CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela's Central Bank filed suit in the U.S. on Friday against a website widely used here to track the plummeting black market value of the country's currency.
In an unusual complaint filled with images, high-flown language and even links to journalists' personal websites, the bank alleged that managers of the site DolarToday are committing cyberterrorism and sowing economic chaos. The suit seeks to shut down the operation and exact monetary damages.
"How far will some go to enrich themselves? Would they go so far as to hurt their own countrymen?" the suit asks in its opening clause.
The complaint against shadowy figures it describes as Venezuelan exiles living in the United States is adorned with screenshots, historical photographs, and stock images of cash.
Backers of DolarToday named in the suit could not immediately be reached for comment.
Venezuela tightly controls the legal exchange of its currency, the bolivar, using a byzantine three-tier system meant to subsidize key imports with advantageous exchange rates. But many people use the parallel black market, where the value of the local currency has been plummeting.
DolarToday, which tracks currency trades along the Colombian border, has become a ubiquitous tool to check the value of the parallel market. The site is often blocked in Venezuela, but many people in the smartphone-crazed country use the site's app to check the black market rate throughout the day.
In addition to sending out alerts when the rate crashes to new lows, the site provides a steady stream of negative news out of the socialist-governed country, and posts jubilant banner headlines when members of the ruling party get into trouble.
The government says the site is publishing fake rates, intentionally driving the value of the bolivar down by creating the false impression the currency is bleeding value faster than it actually is.
On Friday, the site was posting a value of 820 bolivars to the dollar, down from 790 bolivars to the dollar earlier in the week. That's compared to the official rates of 6.3, 13.5 and 200 bolivars per dollar.
Economists believe Venezuela is suffering from the world's highest inflation. The bolivar has lost about 90 percent of its value on the black market during the last year, according to DolarToday numbers.
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