Casinos and brands return to Venezuela after ‘dollarization’

The scene of the Las Mercedes neighborhood in Caracas, Venezuela, is increasingly filled with luxury cars, designer stores and casinos — a picture that seemed unimaginable just a few years ago, but which has come to exemplify how President Nicolás Maduro has sought to enhance the economy with typically capitalist measures.

In a report published today on Bloomberg, certain regions of the Venezuelan capital are described as new business centers for a tiny portion of the country’s population — about 90% of Venezuelans currently live in poverty, recalls the article.

In Las Mercedes, however, it is easy to locate the impact of Maduro’s economic decisions: the lesser control over prices and the permission to circulate the dollar, released in 2018, preceded the return of casinos and gambling, authorized to operate since the second half of 2021 after a long period of ban imposed by former president Hugo Chávez.

In addition to towers of business buildings under construction, a Ferrari store with the cheapest Portofino at US$ 200,000 makes up the region. Stores sell brands such as Hermès and Pronovias, a leading brand in luxury dresses, and stiletto shoes by Italian designer Gianvito Rossi are on display at a cost of US$ 1000 a pair.

“For the last ten years, we’ve been missing a place like this to have fun,” Maria Elena told the report. Millan, a 52-year-old stockbroker who was having fun at the luxurious Humboldt Casino, one of Caracas’s top casinos.

Relationship with the US and economy

Despite Venezuela being left out of the Summit of the Americas, a meeting promoted by US President Joe Biden with leaders from the continent, the country is experiencing a moment of improvement in relations with the North Americans – due, in particular, to the war. in Ukraine and the fear of lack of oil on the international market.

In May, Reuters sources said the Biden administration would authorize US oil company Chevron Corp to begin negotiations with the Maduro administration, temporarily lifting a US ban on such discussions.

However, there is still no final decision from Washington on the renewal of a license, currently limited, that allows Chevron to maintain assets in Venezuela, the source added.

Venezuela is experiencing an economic recovery after seven years of decline, with forecasts that point to growth between 5% and 8% this year, according to experts, and stabilization of the bolivar against the dollar.

However, there is still skepticism, as many consider that the improvement will be uneven across different social sectors and difficult to sustain over time.

*With information from Reuters

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