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 Thursday, 16 January, 2003, 20:29 GMT
Venezuela halts dollar auctions
Hugo Chavez
President Chavez is at the United Nations in New York
Venezuela's Central Bank has suspended its daily dollar auctions after the bolivar dropped 6%.

The country's oil exports continue to be crippled by a strike against President Hugo Chavez, now in its seventh week.

The country's Central Bank will still supply dollars through its trading desk to ensure "normal functioning of the market," it said on its Website.

A central bank spokeswoman said the bank hadn't decided when to resume the auctions.

Crash fears

She told the Dow Jones news service: "The auction is suspended today (Thursday), and we don't have information about the future."

The bolivar hit a new low Wednesday, closing at 1,716 to the dollar, down 6% from Tuesday.

The government attempted to calm fears of an economic crash.

It denied it was planning to devalue the bolivar in order to balance its $25bn budget.

The strike, which began on 2 December, has cost Venezuela US$4 billion so far, the government has said.

Thursday was the third time during the strike that the Central Bank has suspended dollar auctions.

It suspended the auctions for two days last week after 45,000 bank employees joined the strike for 48 hours.

The bolivar has lost 12% of its value since Friday.

Meanwhile, Mr Chavez was in New York on Thursday to meet United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan, as international efforts intensified to help Venezuela resolve its crisis.

Before the strike, Venezuela was the world's fifth-largest oil exporter and a major supplier to the US.


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05 Jan 03 | Americas
16 Jan 03 | Americas
04 Jan 03 | Americas
03 Jan 03 | Americas
05 Dec 02 | Americas
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