Venezuela's opposition demands inflation data

CARACAS, April 14 Mon Apr 14, 2014 10:11am EDT

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CARACAS, April 14 (Reuters) - Venezuela's opposition has accused the government of delaying publication of March inflation data for political reasons, saying the annual rate has reached an alarming 60 percent.

The Central Bank is supposed to publish the closely watched consumer price index in the first 10 days of the month, but delays sometimes occur.

Venezuela has the highest inflation in the Americas, with the opposition saying that is evidence of the failure of socialism and President Nicolas Maduro blaming his opponents for sabotage, hoarding and economic "war" against him.

"The Central Bank directors are violating their own norms .. it is unacceptable," the opposition Democratic Unity coalition said in a statement at the weekend, demanding the immediate publication of March inflation and scarcity data.

"Great damage is done to the nation when monetary authorities hide statistical information."

The coalition, known by its acronym MUD, said it had information the 12-month inflation rate had risen from 57.3 percent in February to 60.0 percent in March.

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who in the past has given accurate inflation figures before the bank citing sources of his in government, said via Twitter that March inflation was more than 4.0 percent.

"That's more than one year (inflation) for various Latin American nations!" he said. The scarcity index, which measures shortages of goods, had hit a new high, Capriles added.

One of the opposition's key demands in a nascent dialogue with the government, born out of two months of street protests, is greater transparency in public finances. Both sides were due to meet for a second round of talks on Tuesday.

Protests that began in February have sparked violence killing 41 people, according to official figures. Inflation and shortages have figured high among demonstrators' complaints.

A Central Bank spokeswoman said on Monday she did not know when March inflation data would be published. "Up to now, we do not have information about that," she said.

Venezuela's decades-old inflation malaise pre-dates Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chavez's 14-year rule, spiking to even higher levels in the 1990s, according to IMF data. (Writing by Andrew Cawthorne Editing by W Simon)

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