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An Alabama Home Depot Salesman Is Also the Arbiter of Venezuela’s Exchange Rate

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Alabaman Holds the Key to Venezuela's Exchange Rate
A customer displays new 500 Bolivar banknotes for a photograph while paying at a convenience store in Caracas, Venezuela, on January 17, 2017. (Carlos Becerra/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

 

60-year-old Gustavo Díaz, who works in the hardware section of a Home Depot in Alabama, also runs one of Venezuela’s most popular websites, DolarToday.com. It is more influential than you might expect.

Díaz’s site allows Venezuelans to supersede government restrictions on cash flow by  “… [providing] a benchmark exchange rate used by his compatriots to buy and sell black-market dollars,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

As it were, the Venezuelan government sets the currency rate and has made it illegal to post exchange rates for black market dollars. According to Public Radio International (PRI), the site “… [bases] the rate on actual street prices that Venezuelan consumers are paying for food, medicine, cars and everything else.” Díaz told the PRI that he and his partners founded the site in 2010 “… as a form of protest against the [Venezuelan] dictatorship because the dictatorship was intimidating and controlling the media on all the information.” It includes a currency calculator, as well as non-state-sponsored business news.

People queue up outside a supermarket in Caracas on January 13, 2015. (Federico Parra/AFP/Getty Images)
People queue up outside a supermarket in Caracas on January 13, 2015. (Federico Parra/AFP/Getty Images)

 

If you’re wondering what the Venezuelan government thinks of all this, you’d be right in suspecting that they’re pissed. Notes WSJ’s Anatoly Kurmanaev:

“Socialist President Nicolás Maduro has accused DolarToday of leading an ‘economic war’ against his embattled government and vowed to jail Mr. Díaz and his two partners, also Venezuelan expatriates in the U.S. The Venezuelan central bank unsuccessfully filed suit against the website twice in U.S. courts. The government has also turned to hackers to launch constant attacks, Mr. Díaz said, forcing the site to use sophisticated defenses.”

Surprisingly, Díaz, an American citizen, makes little off the site and has to work two jobs to make ends meet.

Learn more by listening to Public Radio International‘s story below.

 

—RealClearLife Staff