Venezuela Threatens Dollar ‘Speculators’ With Jail Time

Venezuela acting President Nicolas Maduro said today that the South American country is investigating cases of foreign exchange corruption and threatened “speculators” with jail time.

“We’re investigating, and we’re going to pursue them,” Maduro said on state television. “We hope to have those responsible for dollar speculation soon. We want to see them in prison.”

A shortage of dollars in Venezuela has deepened since February, when former President Hugo Chavez approved a 32 percent devaluation and shut down a separate central bank- administered currency market. While the government sells dollars for priority imports at 6.3 bolivars, those who can’t access the system pay as much as 24 bolivars per dollar on the black market, according to Dolar Today, a website that tracks the exchange rate on the Venezuelan border with Colombia.

Venezuela on March 19 announced a “complementary” foreign exchange system that will auction dollars to importers and is studying the inclusion of small businesses and individuals with travel emergencies, Maduro said. The country’s official currency board, known as Cadivi, is meeting almost 95 percent of the economy’s need for dollars, he added.

“The new system was created to guarantee another way for those who go to the streets looking for dollars and encounter a stampede of the parasitic bourgeoisies who sell them a dollar for 20 or 25 bolivars,” Maduro said. “We’re going to defeat the parallel dollar.”

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To contact the reporters on this story: Nathan Crooks in Caracas at ncrooks@bloomberg.net; Jose Orozco in Caracas at jorozco8@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andre Soliani at asoliani@bloomberg.net

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