Venezuelans have embraced Black Friday for the first time. Shoppers flocked to shopping centres in Caracas, the capital, to take advantage of the first Black Friday discounts in recent memory, as socialist President Nicolas Maduro's government loosens controls in the face of an economic crisis.
For the first six holiday seasons of his presidency, Maduro attempted to keep consumer goods prices low despite galloping inflation with strict enforcement of price controls. This year, with the OPEC nation facing crippling sanctions imposed by the United States on its oil industry, the government has left retailers more or less alone.
"My sister saw it on social media and said, 'Look, there are 70 percent discounts at the Sambil,' and we came running," said Elizabeth Diaz, a 42-year-old bank worker from the city of Los Teques 22 miles from Caracas' Sambil mall, where she was waiting in line outside a toy store to buy gifts for her three grandchildren.
"Discounts are the only way, because, with prices through the roof, one can't afford anything," she said.
Malls and small retailers across the country advertised discounts of up to 80 percent on goods from shoes to electronics, hoping an influx of Christmas shoppers could compensate for weak sales so far in Venezuela's continuing economic contraction.
In January, the government said it will make price controls more "flexible" and loosen a complex, long-standing system of currency controls. That has led to a wider circulation of foreign currency, as Venezuelans turn to the dollar to protect their earnings against a fast-devaluing local bolivar.
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