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And greenbacks are king in Venezuela, the year-old prostitute says. Prostitutes more than double their earnings by moonlighting as currency traders in Puerto Cabello.
Greenbacks in the black market are worth 11 times more than the official rate as dollars become more scarce in an economy that imports 70 percent of the goods it consumes. The official exchange rate, reserved for imports of food and medicine, is 6.
The dollar shortage is turning Venezuela into a two-tier society similar to the Soviet Union and Cuba, said Steve Hanke, professor of applied economics at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Those with access to dollars, such as prostitutes, tour agents, airport taxi drivers and expatriates, are able to shield themselves from inflation by trading their greenbacks at ever-higher rates.
The squares and cobbled streets of the colonial center stand in ruins, with the smell of sewage pervading among piles of garbage. The shortage of dollars has led to a scarcity in the shops of everything from bottled water to toilet paper, and pushed prices up 59 percent in the year through March, the last month for which figures are available.
The jump in prices, mounting shortages and a crime wave have fueled three months of anti-government protests that have cost the lives of at least 42 people. One in four basic products were unavailable in shops in January, the last time the central bank published scarcity figures. The percentage of households living below the poverty line rose 6 percentage points to Maduro said June 3 the figures from the government agency are unofficial. For women like Giselle, Elena and Paola, prostitution for dollars has become a lifeline keeping them from poverty.