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Expand chart
Adapted from Beers, et. al, 2019, "The BoC-BoE sovereign default database: What’s new in 2019?"; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The world's most comprehensive database of sovereign defaults, run by the Bank of England and the Bank of Canada, has been updated for 2018, and once again advanced economies are driving the numbers.

Background: Countries defaulting on their debts have caused enormous problems for the international financial system since the Latin American debt crisis of the mid-1980s.

  • Until this decade, the world's developed countries always found themselves as the creditors, not the debtors. Greece changed that in 2012, when it became the biggest deadbeat sovereign of all time.

What's new: Greece defaulted on $111 billion owed to the EU. (The European Stability Mechanism allowed Greece to push back its debt service payments and reduce the interest rate it was paying, which counts as a debt default for the purposes of the database.)

  • The other big debtors in 2018: Venezuela with $64 billion of debt in default and Iraq with $41 billion.

The big picture: As countries struggle with growing debt burdens, sovereign debt problems will become increasingly common.

  • Argentina looks certain to default again; Venezuela has lost control of Citgo, its most valuable asset; even Portugal was added to the database in 2013 thanks to another EU restructuring.
  • Conceivably, even the U.S. could find itself in default if congressional gridlock prevented the debt ceiling from being raised.

Go deeper: The global debt binge begins anew

Editor’s note: This post has been corrected to delete references to Puerto Rico, which is a U.S. commonwealth, not a sovereign country.

Go deeper

DOJ cites discrimination in lawsuit against Texas over voting districts

Attorney General Merrick Garland. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Department of Justice on Monday filed a lawsuit against Texas, alleging Republican state lawmakers discriminated against Black and Latino voters and has "again diluted the voting strength of minority Texans" when they approved new redistricting maps.

Why it matters: A DOJ assessment of the new districts found that they violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a press conference.

3 hours ago - World

Biden to warn Putin U.S. will add troops in Eastern Europe if Russia invades Ukraine

Putin meets Biden in Geneva. Photo: Peter Klaunzer - Pool/Keystone via Getty

President Biden will warn Russian President Vladimir Putin when they speak on Tuesday that if Russia invades Ukraine, the U.S. is prepared to increase its troop presence, capabilities and military exercises on NATO's "eastern flank," a senior administration official told reporters.

Why it matters: The administration believes it's increasingly likely that Putin will order an invasion.

4 hours ago - World

U.S. announces diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics

An Olympic-themed sculpture in Beijing on Dec. 1. Photo: Hou Yu/China News Service via Getty Images

The U.S. announced Monday that it will not send officials to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics in protest of human rights abuses committed by the Chinese Communist Party.

Why it matters: The diplomatic boycott — which won't prevent American athletes from competing — marks a major escalation between the U.S. and China amid already heightened tensions over the CCP's treatment of Muslim minorities, military threats to Taiwan and economic tariffs.