, and most recently with decree
566/19, which is estimated to have a negative impact on cash flows
of USD120 million per month that the rule is in effect. YPF is a
leading energy company in Argentina, but government policies
continue to present challenges for the company, inhibiting its
business strategy.

KEY ASSUMPTIONS

Fitch's Key Assumptions Within Its Rating Case for Argentina

  -- Fitch expects growth of the global economy, and that of key
trading partner Brazil.

RATING SENSITIVITIES

Developments That May, Individually or Collectively, Lead to
Positive Rating Action for Argentina

  -- Easing of financing constraints, such as a marked improvement
in market borrowing conditions, that supports the sovereign's
ability to meet its financing needs;

  -- Economic recovery and progress on fiscal consolidation that
mitigate risks to debt sustainability.

Developments That May, Individually or Collectively, Lead to
Negative Rating Action for Argentina

  -- Increased signs of probable default; signals that further
financial support from the IMF would entail some form of
restructuring of debt owed to commercial creditors.

FULL LIST OF RATING ACTIONS

Fitch downgrades or affirms the following ratings:

AES Argentina Generacion S.A.

  -- Long-term Foreign Currency and Local Currency IDR to 'CCC'
from 'B';

  -- Long-term senior unsecured notes to 'CCC'/'RR4' from
'B'/'RR4'.

Agua y Saneamientos Argentinos, S.A.

  -- Long-term Foreign Currency and Local Currency IDR to 'CCC'
from 'B';

  -- Long-term senior unsecured notes to 'CCC'/'RR4' from
'B'/'RR4'.

Albanesi S.A.

  -- Long-term Foreign Currency and Local Currency IDR to 'CCC'
from 'B-';

  -- Central Termica Roca S.A./ Generacion Mediterranea S.A. senior
unsecured notes to 'CCC/RR4' from 'B-'/'RR4'.

Arcor S.A.I.C

  -- Long-term Foreign Currency IDR to 'B' from 'B+'; Outlook
Negative;

  -- Long-term Local Currency IDR to 'B+' from 'BB-'; Outlook
Negative;

  -- International senior unsecured bonds to 'B'/'RR4' from
'B+'/'RR4'.

Capex S.A.

  -- Long-term Foreign Currency and Local Currency IDR to 'B-' from
'B'; Outlook Negative;

  -- Long-term senior unsecured notes to 'B-'/'RR4' from
'B'/'RR4'.

CLISA - Compania Latinoamericana de Infraestructura y Servicios

  -- Long-term Foreign Currency and Local Currency IDR to 'CCC'
from 'B';

  -- Long-term senior unsecured notes to 'CCC'/'RR4' from
'B'/'RR4'.

Compania General de Combustibles, S.A

  -- Long-term Foreign Currency and Local Currency IDR to 'B-' from
'B'; Outlook Negative;

  -- Long-term senior unsecured notes to 'B-'/'RR4' from
'B'/'RR4'.

Genneia, S.A

  -- Long-term Foreign Currency and Local Currency IDR to 'CCC'
from 'B';

  -- Long-term senior unsecured notes to 'CCC'/'RR4' from
'B'/'RR4'.

IRSA Propiedades Comerciales, S.A

  -- Long-term Foreign Currency IDR to 'B-' from 'B'; Outlook
Negative;

  -- Long-term Local Currency IDR to 'B+' from 'BB-'; Outlook
Negative;

  -- Long Term senior unsecured notes to 'B'/'RR3' from
'B+'/'RR3'.

Inversiones y Representaciones S.A.

  -- Long-term Foreign Currency IDR to 'B-' from 'B'; Outlook
Negative;

  -- Long-term Local Currency IDR to 'B+' from 'BB-'; Outlook
Negative;

  -- Long Term senior unsecured notes to 'B'/'RR3' from
'B+'/'RR3'.

Mastellone Hermanos Sociedad Anonima

  -- Long-term Foreign Currency IDR to 'B-' from 'B'; Outlook
Negative;

  -- Long-term Local Currency IDR affirmed at 'B'; Outlook
Negative;

  -- Long-term senior unsecured notes to 'B-'/'RR4' from
'B'/'RR4'.

Pampa Energia, S.A.

  -- Long-term Foreign Currency and Local Currency IDR to 'B-' from
'B'; Outlook Negative;

  -- Long-term senior unsecured notes to 'B-'/'RR4' from
'B'/'RR4'.

Petroquimica Comodoro Rivadavia S.A
--Long-term Foreign and Local Currency IDR to 'B-' from 'B';
Outlook Negative;

Rio Energy, UGEN, UENSA (MSU Energy)

  -- Long-term Foreign Currency and Local Currency IDR to 'CCC'
from 'B-';

  -- Long-Term senior secured notes to 'CCC'/'RR4' from
'B-'/'RR4'.

Telecom Argentina S.A

  -- Long-term Foreign Currency IDR to 'B-' from 'B'; Outlook
Negative;

  -- Long-term Local Currency IDR affirmed at 'BB-'; Outlook
Negative;

  -- Long-Term senior unsecured notes to 'B'/'RR3' from
'B+'/'RR3'.

YPF S.A:

  -- Long-term Foreign and Local Currency IDR to 'CCC' from 'B';

  -- Long-term senior unsecured notes to 'CCC'/'RR4' from
'B'/'RR4'.

Pan American Energy, S.L, Argentine Branch and Arcos Dorados
Holdings Inc. were excluded from this review as the companies have
operations and cash flows outside of Argentina that offset
Argentine operations and support debt service coverage.

ARGENTINA: Bonds May Be Worth Less Than 40 Cents in a Default
-------------------------------------------------------------
Aline Oyamada and Sydney Maki at Bloomberg News report that less
than two years after Argentina made a splash in markets by selling
a $2.75 billion, 100-year bond, another debt restructuring is a
real possibility after President Mauricio Macri was routed in a
primary election.

Money managers and analysts from firms including Citigroup Inc. and
Bank of America Corp. say investors are likely to recoup less than
40 cents on the dollar on its notes if Argentina reneges on its
debt for the third time in two decades, according to Bloomberg
News.

As reported in the Troubled Company Reporter-Latin America on Aug.
20, 2019, Fitch Ratings has downgraded the sovereign ratings of
Argentina, including its Long-Term Foreign-Currency Issuer Default
Rating to 'CCC' from 'B'. The downgrade reflects elevated policy
uncertainty following the Aug. 11 primary elections, a severe
tightening of financing conditions, and an expected deterioration
in the macroeconomic environment that increase the likelihood of a
sovereign default or restructuring of some kind.

On Aug. 16, 2019, S&P Global Ratings lowered its long-term foreign
and local currency sovereign credit ratings on Argentina to 'B-'
from 'B'. The outlook is negative. S&P said, "We also affirmed our
'B' short-term foreign and local currency sovereign credit
ratings. At the same time, we placed our 'raAA-' national scale
rating on
Argentina on CreditWatch with negative implications and lowered our
transfer and convertibility assessment to 'B' from 'B+'."

On July 16, 2019, Moody's Investors Service changed the outlook for
the Government of Argentina to negative from stable. Concurrently,
Moody's has affirmed the B2 foreign-currency and local-currency
long-term issuer and senior unsecured ratings. The senior unsecured
ratings for shelf registrations were also affirmed at (P)B2. At the
same time Argentina's short-term rating was affirmed at Not Prime
(NP). The senior unsecured ratings for unrestructured debt were
affirmed at Ca and the unrestructured senior unsecured shelf
affirmed at (P)Ca.

Back in July 2014, Argentina defaulted on some of its debt, after
expiration of a 30-day grace period on a US$539 million interest
payment.  Earlier that day, talks with a court-appointed mediator
ended without resolving a standoff between the country and a group
of hedge funds seeking full payment on bonds that the country had
defaulted on in 2001. A U.S. judge had ruled that the interest
payment couldn't be made unless the hedge funds led by Elliott
Management Corp., got the US$1.5 billion they claimed. The country
hasn't been able to access international credit markets since its
US$95 billion default 13 years ago. On March 30, 2016, Argentina's
Congress passed a bill that will allow the government to repay
holders of debt that the South American country defaulted on in
2001, including a group of litigating hedge funds that won
judgments in a New York court. The bill passed by a vote of 54-16.



===========================
C A Y M A N   I S L A N D S
===========================

CAYMAN ISLANDS: Gov't. to Meet Bond Payment of US$312MM Due Nov. 24
-------------------------------------------------------------------
RJR News reports that the Cayman Islands Government has confirmed
that it will meet the bond payment of US$312 million that is due to
be repaid on November 24 this year.

The Cayman government says it may not need to borrow as much as
previously anticipated to pay off that bond and still maintain its
cash flow obligations, according to RJR News.

With its finances looking robust, the government has been cutting
debt and is now looking at cutting the new loan it expected to take
out to repay the bond, the report notes.



===================================
D O M I N I C A N   R E P U B L I C
===================================

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: Tax Reform Coming Sooner or Later, Says DGII
----------------------------------------------------------------
Dominican Today reports that for Internal Taxes (DGII) director
Magin Diaz, there is no time to undertake a reform or a fiscal pact
in this governmental period, when there is one year left to the
current authorities, but the business sector does understand that
it will have to take that path sooner or later.

"Not in this period of government, the Minister of Finance has been
very clear that there will no longer be a pact or a reform. That
will be the topic for the next authorities," the official said,
according to Dominican Today.

He warned that the tax system does not resist the postponement of a
profound reform that updates the Tax Code, in effect more than 25
years ago, which he described as "very lagging" in relation to
today's economy and society, the report notes.  "This is a task
that must be assumed under consensus, with determination, spirit of
equality and without political populism or corporate populism," the
report quoted Mr. Diaz as saying.

Standard & Poor's credit rating for Dominican Republic stands at
BB- with stable outlook (2015). Moody's credit rating for Dominican
Republic was last set at Ba3 with stable outlook (2017). Fitch's
credit rating for Dominican Republic was last reported at BB- with
stable outlook (2016).



=============
E C U A D O R
=============

ECUADOR: Fitch Affirms B- LT IDR; Alters Outlook to Stable
----------------------------------------------------------
Fitch Ratings has affirmed Ecuador's Long-Term Foreign-Currency
Issuer Default Rating at 'B-' and revised the Rating Outlook to
Stable from Negative.

KEY RATING DRIVERS

The stabilization of Ecuador's Outlook reflects developments that
have helped mitigate near-term sovereign financing risks. An IMF
program signed in February has eased financing constraints both by
expanding financing sources and facilitating a successful liability
management operation in June to reduce external market debt
maturities in 2020, and has also provided an anchor for fiscal
consolidation and structural reforms.

Ecuador's 'B-' rating captures financing risks that could re-emerge
should policy slippage or other shocks either increase funding
needs or undermine financing access. The ratings are further
constrained by high commodity dependence and weak economic growth
and future prospects. The ratings are supported by macroeconomic
stability in the context of dollarization, and a public debt burden
that remains moderate relative to peers despite recent increases
and that lacks exchange rate mismatches. Per-capita income and
social indicators are high, but offer limited uplift to the credit
profile as evidenced by a weak debt repayment record.

The Extended Fund Facility (EFF) with the IMF launched in February
offers USD4.2 billion in financial support over the next three
years, in addition to USD6 billion in pledged funds from other
multilateral banks. The EFF entails a large fiscal adjustment,
build-up in central bank (BCE) reserves to fortify the
dollarization regime, and competitiveness-enhancing reforms.

The EFF remains on track after a successful first review in June,
but upcoming reviews will become harder in terms of quantitative
targets and legislative progress required. President Lenin Moreno's
Alianza PAIS party has entered into a pact with the opposition to
advance key measures, including tax and labor reforms required by
the EFF, but the legislative environment and social backdrop are
proving difficult. Key voices among the government, its allies and
opposition have sent mixed signals regarding reform strategy and
content, specifically regarding the tax bill. Strong executive
powers in Ecuador's political system and the incentives provided by
the EFF could keep the policy agenda on track, but risks of delays
or dilution persist.

The EFF requires a 5pp-of-GDP fiscal adjustment in 2019-2021, and
sets this target on the 'non-oil primary non-financial public
sector (NFPS) balance including subsidies' to offer flexibility to
uncertain oil prices and production. Fiscal consolidation has been
slow so far. The reduction in the NFPS deficit to 1.2% of GDP in
2018 from 4.5% in 2017 largely reflected a one-off receipts from a
tax amnesty and a rebound in oil prices, and large capex cuts were
offset by higher current spending. The deficit has risen again so
far in 2019 through May. Fitch expects the NFPS deficit to fall to
0.9% of GDP this year, more slowly than projected in the EFF, on
energy subsidy cuts and greater restraint in other current spending
in second-half 2019 and assuming concession of a hydroelectric
plant (Solpadora) materialises by yearend, although delays to this
remain a key downside risk.

The fiscal outlook in 2020 and beyond hinges crucially on the
success of a tax reform the EFF expects to yield 1.5%-2.0% of GDP.
The content of the bill remains uncertain ahead of a deadline for
submission to congress in October. Some key lawmakers have
expressed explicit opposition to raising the VAT rate from its
current 12%, but options appear limited for an alternative package
that is both politically viable and consistent with revenue goals.
Fitch expects the incentives provided by the EFF to facilitate
passage of a tax reform, but that political challenges will result
in dilution. Scope to rely on capital spending cuts to offset any
disappointment on other consolidation measures has narrowed.

Under Fitch's baseline fiscal assumptions, Ecuador has a USD1
billion financing gap to fill in the rest of 2019 and USD2 billion
in 2020, which has been meaningfully reduced by a liability
management operation in June that refinanced most of the Global
2020 bond maturity (originally USD1.5 billion). These relatively
moderate funding needs could be filled by some mix of market and
bilateral sources such as oil pre-sale facilities, but risks remain
should fiscal slippage or external shocks lift financing needs or
jeopardise financing sources. Reflecting these risks, sovereign
borrowing spreads have recently risen back to pre-EFF levels.

Fitch projects sovereign debt will rise to 52% of GDP in 2019 from
48% in 2018, below the current 'B' median of 58%, and climb more
slowly thereafter as fiscal consolidation advances. Fitch's
financing and debt projections are larger than the IMF's given
slower expected consolidation and because they are based on higher
central government (CG) deficit rather than the NFPS deficit (used
by the IMF), reflecting different expectations of the flow of funds
in the public sector (ie the availability to the CG of the reported
surpluses of other NFPS entities).

Factors supporting domestic demand have hindered a significant
improvement in the external position so far. The trade deficit
widened in the first half of 2019, reflecting credit growth that
has eased but remains high at around 13% yoy as of June, far above
deposit growth of 5%, and slow pace of fiscal adjustment. Fitch
expects the trend to improve, albeit slowly, and the current
account deficit to fall to 0.8% of GDP in 2019 from 1.3% in 2018.

The EFF aims to fortify the external position and underpinnings of
dollarization. BCE reserves have risen in 2019 so far, albeit due
to external borrowing by the government and banks rather than an
underlying improvement in the current account or FDI. Fitch
projects gross reserves to rise to USD3.0 billion by end-2019 from
USD2.1 billion in 2018, entailing some undershooting of the EFF
target for accumulation of net international reserves (NIR). Fitch
expects the NIR targets will be hard to meet given a slow pace of
fiscal consolidation, and likely difficulty in achieving the extra
borrowing envisioned in the EFF for this purpose.

Fitch expects real GDP growth to slow to 0% in 2019 from 1.4% in
2018 as a slow retraction in credit and fiscal consolidation take
hold. Medium-term growth prospects will hinge on the success of
reforms to boost private activity as the public sector retrenches.
The authorities plan to submit a labor market reform (an important
EFF benchmark) to address rigidities that represent a key
constraint to the business climate, among other measures. The
mining sector represents a bright spot on the outlook with
important upside for growth and external finances, but key
prospects will need to successfully navigate a challenging
environmental approval and public consultation process.

Oil production has recovered in 2019 after declines in the past few
years, in part due to the increase in public production from the
ITT fields. Efforts to boost private investment via
production-sharing agreements have had some success and could help
improve the production profile. Ecuador has been required to cut
production to comply with OPEC quotas over the past three years.

SOVEREIGN RATING MODEL (SRM) AND QUALITATIVE OVERLAY (QO)

Fitch's proprietary SRM assigns Ecuador a score equivalent to a
rating of 'BB-' on the Long-Term Foreign-Currency (LT FC) IDR
scale.

Fitch's sovereign rating committee adjusted the output from the SRM
to arrive at the final LT FC IDR by applying its QO, relative to
rated peers, as follows:

  - Macroeconomic Performance and Policies: -1 notch, to reflect
weak growth prospects relative to peers, and weak macroeconomic
policy credibility due to fiscal imbalances, constraining policy
flexibility in the context of dollarization.

  - Public Finances: -1 notch, to reflect sovereign financing risks
that persist despite IMF support, given reliance on external
sources for large borrowing needs and a shallow local market.

  - External Finances: -1 notch, to reflect Ecuador's high
vulnerability to external shocks in the context of commodity
dependence and dollarization, which limit its ability to adjust to
terms of trade shocks. The weak liquidity position of the central
bank poses risks to the availability of funds to meet external
payments for the economy as a whole, and therein to the
dollarization regime.

Fitch's SRM is the agency's proprietary multiple regression rating
model that employs 18 variables based on three-year centered
averages, including one year of forecasts, to produce a score
equivalent to a LT FC IDR. Fitch's QO is a forward-looking
qualitative framework designed to allow for adjustment to the SRM
output to assign the final rating, reflecting factors within the
agency's criteria that are not fully quantifiable and/or not fully
reflected in the SRM.

RATING SENSITIVITIES

The main factors that could lead to a positive rating action
include:

  -- Progress on fiscal consolidation that reduces financing needs
and improves the trajectory of public debt-to-GDP;

  -- Improvements in the country's external liquidity position that
provide a more ample buffer to external shocks;

  -- Stronger growth prospects reflecting signs of improving
competitiveness.

The main factors that could lead to a negative rating action:

  -- Re-emerging of financing constraints, either due to failure to
reduce the fiscal deficit or developments that jeopardize financing
access and the IMF program;

  -- Economic weakness or instability that heightens public debt
sustainability concerns;

  -- Political instability that undermines the government's
policymaking capacity and willingness to service debt.

KEY ASSUMPTIONS

Fitch expects that domestic oil production will not deviate
significantly from current levels (around 530,000 barrels/day), and
projects average Brent oil prices of USD65.0 per barrel in 2019,
USD62.5 in 2020 and USD60.0 in 2021 as of the latest Global
Economic Outlook for June.



=============
J A M A I C A
=============

JAMAICA MERCHANT: Fitch Affirms Series 2016-1 Notes Rating at BB+
-----------------------------------------------------------------
Fitch Ratings has affirmed the 'BB+' rating assigned to the series
2015-1 and 2016-1 notes issued by Jamaica Merchant Voucher
Receivables Limited. Fitch has also affirmed the 'BB' rating
assigned to the series 2013-1 notes issued by Jamaica Diversified
Payment Rights Company. The Rating Outlook is Stable.

Jamaica Merchant Voucher Receivables Limited is backed by future
flows due from Visa International Service Association and
Mastercard International Incorporated related to international
merchant vouchers acquired by National Commercial Bank Jamaica Ltd.
in Jamaica.

Jamaica Diversified Payment Rights Co. is backed by existing and
future USD-denominated diversified payment rights (DPRs) originated
by NCBJ. DPRs are defined as electronic or other messages used by
financial institutions to instruct NCBJ to make payment to a
beneficiary. The majority of DPRs are processed by designated
depository banks that have executed agreements obligating them to
send payments to accounts controlled by the transaction trustee.

Fitch's ratings address timely payment of interest and principal on
a quarterly basis.

Jamaica Merchant Voucher Receivables Limited
   
2015-1 470170AB7; LT BB+ Affirmed; previously at BB+
2016-1 470170AD3; LT BB+ Affirmed; previously at BB+

Jamaica Diversified Payment Rights Company (DPR) (NCB)
   
2013-1 G5005FAC7; LT BB Affirmed; previously at BB

KEY RATING DRIVERS

Originator's Credit Quality: In February 2019, Fitch upgraded
NCBJ's Long-Term and Short-Term Foreign and Local Currency Issuer
Default Ratings (IDRs) to 'B+' from 'B' and Viability Rating to
'b+' from 'b'. The Outlook was revised from Positive to Stable. The
rating action followed Fitch's upgrade of the Jamaican sovereign's
IDR to 'B+' from 'B' on Jan. 31, 2019. The Jamaican operating
environment remains the principal constraint on NCBJ's ratings.

Going Concern Assessment (GCA): NCBJ's GCA score of 'GC1' reflects
the bank's position as Jamaica's largest bank and  a systemically
top-tier bank with around 37% of system assets and 33% of total
deposits.  The 'GC1' theoretically allows the maximum rating uplift
from the bank's IDR pursuant to Fitch's future flow methodology.
However, the agency limits the rating uplift for the future flow
series due to factors mentioned.

Future Flow Debt Size: NCBJ's total outstanding future flow debt
represented around 7.1% of the bank's consolidated liabilities and
18.3% of non-deposit funding considering outstanding consolidated
program balances and financials as of June 2019. Although Fitch
considers the current ratios small enough to allow the future flow
ratings the maximum uplift at the aggregate outstanding balance,
Fitch considers the future flow programs will continue to remain an
active source of long-term funding for NCBJ.  Additionally, the
agency limits the rating uplift for the future flow programs to
three notches for the MV program and two notches for the DPR
program due to factors mentioned, including Fitch reserving the
maximum uplift for originator's rated at the lower end of the
rating scale.

Merchant Voucher Program Strength and Notching Uplift: The uplift
for the MV program's series is currently limited to three notches:
NCBJ's market-leading and dominant credit card franchise has been
supporting strong levels of international Visa and Mastercard.  As
of June 2019, NCBJ acquired over 50% of the total market value of
card transactions. The reported maximum debt service coverage ratio
(DSCR) has been close to 7x on average since the 2016 issuance, but
the tourism industry and related economic activities drive
international MV volumes and the transaction remains exposed to a
drop in tourism. Devaluation risk is also present. However, Fitch
considers it is somewhat mitigated because merchants generally
adjust Jamaican dollar prices according to U.S. dollars.

DPR Line's Moderate Strength and Notching Uplift: Fitch considers
the strength of the DPR flows as moderate and further tempers the
notching uplift for the Jamaican DPR program (JDPR). JDPR involves
top beneficiaries that are NCBJ affiliates as well as entities with
high domestically originated, government-related and/or capital
flows (which Fitch sees as more volatile than export-related
payments and remittances). Excluding 65% of flows from these
entities, reported quarterly DSCRs have been 49.5x on average since
the 2013 issuance. This is in line with Fitch's expectations at
closing. A two notch-uplift is currently applied to the JDPR's
series.

Potential Redirection/Diversion Risk: The structure mitigates
certain sovereign risks by collecting cash flows offshore until
collection of periodic debt service amount. Fitch believes
diversion risk is partially mitigated by the consent & agreements
or acknowledgments signed by Visa and Mastercard (in the case of
JMVR) or DDBs (in the case of JDPR).

RATING SENSITIVITIES

The transaction's ratings are sensitive to changes in the credit
quality of National Commercial Bank of Jamaica. The ratings are
sensitive to changes to the bank's IDR; the ability of the credit
card acquiring and DPR business line to continue operating, as
reflected by the GCA score; and changes in the sovereign
environment and ratings assigned to the Jamaican sovereign. Changes
in Fitch's view of the bank's GCA score can lead to a change in the
transaction's rating. Additionally, the MV program could also be
sensitive to significant changes in the credit quality of Visa or
Mastercard to a lesser extent. Any changes in these variables will
be analyzed in a rating committee to assess the possible impact on
the transaction ratings.

The transaction's ratings are sensitive to the performance of the
securitized business line. DSCRs have been 49.5x on average since
the 2013 issuance for the DPR program and over 7.0x for the MV
program since the 2016 issuance. Both programs should be able to
withstand a significant decline in cash flows in the absence of
other issues. Fitch performed sensitivity analysis on the strength
of collections. Severe reductions in coverage levels could result
in rating downgrades.



===========
M E X I C O
===========

MAXCOM TELECOMUNICACIONES: S&P Cuts ICR to 'D', Off Watch Neg.
--------------------------------------------------------------
S&P Global Ratings corrected its ratings on Maxcom
Telecomunicaciones S.A.B. de C.V. (Maxcom) and its step-up senior
notes due 2020 by lowering them to 'D' from 'CC' and removing them
from CreditWatch with negative implications. At the same time, S&P
withdrew its '4' recovery rating on the notes. S&P should have
downgraded Maxcom to 'D' on June 19, 2019, because the company
missed an interest payment on its step-up senior notes due 2020
notes. There was no intention to honor the coupon payment within
the grace period because Maxcom announced potential restructuring
or filing for bankruptcy under U.S. Chapter 11. Not lowering the
rating to 'D' at that time constituted a misapplication of S&P's
criteria.

On Aug. 15, 2019, the company effectively filed for bankruptcy
through a pre-packaged agreement that includes the same
restructuring plan offered to bondholders on June 17, 2019, but
this time under U.S. Chapter 11 protection. The company expects
that the restructuring process will be completed by mid-September
2019, during which Maxcom's operations are expected to continue
under a normal course of business.

  Downgraded  
                        To From
  Maxcom Telecomunicaciones S.A.B. de C.V.

  Issuer Credit Rating D/-- CC/Watch Neg/--
  Senior Secured    D CC/Watch Neg
  Recovery Rating   NR 4(35%)


MEXICO: Tomato Growers Reach Agreement to End U.S. Duties
---------------------------------------------------------
Anthony Harrup at The Wall Street Journal reports that Mexican
tomato growers reached a last-minute deal with the U.S. Commerce
Department that will suspend an antidumping investigation and
remove duties on U.S. imports of Mexican tomatoes in exchange for
Mexico raising prices and submitting to inspections.

Mexican tomato growers said the agreement was reached minutes
before a midnight deadline, and now has a 30-day period for
comments before taking effect, according to the report.

In May, following complaints last year from U.S. tomato growers,
the U.S. Commerce Department terminated a suspension agreement with
Mexican producers under which antidumping duties on Mexican
tomatoes had been avoided since 1996, recounts the report.

The Commerce Department reactivated an antidumping investigation
and determined a 25.3% preliminary dumping margin for Mexican
tomatoes, above the 17.5% set in 1996, the report relates.  A final
determination was due Sept. 19, but if the new pact is finalized
the investigation will be suspended and no final determination will
be made, WSJ notes.

"This draft agreement meets the needs of both sides and avoids the
need for antidumping duties," The Jounral quoted Commerce Secretary
Wilbur Ross as saying.

Once the new agreement goes into effect, imports of Mexican
tomatoes will be duty-free, and exporters will be able to recover
cash deposits made since May 7, the Mexican growers said, the
report relays.

Mexican Economy Minister Graciela Marquez said in a Twitter post
that the agreement "is good news that will keep the market open for
our tomato exports to the U.S," says The Journal.

The agreement includes increases in minimum reference prices for
Mexican tomatoes and inspections for quality of Mexican tomatoes
entering the U.S.  The Mexican growers said the inspections, which
had been a sticking point in the negotiations, would apply to 92%
of truckloads, while the Commerce Department estimates inspections
will apply to only 66%, the report relates.

The department said the new accord closes loopholes from previous
suspension agreements that allowed for sales below reference
prices, and ensures that the U.S. tomato industry will be protected
from unfair trade, WSJ relays.

"Tomato producers across America, including those in Florida,
Texas, and Arizona, will benefit from this agreement," it added,
according to the report.

U.S. tomato producers expressed backing for the agreement, WSJ
relays.

"We support the draft agreement and recognize the significant
concessions made by all sides involved to get to the initialing,"
said Michael Schadler, executive vice president of the Florida
Tomato Exchange, which represents U.S. growers, notes The Journal.
"The Commerce Department should be commended for its hard work to
seriously address the concerns of the domestic industry," he
added.

Mexican exports of fresh tomatoes to the U.S. have more than
doubled in recent decades and were valued last year around $2
billion. Mexico supplies about half of the fresh tomatoes consumed
in the U.S., which buys about 95% of Mexican tomato exports, says
the report.



=====================
P U E R T O   R I C O
=====================

SEARS HOLDINGS: ESL Objects to Confirmation of Plan
---------------------------------------------------
ESL Investments, Inc., and certain of its affiliated entities,
filed a limited objection to the confirmation of the proposed
Modified Second Amended Joint Chapter 11 Plan of Sears Holdings
Corporation and its affiliated debtors.

ESL believes that the Plan relies on questionable assumptions
concerning the Debtors' administrative solvency, especially with
respect to the obligations of Transform Holdco LLC, the buyer under
the Asset Purchase Agreement, and the Debtors under the Asset
Purchase Agreement.  Those assumptions, ESL said, are in several
respects contrary to the Court's rulings.

ESL asserted that the Plan should be revised to clarify that to the
extent any ESL 507(b) Priority Claims are Allowed, the sources of
recovery for those Claims must be as determined by a Final Order.
The Plan, as drafted, limits any such recovery to the proceeds of
Other Causes of Action, contrary to the Court's ruling that the
507(b) Claims are payable (except to the extent the Asset Purchase
Agreement otherwise limits ESL's recovery) from the proceeds of all
"Claims" and, thus, are payable from additional sources beyond
Other Causes of Action, including Other Assets.

ESL also pointed out that Transform seeks a clarification that
those Unexpired Leases subject to an extended assumption deadline
and that those Executory Contracts subject to a pending notice to
assume and assign shall not be deemed rejected as of the Effective
Date of the Plan.

Attorneys for ESL:

     Sean A. O'Neal, Esq.
     Luke A. Barefoot, Esq.
     Chelsey Rosenbloom, Esq.
     CLEARY GOTTLIEB STEEN & HAMILTON LLP
     One Liberty Plaza
     New York, New York 10006
     Telephone: 212-225-2000
     Facsimile: 212-225-3999

                     About Sears Holdings

Sears Holdings Corporation (NASDAQ: SHLD) --
http://www.searsholdings.com/-- began as a mail ordering catalog
company in 1887 and became the world's largest retailer in the
1960s.  At its peak, Sears was present in almost every big mall
across the U.S., and sold everything from toys and auto parts to
mail-order homes.  Sears claims to be is a market leader in the
appliance, tool, lawn and garden, fitness equipment, and automotive
repair and maintenance retail sectors.

Sears and Kmart merged to form Sears Holdings in 2005 when they had
3,500 US stores between them. Kmart emerged in 2005 from its own
bankruptcy.

Unable to keep up with online stores and other brick-and-mortar
retailers, a long series of store closings has left it with 687
retail stores in 49 states, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin
Islands as of mid-October 2018.  The Company employs 68,000
individuals, of whom 32,000 are full-time employees.

As of Aug. 4, 2018, Sears Holdings had $6.93 billion in total
assets, $11.33 billion in total liabilities and a total deficit of
$4.40 billion.

Unable to cover a $134 million debt payment due Oct. 15, 2018,
Sears Holdings Corporation and 49 subsidiaries sought Chapter 11
protection (Bankr. S.D.N.Y. Lead Case No. 18-23538) on Oct. 15,
2018.

The Hon. Robert D. Drain is the case judge.

The Debtors tapped Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP as legal counsel;
M-III Partners as restructuring advisor; Lazard Freres & Co. LLC as
investment banker; DLA Piper LLP as real estate advisor; and Prime
Clerk as claims and noticing agent.

The U.S. Trustee for Region 2 appointed nine creditors, including
the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., and landlord Simon Property
Group, L.P., to serve on the official committee of unsecured
creditors.  The committee tapped Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP
as legal counsel; FTI Consulting as financial advisor; and Houlihan
Lokey Capital, Inc. as investment banker.

The U.S. Trustee for Region 2 on July 9, 2019, appointed five
retirees to serve on the committee representing retirees with life
insurance benefits in the Chapter 11 cases.



===============
S U R I N A M E
===============

SURINAME: Fitch Affirms B- LT IDR; Alters Outlook to Negative
-------------------------------------------------------------
Fitch Ratings has affirmed Suriname's Long-Term Foreign Currency
Issuer Default Rating at 'B-'. The Rating Outlook has been revised
to Negative from Stable.

KEY RATING DRIVERS

The Negative Outlook reflects Fitch's expectation that large
government deficits and financing needs, in part reflecting
spending pressures related to elections in May 2020, will continue
to lead to a rapid increase in government debt/GDP. Preliminary
fiscal data for 1H19 indicate the government deficit (cash basis)
is on course for approximately 10% of GDP for 2019. Uncertain
financing options, highlighted by on-going monetary financing from
the central bank, add to downside risks. Financial system
vulnerability remains a contingent liability.

The government deficit rose to 12.3% of GDP (cash basis) in 2018,
above expectations due to payment of supplier arrears, wage
increases, subsidies and transfers, and interest costs. The
headline deficit on a commitment basis was much smaller at 7.5% of
GDP, but is less relevant for financing. Government oil and
gold-related revenues, supported by additional tax administration
efforts, have nearly recovered to pre-price-shock 2015-2016 levels.
However, primary spending has been difficult to adjust relative to
the government's volatile revenues, and interest has risen as a
share of revenue to 17.4% expected for 2019 from 4.1% in 2014
(based on Fitch's fiscal forecasts, gross interest data from the
Debt Management Office and government revenues from the Ministry of
Finance).

Fitch expects the government deficit (cash basis) to remain wide
near 10% of GDP in both 2019 and 2020 on the expectation that
higher infrastructure spending ahead of the elections will offset
the easing of arrears payments related to prior periods.
Preliminary 1H19 data show an annualized 12% of GDP government
deficit on a cash basis, which the national authorities expect to
lessen in 2H19. This corresponds to government gross financing
needs of 14.3% of GDP (including medium- and long-term maturities
totalling 4.3% of GDP) for 2019. Structural reforms (reduction of
electricity and water subsidies in 2016; a planned value-added tax
in 2018) have been deferred, lowering Fitch's expectation that the
budget gap will be reduced until 2021.

Financing flexibility has become constrained. During 2017-2019, the
government has shifted its external financing strategy to
higher-cost loans from China (6% estimated average cost) and other
bilateral and commercial sources while multilateral institutions
have not extended net new lending since Suriname's IMF program went
off track in 2016 (net multilateral disbursements were close to
zero during 2017-May 2019). Constraints in the domestic market led
the government to secure new financing from non-traditional sources
in 2018 and the central bank (2.4% of GDP net new financing) in
2019 as well as increased the stock of foreign currency domestic
government debt/GDP to 9.1% in May 2019 from 4.3% in 2016.

The announcement of a potential large new oil discovery may help
Suriname to secure new international financing, although this has
not been tested. Staatsolie announced in August that the firm is
drilling a third near-shore well. The company's early geological
calculations indicate the potential for 800 million barrels of
recoverable oil. This would be a large discovery for Suriname if
further technical study yields proven oil reserves. The first
production would be in an estimated three-to-five years, according
to the company.

Fitch expects Suriname's government debt/GDP to rise to 79% at
end-2019 from 72% in 2018, well above the current 'B' median of
50%. The government's large financing needs amid shallow local
capital markets and rising financing costs have steepened the
upward trajectory in the debt ratio, raising risks to debt
sustainability. The interest burden is nearly double the current
'B' median. The denomination of three-quarters of government debt
in foreign currency exposes it to currency shocks. Balancing this,
the absence of external amortization pressures reduces the
government's external refinancing risk; the sole global bond
matures in 2026.

The financial system is recovering from the deterioration of
household and business balance sheets amid the large exchange rate
depreciation in 2016 and write-offs stemming from government
arrears. The system's regulatory capital-to-risk-weighted-assets
ratio rose to 10.2% as of March 2019 from a low of 5.5% in December
2016. Profitability, though recovering, is still below pre-shock
levels during 2010-2014 and non-performing loans remained high at
12% in the second quarter of 2018. The performance and related
write-offs of one large bank during 2018 led to its partial
consolidation with another financial institution in 2019. High
financial dollarization (45% of credit and 63% of deposits in May
2019) is also a concern in the context of low capital buffers.

Inflation averaged 6.8% yoy in 2018, further moderating from 55.0%
in 2016, with public expectations anchored by exchange rate
stability since the external adjustment. The central bank has
gradually rebuilt international reserves to USD713 million in July
2019, equivalent to cover 2.2 months of current external payments,
albeit less than 3.8 months for the current 'B' median. However,
following the appointment of a new central bank governor and
monetary financing during 1H19, a parallel Suriname dollar-US
dollar exchange rate emerged. The domestic forex market has been
tight since Netherlands authorities seized a cash shipment in April
2018. The central bank has taken steps to increase the share of
banks' required reserves on foreign currency deposits held at the
central bank to bolster FX reserves and introduced new tools to
manage excess bank liquidity. It has also provided foreign exchange
for certain importers at the bank rate in response to tightness in
the domestic forex market.

The economy expanded 3.3% in 2018 (preliminary data), supported by
mining investment. Fitch expects domestic demand to support 3.3%
average GDP growth during 2019-2020. Rising government
infrastructure investment and consumption driven by household
income gains are expected to offset a decline in mining
investment.

The current account deficit/GDP widened to 5.5% in 2018 (up from
0.1% in 2017), due to weaker gold export performance amid stable
import demand relative to GDP. Fitch expects higher import demand
to widen the deficit to 8.3% of GDP in 2019. Mining FDI, which
fully financed the current account deficit during 2016-2018, is
expected to moderate during 2019-2020. Suriname's net external debt
(47% of GDP expected in 2019) exceeds the current 'B' median of
16%.

Early polls indicate the parliamentary and local elections in May
2020 to be competitive, increasing the odds of a coalition
government led by either the governing Suriname National Democratic
Party (NDP) or the largest opposition Suriname Progressive Reform
Party (VHP) . Current President Bouterse, who leads the governing
NDP party, could be selected by the parliament for a third
consecutive term if his party maintains sufficient seats or can
build a coalition with small parties.

Among Suriname's structural features its governance, social
indicators and per capita GDP exceed the current 'B' medians.
However, business environment and supply-side constraints hinder
faster economic growth. It is also highly dependent on commodity
receipts.

SOVEREIGN RATING MODEL (SRM) AND QUALITATIVE OVERLAY (QO)

Fitch's proprietary SRM assigns Suriname a score equivalent to a
rating of 'B' on the Long-Term Foreign Currency (LT FC) IDR scale.

Fitch's sovereign rating committee adjusted the output from the SRM
to arrive at the final LT FC IDR by applying its QO, relative to
rated peers, as follows:

  -- Public finances: -1 notch, To reflect Suriname's large fiscal
financing needs and limited financing flexibility, its large budget
government deficits, its rapidly rising government debt/GDP and
financial system contingent liability risks.

Fitch's SRM is the agency's proprietary multiple regression rating
model that employs 18 variables based on three-year centered
averages, including one year of forecasts, to produce a score
equivalent to a LT FC IDR. Fitch's QO is a forward-looking
qualitative framework designed to allow for adjustment to the SRM
output to assign the final rating, reflecting factors within its
criteria that are not fully quantifiable and/or not fully reflected
in the SRM.

RATING SENSITIVITIES

The main factors that could lead to a negative rating action,
individually or collectively include:

  -- Failure to consolidate the government deficit and reduce risks
to government debt sustainability.

  -- Signs of fiscal financing stress that heighten risks to the
sovereign's capacity to meet its debt payments

  -- External stress such as capital outflows or weakened external
financing conditions that leads to a reduction in international
reserves or downward pressure on the exchange rate that poses a
risk to macroeconomic or financial stability.

The main factors that could stabilize the outlook, individually or
collectively include:

  -- Reduction of the government deficit that reduces risks to
government debt sustainability.

  -- Easing of government financing constraints that supports the
sovereign's ability to meet its financing needs.

KEY ASSUMPTIONS

Fitch assumes global economic growth and international oil prices
evolve according to its quarterly Global Economic Outlook forecasts
and that international gold prices remain near current levels
during 2019-2021.

SUMMARY OF DATA ADJUSTMENTS

  -- Fitch analyses government operations on a cash basis (which
includes payments of supplier arrears) using published Ministry of
Finance statistics because this treatment better explains the scale
of the government's financing needs and change in government
debt/GDP during 2015-2019, in its view, than the government
commitment balance also published by the Ministry of Finance.

  -- Fitch values government debt at reference period-end market
exchange rates; this differs from valuation according to Suriname's
National Debt Law.

  -- The stock of government arrears to suppliers is not publicly
disclosed. However, the flows of arrears incurred and payments
thereof are publicly disclosed.

  -- Financial soundness indicators of the banking system are
released periodically for the IMF Article IV reports but not
published on a regular basis.



=================
V E N E Z U E L A
=================

VENEZUELA: Hold Secret Talks With U.S.
--------------------------------------
Jose de Cordoba, Juan Forero and Vivian Salama at The Wall Street
Journal report that the Trump administration has been secretly
talking with top aides of Nicolas Maduro in an effort to push
Venezuela's authoritarian president from power and clear the way
for free elections in the economically devastated country,
according to officials in Caracas and Washington familiar with the
discussions.

The talks have involved powerful Maduro lieutenant Diosdado
Cabello, who heads the country's National Constituent Assembly and
has been put under sanctions by Washington for alleged involvement
in drug trafficking, and other important backers of the president
in an effort to find a negotiated solution to the country's crisis,
these people said, adding the talks are at an early stage,
according to The Journal.

The report relays that the U.S., which has imposed punishing
sanctions on Venezuela's state-run oil industry and on influential
government and military figures, is pushing for democratic
elections that would give opposition politicians, including Juan
Guaido, whom Washington considers Venezuela's legitimate leader, a
chance to take power.

The efforts to bring about change in Venezuela come at a critical
time: More than four million people have fled the country since
2015 in an exodus that is straining the resources of neighboring
countries, the report notes.  Inside Venezuela, hunger is growing,
the economy is disintegrating and companies are closing, the report
relays.  The U.S., human-rights groups and many ordinary
Venezuelans accuse Mr. Maduro's government of everything from
carrying out extrajudicial executions to jailing and torturing
political prisoners and stealing elections, the report says.

For Mr. Cabello, an essential goal is to receive assurances from
the U.S. that he and others can remain in politics in Venezuela and
not face sanctions if the regime loses power, according to a
Venezuelan with high-level connections to both sides of the
country's political divide as well as to the U.S. government, WSJ
notes.

"What Diosdado wants is to be able to stay in Venezuela, in a
peaceful way," said the man, who met with Mr. Cabello last month
and says he has U.S. support for acting as a go-between, the report
says.  "A principal goal of the effort is to build confidence and
get international guarantees," he added, saying that would help
departing figures of the Maduro government trust that pledges for
their safety would be kept by any new government, the report
notes.

Regime figures want to avoid "retaliation, persecution, violence,"
the man said. Mr. Cabello also wants his movement, known as
Chavismo after the late President Hugo Chavez, to be permitted to
compete in elections, he added, the report relays.

Publicly, Trump administration officials say the only matter to
negotiate is the date of Mr. Maduro's departure, says the report.
People familiar with the U.S. strategy says American officials also
want to use the talks to divide figures within Maduro's regime, in
an effort to weaken the president, the report notes.

Speaking to reporters, President Trump confirmed U.S. officials are
"talking to the representatives at different levels of Venezuela,"
the report relates.  He wouldn't identify them but said "we are
talking at a very high level," the report relays.

That statement prompted Mr. Maduro, in a televised speech night, to
announce that discussions had, indeed, been taking place, the
report notes.  "We've had secret meetings in secret places with
secret people that nobody knows," he said, adding that Venezuela
would "continue having contact" with the U.S, the report notes.

People who know those negotiating and their strategies said the
discussions are a sign of real politik at play, given the mutual
scorn officials of the Venezuelan government and Trump
administration have for each other, the report discloses.  Mr.
Cabello, a 56-year-old former army captain, heads a pro-Maduro,
rubber-stamp body created to sap the opposition-led National
Assembly of power, the report says.

The WSJ notes that Manuel Cristopher Figuera, who was Mr. Maduro's
intelligence chief before defecting after a failed coup earlier
this year, described Mr. Cabello as a combative leader "with a
cock-fighter's mentality" and strong influence over military units.
While Mr. Cabello and Mr. Maduro dislike each other, Mr.
Cristopher Figuera said, Mr. Cabello has never conspired against
the president as other regime officials have, the report relays.

"It gives him a lot of credibility in his position," Mr. Cristopher
Figuera said, the report notes.  He noted that Mr. Cabello's
standing makes his participation fundamental for the success of any
transitional arrangement, the report discloses.

The talks are taking place as other representatives of Mr. Maduro,
led by Communications Minister Jorge Rodriguez and his sister, Vice
President Delcy Rodriguez, have offered opposition negotiators the
possibility of a presidential election in the coming months, the
report relates.

That offer, made weeks ago during separate talks in Barbados, is
considered an important breakthrough since Venezuelan government
officials have publicly said they wouldn't be pressured into
holding a new vote, the report relates.  The opposition has
demanded elections because Mr. Maduro was re-elected in 2018 in a
vote widely seen as fraudulent, prompting the U.S. and more than 50
other governments to declare his presidency as illegitimate, the
report recalls.

Those governments instead consider Mr. Guaido, the president of the
National Assembly, to be Venezuela's interim president, the report
says.

The talks in Barbados between the regime and its domestic
opposition were recently suspended by Venezuela but are set to
resume later this month, the report relays.  People familiar with
the talks say they can't succeed unless parallel talks advance
between U.S. officials and powerful regime figures, the report
relates.

Privately, officials in the Trump administration say they recognize
that their efforts over the last eight months to force Mr. Maduro
out and replace him with Mr. Guaido have stalled, leading them to
explore Venezuela's various power centers and the people who lead
them, the report notes.  "The Americans understand that they have
to play a role in any successful negotiation," said a person
familiar with the talks in Barbados, the report relates.

In Venezuela, meanwhile, Mr. Maduro has told leaders of his ruling
Socialist Party to discuss restoring power to the
opposition-controlled congress, which now isn't permitted to pass
laws, according to a party leader close to the president, WSJ
discloses.  There was also discussion of a possible agreement with
the opposition in which both would name representatives to a new
electoral board and the supreme court, though the plan hasn't been
advanced, notes the report.

"President Maduro is open to all, he's open to any option," the
official said, the report relays.

According to The Journal, all sides remain divided on what they
want to achieve. Right-wing leaders in the opposition don't
publicly support negotiations. Government officials, meanwhile,
want their movement to be able to field a candidate in any possible
future elections.  Opposition negotiators want Mr. Maduro barred
from participating.

"There are worries about what the government would do with its
power to constrain and coerce" voters, the person familiar with the
talks said, the report relays.  "That's why reasonable people, even
moderates, think Maduro should not be around."

The person said the talks need to get on track fast and result in
an agreement in the coming months, notes WSJ.  If they spill over
into 2020, the person said, the U.S. campaign season will make it
difficult for the Trump administration to be flexible and possibly
make concessions.

"The clock is ticking for everyone, and they need to sort this out
in the next few months, if not weeks," the person said, the report
relays.  "Or else it's going to be a mess."

                       About Venezuela

Venezuela, officially the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, is a
country on the northern coast of South America, consisting of a
continental landmass and a large number of small islands and
islets in the Caribbean sea.  The capital is the city of Caracas.

Hugo Chavez was president to Venezuela from 1999 to 2013.  The
Chavez presidency was plagued with challenges, which included a
2002 coup d'etat, a 2002 national strike and a 2004 recall
referendum.  Nicolas Maduro was elected president in 2013 after
the death of Chavez.  Maduro won a second term at the May 2018
Venezuela elections, but this result has been challenged by
countries including Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Brazil, Canada,
Germany, France and the United States who deemed it fraudulent and
moved to recognize Juan Guaido as president.

The presidencies of Chavez and Maduro have challenged Venezuela
with a socioeconomic and political crisis.  It is marked by
hyperinflation, climbing hunger, poverty, disease, crime and death
rates, social unrest, corruption and emigration from the country.

Standard and Poor's long- and short-term foreign currency
sovereign credit ratings for Venezuela stands at 'SD/D'
(November 2017).

S&P's local currency sovereign credit ratings on the other hand
are 'CCC-/C'. The May 2018 outlook on the long-term local currency
sovereign credit rating is negative, reflecting S&P's view that the
sovereign could miss a payment on its outstanding local currency
debt obligations or advance a distressed debt exchange operation,
equivalent to default.

Moody's credit rating (long term foreign and domestic issuer
ratings) for Venezuela was last set at C with stable outlook
(March 2018).

Fitch's long term issuer default rating for Venezuela was last set
at RD (2017) and country ceiling was CC. Fitch, on June 27, 2019,
affirmed then withdrew the ratings due to the imposition of U.S.
sanctions on Venezuela.


                           *********


S U B S C R I P T I O N   I N F O R M A T I O N

Troubled Company Reporter-Latin America is a daily newsletter
co-published by Bankruptcy Creditors' Service, Inc., Fairless
Hills, Pennsylvania, USA, and Beard Group, Inc., Washington, D.C.,
USA, Marites O. Claro, Joy A. Agravante, Rousel Elaine T.
Fernandez, Julie Anne L. Toledo, Ivy B. Magdadaro, and Peter A.
Chapman, Editors.

Copyright 2019.  All rights reserved.  ISSN 1529-2746.

This material is copyrighted and any commercial use, resale or
publication in any form (including e-mail forwarding, electronic
re-mailing and photocopying) is strictly prohibited without prior
written permission of the publishers.

Information contained herein is obtained from sources believed to
be reliable, but is not guaranteed.

The TCR Latin America subscription rate is US$775 per half-year,
delivered via e-mail.  Additional e-mail subscriptions for members
of the same firm for the term of the initial subscription or
balance thereof are US$25 each.  For subscription information,
contact Peter A. Chapman at 215-945-7000.
.


                  * * * End of Transmission * * *