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Venezuela's inflation worse than Zimbabwe, Iran, amid grinding economic crisis

Jim Wyss, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

BOGOTA, Colombia -- Reeling amid power blackouts and water shortages, Venezuelans could be forgiven for missing the latest economic report.

On Thursday, the opposition-controlled congress confirmed that the country is still trapped in a hyper-inflationary spiral that has made life a misery for the vast majority.

Year-on-year inflation as of February is running 2.3 million percent by their calculations.

Venezuela's Central Bank hasn't put out inflation data since 2015 and some experts say the congressional number is itself grossly inflated, but there's no question that Venezuela remains the global leader in runaway prices.

If there is a silver lining in the new data it's that inflation in February was 54 percent for the month -- down from 191 percent in January, said Jose Guerra, an opposition deputy and a member of the body's economic committee.

Guerra said the slowdown was essentially due to the "brutal drop" in consumer spending, but the regime's decision to loosen its currency controls have also helped stabilize the bolivar.

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The inflation news comes as Nicolas Maduro is struggling to hang onto power amid growing unrest and the rise of self-declared interim president Juan Guaido, the man recognized by the U.S. and 50 other countries as the nation's legitimate leader.

Guerra said the only way for the economy to right itself was for Maduro to step down.

"Maduro has to leave office before the economy will ever start to recover," he said. "He created the problem and there's no way to solve the economy without resolving our political issue."

Venezuela is sitting on the world's largest oil reserves, and was once South America's most prosperous nation. But critics say two decades of single-party rule in Venezuela -- first by Hugo Chavez and now Maduro -- have bred corruption, cronyism and mismanagement that have destroyed the economy.

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