Venezuela will create a new exchange rate for tourists to buy up to US$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.
The announcement by the Finance Ministry and Central Bank said new foreign exchange counters would be established at airports and ports where foreigners enter Venezuela. But there was no indication 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 US currency fetches more than 50 bolivars on the illegal market, according to web sites that track it under the name of 'lechuga verde" or green lettuce. The latest 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 blame socialist policies, corruption and bureaucratic incompetence for the economic problems piling up.