Venezuela announces end to exchange controls after 16 years

Reflected in a mirror, Alberto Cedeno gives his client a one dollar haircut under a road bridge where he and other barbers set up shop, coined "Bolivar Barbershop," in downtown Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, May 13, 2019. The mural advertises the names of different styles of haircuts for men. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)
In this May 8, 2019 photo, a woman counts 5,000 Bolivars, almost one dollar, to buy a bag of bananas in the Petare area of Caracas, Venezuela. After 16 years of currency controls, the government is allowing its Bolivar to be exchanged on the floating market starting Monday, May 13, starting at 5,200 Bolivars per U.S. dollar. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)
Customer line up outside a branch of Banco Provincial bank in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, May 13, 2019. After 16 years of currency controls, the government is allowing its Bolivar to be exchanged on the floating market starting Monday, starting at 5,200 Bolivars per U.S. dollar. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela has announced the lifting of foreign exchange controls on banks for the first time in 16 years, but some observers are skeptical the measure will do much to lift the shrinking economy.

Few people lined up at money exchange windows in private banks in Caracas on Monday. One man, Rodolfo Gutiérrez, said Venezuela's hyperinflation is so severe that many people find it hard to buy dollars and are focused on buying whatever food they can.

Economist Asdrúbal Oliveros says some private institutions struggle to do international transactions because of U.S. sanctions imposed in a campaign aimed at pressuring President Nicolás Maduro out of office.

The exchange controls were imposed by Maduro's predecessor, Hugo Chávez, following an attempted coup in 2002.

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