Connect to share and comment
Venezuela's inflation soared to 56.2 percent in 2013 but slowed in the last two months of the year after the socialist government forced stores to cut prices, officials said Monday.
The national consumer price index decelerated from 5.1 percent in October to 4.8 percent in November and 2.2 percent in December, the central bank said in a report that was 20 days late.
President Nicolas Maduro said the figures led to annual inflation of 56.2 percent -- the highest in Latin America -- which he blamed on a "parasitic capitalist economy."
"If Venezuela was not subjected to this economic war, we would have single-digit inflation, not 56 percent," Maduro told a news conference.
Inflation is nearly three times as high as in 2012, when it hit 20.1 percent.
Maduro ordered appliance stores in November to slash prices, sent troops to enforce the move and threatened to arrest store owners who refused to comply.
The national assembly, dominated by his socialist party, then gave him special powers to rule by decree for one year.
Analysts attribute the nation's high inflation to rigid currency and price controls that were launched in 2003 by late president Hugo Chavez, who died in March this year.
The government has fixed the exchange rate at 6.3 bolivars for $1, fueling a black market where the US currency is obtained at nine times the official rate.
The oil-rich country, which is heavily dependent on imports, has been plagued by shortages of basic goods ranging from meat to toilet paper.
The central bank's report lacked its usual "scarcity" index, a gauge of the country's chronic shortages.
Maduro said authorities found food prices inflated by more than 3,000 percent and that, had it not been for government-subsidized food programs, "there would have been a famine."
The central bank's report said food and non-alcoholic drink prices jumped 7.5 percent in November compared to 5.6 percent a month earlier.
Other sectors, however, have eased, with inflation easing in hotels and restaurants as well as alcoholic drinks and clothing.
"As has been the case in Venezuelan history, political tension and economic destabilization mixed in the form of a real economic war against the Venezuelan people," the central bank said.
In November, the central bank warned that growth would be lower in 2013 than the previous forecast of three percent.
Maduro vowed that 2014 would be "the year of the establishment of a new internal economic order."
"A powerful element will be the new law on costs, profits and fair prices," he said, referring to a decree that sets limits on how much businesses can earn.
Maduro, who regularly accuses the right-wing "bourgeoisie" of being behind Venezuela's economic woes, called on the opposition to act "without relying on the United States ... without conspiring against our country."
But he said a Christmas Day meeting with dozens of opposition mayors in the wake of December 8 local elections that reinforced his party turned out to be "positive."
"We said what we had to say with respect," said Maduro, whose razor-thin victory in April presidential elections was never recognized by the opposition, which cried fraud. "We must get used to acting with respect to the constitution."