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The International Pasta Association ranks Venezuelans as the world’s second-biggest consumers of Italy’s staple food.

But Venezuela’s foreign exchange controls have forced Empresas Polar, a giant food producer and the country’s largest private company, to close down its pasta production plant. Continue reading »

Venezuela’s central bank announcement of inflation data this week was remarkable more for its rhetoric than for the figures themselves.

Announcing the numbers a fortnight behind schedule, it said monthly inflation rose to 4.1 per cent in March, up from 2.4 per cent the previous month. But it did not mention an annualised rate, which hit 57 per cent in February. Instead, it launched a rhetorical broadside against the ongoing protests in the country, which it said have unleashed a “new concrete wave of economic war”. Continue reading »

There is no doubt that emerging market (EM) investors have cheered up considerably of late. Following a torrid January and February, virtually all asset classes in the EM universe appear – on aggregate at least – to be gaining in value.

The bellwether stock index, the MSCI EM index, is up 9.6 per cent from its low on February 5. EM sovereign bonds are yielding an average of 5.51 per cent, down 0.37 per cent since January 1. Local currency bonds are, in many cases, producing stellar returns sharpened by windfall currency gains. Indeed, some EM currencies are among the world’s best performers, with the Indonesian rupiah rising 7.81 per cent, the Brazilian real gaining 7.3 per cent and the Indian rupee climbing 2.8 per cent so far this year. Continue reading »

One of the world’s most complex foreign exchange regimes, in a country with some of the world’s cheapest petrol, is wiping out profits at some of the world’s biggest carmakers.

First, Ford said it would take a charge of $350m in the first quarter because of currency losses in Venezuela, adding to its woes after a $126m loss on its South American operations in Q4 2013 caused by downtime in Brazil preparing for new products and “limited availability of US dollars” in Venezuela. Continue reading »

That was then

Back in 2008, President Luis Inácio Lula da Silva boasted that the tsunami of the global financial crisis would register barely a ripple, uma marolinha, in Brazil. Bar Mexico, this was true for the rest of the region too. Today, though, Latin America is more vulnerable to a devastating “sudden stop” in international capital flows.

As Agustin Carstens, the head of the Mexican central bank, warned last week, such an event could be triggered by higher US interest rates. Or, more worryingly, it could follow a sudden collapse of commodity prices should China’s economy slow abruptly. But how much more vulnerable is Latin America today? About 20 per cent more, according to the Inter-American Development Bank. Continue reading »

Let me explain

By Andrew Rosati and Andres Schipani

The world’s most complicated foreign exchange regime got a bit more complicated this week. Venezuela now has four more-or-less-functioning exchange rates: three official ones plus the black market or innombrable (unmentionable) rate – so called because although its use is widespread among companies and individuals, merely to mention it was, until recently, a crime.

Confused? We’d love to say you won’t be after this episode of beyondbrics. Here’s our explainer. Continue reading »

Well, that didn’t last long.


Venezuela launched its long-awaited Sicad 2 dollar market on Monday, in what many hoped would be a step towards normalisation of the country’s dysfunctional foreign exchange market. Continue reading »

From Jason Mitchell

I am a British freelance journalist who has been based in the city of Merida in the Venezuelan Andes for the past three and a half years.

On Thursday last week I was forced to leave Merida at short notice after receiving a death threat from an extortioner. The person said he was phoning on behalf of the commander of the local paramilitaries and that if I did not pay 100,000 bolivares (about $1,400 at the black market exchange rate), I would be murdered. Continue reading »

Another sign of the stresses in Venezuela’s economy: annual inflation hit 57.3 in February according to the central bank, up from 56.3 per cent in January.

The numbers were bad enough for Nelson Merentes, central bank president, to admit at the weekend that Venezuela was in an economic crisisContinue reading »

The unrest that has left at least 20 people dead goes on in Venezuela. Over the weekend, protesters were confronted by security forces while attempting to make an “empty pots march” on the food ministry in Caracas, fed up with worsening shortages that have left one in four basic goods missing from the city’s shops.

One cause is a chronic, government-imposed shortage of dollars to pay for imports. While resisting calls for wholesale reform, on Monday officials are set to launch a new, less stringent system of foreign exchange controls that, it is hoped, will provide some relief. Continue reading »

Investors in Ukrainian bonds have heaved a collective sigh of relief over the past few days – or, if not that, they have at least moved further away from the threat of default, if the recent retraction in bond yields and CDS spreads is any guide. But even in the darkest days of last week when Ukrainian yields soared to panic levels, investors could have taken one grain of comfort. Things, after all, could have been worse: they could have invested in Venezuela. Continue reading »

When 1m protesting Brazilians took to the streets last year, Dilma Rousseff, the president, sought to defuse their complaints by promising to fix ailing services and make changes to the political system. In contrast, as Venezuelan students and opposition activists have taken to the streets this month, president Nicolás Maduro has responded by calling them “fascists” and “coup-mongers” who want to bring back neo-liberalism and kill off the country’s vaunted social services.

In whose hands, however, are Venezuela’s social advances safest? Continue reading »

Demonstrators are still out in the streets of Caracas venting anger over a raft of problems, including rampant shortages of basic goods, which economists say are a by-product of foreign currency restrictions.

Unrest has been mounting in Venezuela, as pro-and anti-government groups keep clashing. Amid such mayhem, the government took some time to fiddle, once again, with its foreign exchange system, this time introducing the new “Sicad 2.” Continue reading »

For how much longer can the crazy story of Venezuela’s currency market continue to play out? For Toyota de Venezuela, the answer is “no longer”. On Thursday, workers at its factory in Cumaná will down tools for an indefinite period. The reason: it has run out of imported parts – or, rather, of the dollars with which to pay for them.

How did a country that claims to have the biggest oil reserves on the planet and which is reckoned to earn $80bn-$100bn a year from oil exports manage to run out of dollars? Continue reading »

Amid a heavily distorted economy battling a spiralling black market rate for greenbacks, Venezuela on Wednesday finally unveiled plans to reform its tight currency control system that has been in place for more than a decade, a move that market watchers say amounts to a stealth devaluation.

“We are creating a system of bands in a new currency system,” said Rafael Ramírez, the president of the state oil company PDVSA, who is also the energy minister and vice president in charge of the economy, during a news conference. He insisted that, “this is not a devaluation, but a different foreign exchange system, with bands.” Continue reading »