Venezuela's government announces deal to settle part of $4 billion debt owed to airlines

Venezuela's government has agreed to pay part of some $4 billion owed to foreign airlines in a bid to prevent more carriers from leaving the country.

Finance Minister Rodolfo Marco Torres announced a deal Monday to allow six Latin American airlines including Colombia's Avianca and AeroMexico to repatriate revenue from local sales in 2012 and 2013.

Alitalia this month became the latest airline to cut flights to Venezuela over the debt impasse. The socialist government has denied that airlines are leaving over debts, arguing that some are rerouting planes for the World Cup in Brazil.

Airline representatives report that Venezuela's government also says airfares starting in July will be based on a weaker exchange rate of about 50 bolivars per dollar compared with the official rate of 6.3.