Venezuela’s Central Bank is taking a second stab at a popular website that it’s accusing in U.S. courts of sabotaging the economy and undermining the government.
Late Friday, the bank filed an amended complaint against DolarToday, a site registered in Delaware and run by three Venezuelan exiles, that publishes the daily black market bolivar-dollar exchange rate.
The complaint seeks undefined monetary damages and a permanent injunction against DolarToday, which it claims is an “illegal conspiracy to manipulate the value of Venezuela’s currency by widely publicizing false and misleading information about it.”
On Feb. 26, the U.S. District Court of Delaware had rejected the initial complaint saying it didn’t provide enough detail about the harm being done. But it also gave the plaintiffs a window to try again.
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In an interview with the Miami Herald, the defendants said they don’t set the value of the bolivar, they simply report what’s happening in currency houses in Cúcuta, Colombia. Venezuela has tight currency controls and demand for greenbacks sends many to the black market looking to exchange cash.
In its complaint, the Central Bank alleges that DolarToday has established itself as an “authoritative source” for currency information and accuses the defendants of manipulating the market as they enrich themselves through arbitrage.
The International Monetary Fund is predicting Venezuela’s inflation could hit 720 percent this year.
In addition, the complaint says the scheme has diminished earnings that the Central Bank obtains from printing the bolivar currency, and causes “reputational” harm by creating the “false impression in the public that the Central Bank’s monetary policies are ineffectual and that it cannot manage the Venezuelan economy.”
In its complaint, the Central Banks says the website is using tactics tantamount to “cyber-terrorism” to damage the economy.
Suffering from collapsing oil prices, Venezuela is trapped in one of its most severe economic crisis in recent history.
The International Monetary Fund is predicting Venezuela’s inflation could hit 720 percent this year, and the shortage of even basic goods are raising tensions in the country. The bolivar, which just a few years ago traded at 80 bolivares to the dollar is now trading at almost 900 on the black market.
The government has often blamed the crisis on “economic warfare” waged by its foes and the international community. The economic malaise is one of the principal reasons the newly emboldened opposition is seeking ways to oust President Nicolás Maduro before the 2019 election.