Dany Bahar, fellow at Brookings Institution, said the bonds purchased by Goldman are “vastly undervalued.”

“This is a sign of desperation from the Venezuelan government,” he told CNBC, adding that a default is inevitable if the current administration remains in power.

Venezuela faces a “brutal debt service schedule,” with $3.5 billion in payments coming due in October and November, noted Eurasia Group’s Grais-Targow.

Staying on top of Venezuela’s debt will almost certainly be the ruling party’s priority, she said, though the influx of hard currency into the central bank could also fund imports and ease pressure on the state oil company, which has struggled to maintain production.

However, Goldman’s bond purchase could at best help around the margins at PDVSA, said Grais-Targow. Nor is it sufficient to quell street protests.

“This is by no means going to dramatically change the political, economic or social dynamics on the ground,” she said.

— CNBC’s Fred Imbert contributed reporting to this story.