Venezuela's woes deepen as Citibank shuts teller window
Venezuela's howling economic woes have worsened as Citibank closed the government's overseas payments account and multinational firms are packing up and leaving.
The beleaguered government -- the opposition is trying organize a recall referendum against the president -- has responded by shifting more power to the military in order to cling to power and avert total collapse.
The army is now in charge of distributing food and other basic goods. Shortages are acute in this South American country blessed with the world's highest oil reserves but devastated by the drop in world crude prices.
Citibank confirmed Tuesday that after a risk assessment, it has closed the account that the Venezuelan government used to make international payments.
Socialist President Nicolas Maduro likened the move to a financial blockade.
Venezuela used the account to make payments to other accounts in the United States and elsewhere in the world.
Now its economic mess is worse because it will have to find another bank to deal with, so as not to get closed out of the international financial system altogether.
"This adds another problem because it makes external payments harder and complicates overseas transactions for a country that was already in a severe crisis," said opposition lawmaker Jose Guerra, a former central bank governor.
The snub from Citibank is the latest in a string of closures or scaling back of operations of foreign companies operating in Venezuela, such as Coca-Cola, US food giant The Kraft Heinz company, Clorox and airlines Lufthansa, Aeromexico and American Airlines.