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Venezuela limits access to dollars at official rate to high priority importers

CARACAS--Venezuela said Wednesday it would allow only importers of high priority goods like food to buy dollars at the official rate, forcing others to pay nearly twice that.

Rafael Ramirez, Venezuela's vice president for economic affairs, insisted the move was not a devaluation of the bolivar currency, even though it would have that effect for those who need U.S. dollars but are not on the priority list.

“This is not a devaluation. This is a different exchange system,” Ramirez said in announcing the sweeping move. “Really, we are building a system of multiple exchange rates.”

Critics, however, noted that the change is a de facto devaluation — which the government needs to help control skyrocketing inflation — with a label on it that sounds appealing to government supporters.

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