US-wary Venezuela opens up to tourist dollars

US-wary Venezuela opens up to tourist dollars
US-wary Venezuela opens up to tourist dollars

A cash crisis has forced Venezuela’s socialist government to ease its currency restrictions by letting tourists pay their hotel bills in dollars with bank cards.

Recent foreign visitors to Venezuela have got used to cramming into their pockets and backpacks unwieldy wads of bolivars, the local currency.

President Nicolas Maduro has accused the United States of waging “economic war” against his country. The Venezuelan government controls the supply of dollars, outlawing transactions in greenbacks and fixing an official exchange rate.

But it needs dollars to buy crucial imports — and the economic crisis that erupted in 2014, causing food shortages, riots and looting, has left it dangerously short of greenbacks.

“It needs foreign currency and is looking at all the ways it can maximize its dollar holdings,” said Asdrubal Oliveros, director of the consultancy Econanalitica.