Venezuelan currency flip hogs airline seats
CARACAS — Manuela Diaz has been waiting months to visit her daughter who is studying in the United States.
Diaz has her passport, a valid U.S. visa and money for the trip. But she can't get an airline ticket.
“All flights are booked through early February,” says Diaz, 53, whose daughter is attending school in Pennsylvania.
The reason flights are booked is because enterprising Venezuelans are taking up the seats to exploit a loophole in foreign exchange controls that allows them to reap huge profits by exchanging their bolivars for U.S. dollars abroad.
International flights from the South American country have been full for months as thousands of Venezuelans called “currency tourists” book all available seats to take advantage of a mushrooming black market trade in their own currency.
With the value of the Venezuelan currency, the bolivar, dropping, demand for stable currencies like the dollar is high. But Venezuela does not allow people to change their money for dollars except under strict circumstances, one of which is to obtain money to spend overseas.
Venezuelans who possess an international airline ticket can exchange their bolivars for dollars through the Venezuela foreign exchange agency at the state-set rate of 6.3 bolivars per dollar. One can get up to $3,000 in dollars this way.
The dollars are credited to travelers' credit cards and when abroad, the travelers withdraw the money via a cash advance. With the cash in hand, travelers return to Venezuela where they sell the dollars on the black market for 45 bolivars to the dollar, a much higher rate they what they paid for the dollars before they left.
So, a Venezuelan who gets $3,000 for his 18,900 bolivars can sell the U.S. currency then for 135,000 bolivars, a 700 percent return on investment.
“It's easy money, and a profitable way to supplement your income,” says Luis Molino, a 35-year-old dentist, who went to Peru to do the el raspao, or scrape, as it is called.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- 44 killed in Gaza; Israeli soldier feared captured
- Brutality on video only part of the significance to Islamic State’s message
- Argentina slips into financial quagmire
- Ebola viral disease prompts U.S. travel warning to West Africa
- Kerry urges Israel, Hamas to use 72-hour ceasefire to find common ground
- Reports include ‘aliens’ as origin of Russian holes
- Ebola claims hero doctor in Sierra Leone
- After 4 attempts, forensics experts finally make it to Ukraine plane crash site
- Gas explosions kill 20, injure 270 in Taiwan
- Thousands of Libyans flee as Islamic militants seize Benghazi, fighting rages in capital
- Abbas wants factions’ accord to lodge war-crimes claim against Israel