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Venezuela devalues currency

Venezuela's government announced Friday that it is devaluing the country's currency, a long-anticipated change expected to push up prices in the heavily import-reliant economy.

Officials said the fixed exchange rate is changing from 4.30 bolivars to the dollar to 6.30 bolivars to the dollar.

The devaluation had been widely expected by analysts in recent months, though experts had been unsure about whether the government would act while President Hugo Chavez remained out of sight in Cuba recovering from cancer surgery.

It was the first devaluation to be announced by Chavez's government since 2010, and it pushed up the price of the dollar against the bolivar by 46.5 per cent.

By boosting the bolivar value of Venezuela's dollar-denominated oil sales, the change is expected to help ease a difficult budget outlook for the government, which has turned increasingly to borrowing to meet its spending obligations.

But analysts said the move would not be sufficient to end the government's budget woes or balance the exchange rate with an overvalued currency. Economists predicted higher inflation and a likely continuation of shortages of some staple foods, such as cornmeal, chicken and sugar.

Planning and Finance Minister Jorge Giordani said the new rate will take effect Wednesday, after the two-day holiday of Carnival. He said the old rate would still be allowed for some transactions that already were approved by the state currency agency.

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