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Venezuela's Economic Problems

From VOA Learning English, this is Economics. Venezuela is facing a number of economic problems. Inflation is putting pressure on many businesses.

Rotzen Villabon owns a gift store. But his business needs American dollars to import products made in China. He is unable to exchange Venezuelan money for dollars at the official exchange rate of about 6.5 bolivares to the dollar. He says the supply of dollars is even limited on the black market, where dollars cost much more. He says that is why business at his store is down. Venezuela has the highest rate of inflation in South America.

In February, Venezuela reduced the value of its currency by one third, which has made imports more costly. The economic troubles have resulted in shortages of products -- from necessities like food to beauty products. Venezuela is a major oil exporter. The nation's oil wealth paid for many social programs during the 14-year-rule of former president Hugo Chavez. But Venezuela's recent presidential election showed there are divisions in the country.

Nicolas Maduro was declared the winner of a close election over opposition candidate Henrique Capriles on April 14th. Mr. Capriles disputed the vote and called for a recount. Henrique Capriles is a lawyer. He promised to open the economy to foreign investment. Nicolas Maduro is former union leader. He served as vice president to Mr. Chavez before the president died of cancer last month.

Mr. Maduro promised to continue the social policies and programs of Mr. Chavez. For supporters, the election was about saving programs for free housing, health care and education.

For VOA Learning English, I'm Carolyn Presutti. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 19Apr2013)