CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela will create a new exchange rate for tourists to buy up to $10,000 of the local bolivar currency per year in a measure intended to help reduce black market trading, the government said in its official gazette on Thursday.

The announcement by the Finance Ministry and Central Bank said new foreign exchange counters would be established at airports and ports where foreigners enter the South American nation.

There was no indication, however, of what price the dollars would be sold at.

Under strict exchange controls in place for a decade, the greenback's official rate is 6.3 bolivars, although access at that level is heavily-restricted to priority goods like medicines and foods.

Authorities also sell dollars to businesses via weekly auctions, in a system known as Sicad, where traders say the price is around 11 bolivars.

But the U.S. currency fetches more than 50 bolivars on the illegal market, according to web sites that track it.

Thurdsay's measure appeared intended to keep tourists away from black-market trading by offering a bolivar rate that would presumably be higher than the official level but lower than the illegal one.

Visitors flying into Venezuela's main international airport, at Maiquetia outside Caracas, are often approached by black market currency traders as soon as they step out of arrivals.

President Nicolas Maduro's socialist government says its right-wing enemies inside and outside Venezuela are "sabotaging" the economy by promoting illegal currency trading, price speculation, hoarding and deliberate acts of destruction.

But government critics, in the sharply polarized nation ruled by Hugo Chavez for 14 years until his death from cancer earlier this year, blame socialist policies, corruption and bureaucratic incompetence for the economic problems piling up.

As well as the currency distortions, Venezuela is suffering from a near-50 percent annual inflation rate, and shortages of basic goods from milk to toilet-paper due in part to the scarcity of dollars available to importers.

(Reporting by Andrew Cawthorne: Editing by Diane Craft)

 

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