Venezuela announces hard-currency auction

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela’s central bank says that on Friday it will begin selling dollars at auction for only the second time since Hugo Chavez died in March.

The oil-rich country is plagued by food and medicine shortages that many blame on economic mismanagement and overspending by the late socialist president.

Venezuelans can only legally obtain hard currency through the government. On the black market, the U.S. dollar now fetches about five times the official exchange rate.

The government auctioned off $200 million in March to businesses. Bankers said they sold for about twice the official rate.

Now it will be auctioning off $170 million to businesses in the automotive and health sectors and free trade zone companies. Another $30 million will be sold to individuals with travel plans.

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