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Friday 19th
posted by James Tweedie in World

Action to beat ‘parasites’ will also include rise in petrol prices

VENEZUELAN President Nicolas Maduro will devalue his country’s currency and raise rock-bottom petrol prices to end “criminal inflation” and defend social projects.

He announced the plans on Wednesday as part of his three-pronged strategy to “control and regulate the

Mr Maduro said that first the systems of “economic war” must be dismantled, followed by “all the functioning mechanisms of the old rentier state,” including reliance on the oil industry, and finally improvements to the distributive system.

“Either we have a distributive system run by mafia and parasites, or we change,” he said.

The price of 95-octane petrol will rise from 10 cents per litre to six bolivars (1p to 66p), while lower-grade 91-octane fuel will go up from seven cents to one bolivar (11p).

Petrol prices are an historically explosive issue in oil-rich Venezuela.

International Monetary Fund-dictated rises imposed by president Carlos Andres Perez in 1989 sparked mass protests in the capital that became known as the Caracazo.

A crackdown by the police and army left thousands dead and led to two failed military coups against Mr Perez in 1992, the second led by Mr Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chavez.

But the currency devaluation may pull the rug from under the feet of the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable, which won an almost two-thirds majority in the National Assembly in December.

The rate for priority goods such as food and medicine will be cut from 6.30 bolivars to 10, while the intermediate Sicad II rate will be abolished.

The limited Simadi rate of 203 to the dollar — also dubbed the marginal currency system — will be allowed to float.

Venezuela crossed three zeroes off its banknotes and coins in 2007 to create the new bolivar fuerte (strong bolivar).

But since then black-market currency trading has reduced the bolivar’s street value to more than 1,000 to the dollar, leading to rampant inflation.