Venezuela's Maduro says "no rush" to hike world's cheapest gasoline

domingo 14 de diciembre de 2014 11:41 GYT

By Alexandra Ulmer and Diego Ore

CARACAS Dec 14 (Reuters) - Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro said there was "no rush" to hike the world's cheapest gasoline prices, suggesting the increasingly unpopular president has shied away from implementing the risky domestic reform in the near future amid an economic crisis.

"I've considered, as head of state, that the moment has not arrived," he said in a pre-recorded interview broadcast on the Televen channel on Sunday.

"The moment will come, maybe in 2015, there's no rush, we're not going to throw more gasoline on the fire that already exists with speculation and induced inflation."

Venezuela's economy is flailing under the weight of an over 60 percent annual inflation, an apparent recession, strict currency controls, and slipping oil prices.

Maduro has appeared reluctant to make necessary but unpopular economic adjustments, such as hiking gasoline prices for the first time in two decades or unifying the country's complex system of exchange rates.

Subsidizing the world's cheapest gasoline costs the South American OPEC member about $12.5 billion a year, according to the government.

But raising prices is a hot-button issue in the country with the world's largest crude reserves.

A gasoline price hike in 1989 triggered massive riots and left hundreds dead. A hike now would likely also further fan the region's highest inflation rate and especially hurt the poor, the government's traditional base of support.   Continuación...