CARACAS, Venezuela — President Hugo Chavez announced a currency devaluation Friday for the first time since 2005, setting a two-tiered exchange rate designed to help Venezuela's oil earnings go farther domestically while holding down prices of priority imports like food to counter soaring inflation.
Chavez said the bolivar will now have two government-set rates: 2.60 to the dollar for transactions deemed priorities by the government, and 4.30 to the dollar for other transactions. The devaluation dropped the currency's value by 17 percent or 50 percent, depending on the tier.
The higher rate, which he called the "oil dollar," will double the paper value of Venezuela's petroleum earnings when converted to local currency. Oil accounts for about half the government budget, but that income has been squeezed by lower world oil prices in the last year.