Venezuela annual inflation exceeds 6,000 percent in Feb - National Assembly

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CARACAS (Reuters) - Prices in Venezuela rose 6,147 percent in the 12 months to the end of February, according to estimates by the country’s opposition-led National Assembly released on Monday, broadly in line with independent economists’ figures.

Inflation during the month of February alone was 80 percent, opposition lawmakers said, amid an economic crisis in which millions of Venezuelans are unable to find or afford basic food and medicine.

“If this exponential velocity of price growth continues, prepare for an inflation of 131,985 percent in 2018,” tweeted opposition lawmaker and economist Angel Alvarado. “Made in Socialism!”

Critics blame strict currency controls, enacted 15 years ago by the late president, Hugo Chavez, as well as excessive money printing. The bolivar currency is down some 98 percent against the dollar in the last year alone, meaning Venezuela’s minimum wage is equivalent to just a handful of U.S. dollars a month.

Nicolas Maduro’s administration blames the problems on an alleged economic war waged by the opposition and business leaders, with a helping hand from Washington. Authorities have not published inflation data for more than two years.

According to the National Assembly’s calculations, oil-rich Venezuela at the end of last year entered hyperinflation, for which the benchmark is usually a 50 percent monthly inflation figure.

Reporting by Caracas newsroom; Writing by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Phil Berlowitz