Venezuela loosens grip on currency controls: official

The economy of oil-rch, cash-poor Venezuela crashed as crude prices sank

Venezuela's government loosened Thursday the tight currency controls it first put in place 15 years ago, with the pro-government Constituent Assembly announcing the passage of a decree authorizing money exchange operations.

The text means that there can be exceptions to the law that calls for fines and prison time for those who trade currency on the black market.

In oil-rich, cash-poor Venezuela, whose economy crashed as crude prices sank, the government of then-president Hugo Chavez in 2003 instituted strict controls on its currency, the bolivar, and the country's exchange rate -- a policy pursued by his successor, current leader Nicolas Maduro.

Venezuela is still in dire economic straits. Even Maduro acknowledged this week that his economic model had "failed," with widespread food and medicine shortages, and paralyzed public transport services.

The International Monetary Fund has forecast a mind-boggling inflation rate of one million percent this year.

The economy of oil-rch, cash-poor Venezuela crashed as crude prices sank