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Venezuela inflation slows to 16.1% in March, central bank says

·1-min read

CARACAS, April 17 (Reuters) - Venezuelan consumer prices rose 16.1% in March, central bank data released late on Friday showed, a drop from the 33.8% rise in February as the South American country remains mired in a years-long economic collapse marked by hyperinflation.

That brought the country's interannual inflation to 3,012% in March, according to Reuters calculations based on central bank data. Inflation has eroded Venezuelans' purchasing power, with the monthly minimum wage equivalent to just 70 U.S. cents.

With the value of the local bolivar currency collapsing, Venezuelans have increasingly turned to the U.S. dollar for everyday transactions in recent years, a change embraced by President Nicolas Maduro as an "escape valve" in the face of U.S. sanctions aimed at ousting him.

The sector with the highest March price spike was healthcare, where prices rose by 21.7% as the once-prosperous OPEC country confronted a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. Education and communication services prices, by contrast, rose 7.8% and 10.8%, respectively, according to the central bank. (Reporting by Deisy Buitrago and Mayela Armas in Caracas; Writing by Vivian Sequera and Luc Cohen; Editing by Daniel Wallis)