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Gideon Long in Caracas

“How much for an empanada?” I ask Junior Morel, manager of the Lunchería Andina, a canteen on a street corner in Catia, a working-class district of Caracas.

“Today, 150,000 bolívares,” he replies, pointing to a small pile of the ubiquitous South American pasties wilting under the tropical heat in their glass-fronted display case. “Tomorrow, 200,000.”

Such are the price rises on everyday purchases in Venezuela these days. Inflation, which has stalked the nation like a bloodhound for years, has finally dug in its fangs. It is now hyperinflation. Last year, consumer prices rose 2,500 per cent, by far the highest rate in the world. This year, they are expected to soar 13,000 per cent.