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Venezuelans Scramble To Survive As Merchants Demand Dollars

Bolivar notes a seen hanging in a tree at a street in Maracaibo, Venezuela November 11, 2017. REUTERS/Isaac Urrutia

The following is an excerpt from Eyanir Chinea, Maria Ramirez | December 26, 2017 | reuters.com |

CARACAS/CIUDAD GUAYANA, Venezuela (Reuters) - There was no way Jose Ramon Garcia, a food transporter in Venezuela, could afford new tires for his van at $350 each.

Whether he opted to pay in U.S. currency or in the devalued local bolivar currency at the equivalent black market price, Garcia would have had to save up for years.

Though used to expensive repairs, this one was too much and put him out of business. “Repairs cost an arm and a leg in Venezuela,” said the now-unemployed 42-year-old Garcia, who has a wife and two children to support in the southern city of Guayana.

“There’s no point keeping bolivars.”

For a decade and a half, strict exchange controls have severely limited access to dollars. A black market in hard currency has spread in response, and as once-sky-high oil revenue runs dry, Venezuela’s economy is in free-fall.

The practice adopted by gourmet and design stores in Caracas over the last couple of years to charge in dollars to a select group of expatriates or Venezuelans with access to greenbacks is fast spreading.

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