Venezuelan Prices Rose 2.4% in February on Supply Boost

Venezuelan consumer prices rose 2.4 percent in February, less than the month before, as the government stepped up efforts to improve the supply of goods and quell protests that have left at least 28 people dead.

The increase compared with 3.3 percent in January and the 4.5 percent median estimate of seven analysts surveyed by Bloomberg. Annual inflation was 57.3 percent, up from 56.3 percent the month before, the central bank said in a statement on its website.

President Nicolas Maduro said last month the government would import $1 billion of food and medicine to guarantee supplies for four months as the opposition barricaded streets in major cities in protests over the rising cost of living and shortages. Maduro has blamed the shortages on an “economic war” waged by the “parasitic bourgeoisie.”

“This drop in inflation is fleeting because the causes of inflation remain,” Ronald Balza, economics professor at the Andres Bello Catholic University, said by telephone from Caracas today. “The government is directly importing products to supply state food stores. That affects the results temporarily, but they don’t resolve the problem.”

The central bank didn’t update its scarcity index for February, which reached 28 percent the previous month. That means more than one in four basic goods was out of stock at any given time.

To alleviate the dollar shortages that have crimped imports, the government is starting a new foreign currency system known as Sicad 2, which it says will allow companies and individuals to trade greenbacks at the price set by supply and demand. The system has yet to start.

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