July 7, 2017 / 2:05 PM / 2 years ago

Venezuela inflation so far this year at 176 percent: opposition

FILE PHOTO - A cashier counts bolivar notes at a butchery in a public market in Caracas, Venezuela January 22, 2016. REUTERS/Marco Bello

CARACAS (Reuters) - Inflation in Venezuela’s crisis-hit economy was 176 percent in the first half of 2017, the opposition-led congress said on Friday in the absence of official data.

Economic hardship in Venezuela, where there are severe food shortages, is helping fuel opposition protests that have led to at least 90 deaths in the last three months.

Various factors underlay the six-month price rise, including excess money-printing by the central bank to fund campaigns for Maduro’s controversial new congress as well as a recent devaluation of the bolivar, opposition lawmaker Angel Alvarado said.

“These levels of inflation and the acceleration of price increases are not only impoverishing Venezuelans, they’re truly fueling hunger,” said Alvarado, an economist.

June’s inflation was 21.4 percent, he added, presenting the latest opposition-calculated index.

President Nicolas Maduro’s government has not published official data for more than a year.

Government opponents say Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, have wrecked a once-prosperous economy with 18 years of state-led socialist policies ranging from nationalizations to currency controls.

The government says it is victim of an “economic war” led by opposition-linked businessmen.

Writing by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Bernard Orr

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