Venezuela’s Socialist President Nicolas Maduro has just named an army general as the new finance minister to fight an economic crisis that includes soaring inflation.
He also pledged there would be no currency devaluation this year despite a rampant black market for dollars.
Shoppers face empty shelves because government price caps and currency controls – intended to help Venezuela’s poor – mean there is a shortage of dollars needed to import products.
Food shortages are compounded by inadequate domestic production.
The economy of the energy rich country grew by an estimated 1.6 percent last year, down from 5.6 percent in 2012. Annual inflation was 56.2 percent.
Analysts say a devaluation of Venezuela’s currency is long overdue to rectify distortions in the economy, but Maduro has ruled that out. He blames corruption and sabotage along with speculators and hoarders for the problems.