The airline scramble has added to shortages, power cuts and runaway prices as another symbol of the Byzantine economic challenges facing the new government of President Nicolas Maduro in the South American OPEC nation.
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Flights are booked solid months in advance, not from a new interest in exotic destinations but because locals are profiting from a play on the nation's tightly controlled currency market.
"It's like you're trapped here," said travel agent Doris Gaal, telling a customer he would be better off taking a boat to a Caribbean island because the daily flights are fully booked. "It's all because of these stupid dollars!"
After a decade of currency controls set up by late socialist leader Hugo Chavez in 2003, the disparity between the official and black-market rates for the local bolivar currency is higher than ever. Greenbacks now sell on the illegal market at about seven times the government price of 6.3 to the dollar.
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