CARACAS, March 14 Venezuela's annual inflation
rate rose to 57.3 percent in February, the central bank said on
Friday, as violent opposition demonstrations during the month
disrupted the economy.
The South American OPEC nation, which has one of the world's
highest rates of inflation, said that despite the protests
inflation slowed on a month-on-month basis to 2.4 percent from
3.3 percent in January.
Demonstrators outraged over shortages of staple goods and
soaring consumer prices have been staging protests and blocking
roads since the middle of February demanding that President
Nicolas Maduro resign.
Maduro describes the soaring inflation as the result of an
"economic war" led by opposition leaders and supported by
ideological adversaries in Washington.
"These results came in the context of the economic war ...
which had consequences for the distribution of consumer goods,
limitations on the workday, and restriction of the hours of
operation of commercial establishments," the bank said.
The cost of recreation and health services both jumped 4.1
percent from January, while the cost of restaurants and hotels
rose 3.9 percent.
Opposition leaders say the economic problems show the
state-led economic model pioneered by late socialist leader Hugo
Chavez has run out of steam.
Venezuelans have for months been struggling to find basic
consumption items including cooking oil, toilet paper, and
flour, which has in the past weighed on the president's
The bank's scarcity index, a measure of product shortages,
jumped to a record 28 percent in January. The bank's press
release on Friday did not include the figure for February.
Businesses say the shortages are caused by a combination of
currency controls that prevent them from importing raw materials
and price controls that at times force them to sell goods below
their cost of production.
The current wave of protests, which have slowed food
deliveries and forced many businesses to close, may turn public
opinion against the opposition and help Maduro deflect criticism
over the economic problems.
A primary driver behind inflation is the torrid expansion of
the money supply that vastly outstrips the pace of economic
growth. Liquidity grew close to 70 percent in 2013 despite
economic growth of just 1.6 percent, and the money supply has
doubled since November 2012.