Caracas (AFP) - Venezuela said Wednesday its foreign exchange reserves have fallen 14 percent since the beginning of the year, to $18.99 billion, their lowest level in almost 12 years.
Ratings agencies have warned that the South American oil giant, which has been hit hard by sliding crude prices, risks defaulting on $10 billion in debt payments due this year.
The central bank's foreign currency reserves had not dipped so low since late 2003.
Venezuela is struggling with a recession, 68.5-percent annual inflation and severe shortages of the basic goods that it relies on oil money to import.
State oil company PDVSA reported Monday its earnings fell 4.3 percent in 2014, to $128.4 billion.
Venezuela, which has the world's largest proven oil reserves, gets more than 96 percent of its foreign currency from crude exports.
That dependence has hit the economy hard as global oil prices have collapsed nearly 60 percent from June to February, complicating President Nicolas Maduro's efforts to revive the economy ahead of legislative elections this year that his United Socialist Party of Venezuela risks losing to the opposition.
To raise cash, the government has in recent weeks secured a $5-billion loan from China, issued $1.5 billion in bonds through PDVSA's US-based subsidiary Citgo and allowed the Dominican Republic to pay off $1.9 billion in outstanding oil debt at a discount of more than 50 percent.
It also reportedly swapped part of its gold reserves for $1 billion in cash from Citibank.
Venezuela's foreign exchange reserves have fallen 28 percent since Maduro succeeded his late mentor Hugo Chavez in April 2013.