While the economy of Venezuela circles the drain, the country’s valiant leaders are taking concerted action – not to fix the problem but to shift the blame.
It’s obvious to anyone with the slightest economic savvy, of course, where the fault lies: in chavista socialism, which demonized capitalism and expanded the Bolivarian Republic’s welfare system beyond all reason.
But the late Hugo Chávez and his successor, Nicolás Maduro, have never let the truth get in the way of disinformation. So it is now, when their finger-pointing reeks of unprecedentedly farcical levels of desperation. You see, this time around, as the Miami Herald reported the other day, the supposed culprit – the evil force that is responsible for bringing down the entire Venezuelan economy – is a website.
It’s called DolarToday. Based in the U.S., registed in Delaware, and founded by three Venezuelan exiles, the site – which is wildly popular – reports on black-market exchange rates between the Venezuelan bolivar, on the one hand, and the euro and U.S. dollar on the other. The site also tracks Venezuela’s sovereign debt (which keeps climbing), international reserves (which keep sinking), and inflation rate (which has been consistently sky-high for years). According to Venezuelan authorities, the information provided on the site has itself engendered that Weimar-style inflation and brought the bolivar’s value down to its current piteous levels.
The Venezuelan government has been trying to block the site since 2013. Maduro has publicly ranted about it, calling its proprietors bandits and economic terrorists. Most recently, Venezuela’s Central Bank filed papers with a Delaware district court accusing them of “racketeering, false advertising, and illicit enrichment” and demanding the site’s closure. “Defendants,” claimed the lawsuit, “are deliberately misrepresenting and effectively manufacturing a market — a phony, distorted market for the exchange of bolivares into dollars and vice-versa, with the aim of lining their pockets with ill-gotten gains.” The bank further charged that the site’s owners “conspired to use a form of cyber-terrorism to wreak, and in fact they have wreaked, economic and reputational harm on the Central Bank by impeding its ability to manage the Republic’s economy and foreign exchange system.”
In response, the defendants said that all they were doing was keeping tabs on the exchange rate being offered in Cúcuta, Colombia, a town on the Venezuelan border. The suit was dismissed on February 26, but the court gave the bank seven days to file an amended complaint. The bank did so pronto; the court has yet to respond. In any event, the site co-owner who spoke with the Miami Herald – and who insisted on being identified with a pseudonym, for fear the Maduro government would retaliate against his family in Venezuela – said, “We’re absolutely sure that the government will try to keep finding ways to wear us down.”