January 15, 2017 / 7:19 PM / 2 years ago

Venezuela hard currency income fell 60 pct in 2016, Maduro says

CARACAS, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Venezuela’s hard currency income fell 60 percent in 2016 compared with the previous year, President Nicolas Maduro said on Sunday, blaming low oil prices.

The country with the world’s largest crude reserves receives over 90 percent of its foreign income from oil, whose price has fallen since mid-2014, worsening a recession in the OPEC country.

Venezuelans are struggling amid shortages of basic food products, spiraling inflation and a depreciating currency that has dragged down monthly minimum wages to below $10, and violent crime.

Venezuela received $5.29 billion in hard currency last year, a far cry from the $13.32 billion in 2015, Maduro said during a speech to the Supreme Court, pointing to a graph.

Wearing a sash with the Venezuelan colors, the unpopular socialist Maduro praised Venezuelans for their “courage” last year.

“Other governments wouldn’t have survived 2016,” he said, calling it “the longest year.”

The opposition spent much of 2016 pushing for a recall referendum to remove him, but authorities quashed chances of a vote at the end of the year. Polls suggest Maduro would have lost such a referendum, which would have triggered early elections to replace him.

The government has not released data for inflation or GDP for 2016. (Reporting by Diego Ore and Alexandra Ulmer; Writing by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

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