September 13, 2017 / 4:03 PM / 2 years ago

Venezuela suspends dollar auctions, blames U.S. sanctions

A woman changes dollars for bolivars at a money exchange in Caracas, Febreuary 24, 2015. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela on Wednesday temporarily suspended the sale of U.S. dollars through its Dicom auction system, following an announcement last week that it was moving away from the greenback in response to U.S. sanctions.

The United States in August prohibited dealings in new debt from Venezuela and state oil company PDVSA in response to the creation of a new legislative superbody that critics call the consolidation of a dictatorship.

President Nicolas Maduro last week said the crisis-stricken OPEC country would create a basket of currencies to “free” Venezuela from the dollar, using the Dicom auction system.

Upcoming auctions are deferred until “the necessary adjustments are made to our system to incorporate other currencies” and to resolve problems associated with its correspondent bank, Dicom said via its Twitter account.

Dicom as of August was auctioning dollars for 3,300 bolivars. The system serves as a complement to the country’s currency control system that provides greenbacks at 10 bolivars for essential items such as food and medicine.

Dollars on the black market now fetch 22,431 bolivars, according to website, which is the principal for the black market rate.

Dicom has auctioned only $72 million since it began operations three months ago. Business leaders say this is a fraction of what companies need to pay to import goods, leaving them reliant on the black market.

Economists say the currency controls are the primary driver of the country’s economic dysfunction, which includes triple-digit inflation and chronic product shortages.

Maduro says the country is victim of an “economic war” led by political adversaries with the help of Washington.

Reporting by Corina Pons and Deisy Buitrago writing by Brian Ellsworth; editing by Jonathan Oatis

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