60-Year-Old Alabaman Home Depot Worker Is Venezuela’s Public Enemy No. 1

Miraflores Palace/Handout via REUTERS

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Robert Donachie Capitol Hill and Health Care Reporter
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A 60-year-old Home Depot worker in Alabama is arguably public enemy number one for the government of Venezuela.

Gustavo Díaz, a U.S.-trained retired colonel and native of Venezuela, is the man who finds himself as the central object of scorn for the Venezuelan government.

Díaz wound up in this position because he operates the U.S.-based website that is widely popular in Venezuela, The site is a black market exchange where individuals can buy and sell U.S. dollars, allowing users to bypass currency regulations.

The Venezuelan government made countless attempts to stop Díaz, but have thus far been unsuccessful. The nation’s central bank twice sued to block the website in U.S. Courts in 2015, claiming the site was publishing misleading information in a conspiracy to manipulate the nation’s currency. Both times the suits were dismissed.

Venezuelan Socialist President Nicolas Maduro claimed that DollarToday was “conspiring,” against the people and trying to undermine his government. Maduro claimed that Díaz and his colleagues were waging an “economic war.” (RELATED: Venezuela’s Socialist President Threatens To Sue America As Sanctions Begin To Bite)

Díaz says he is able to do more damage to the socialist government of Venezuela by operating the exchange website than he ever was previously. He is no stranger to mixing things up with Venezuelan leadership, as he actively participated in the 2002 coup to overthrow Socialist President Hugo Chávez, Tuscaloosa News reports.

While the government of Venezuela may have its sights locked on Díaz, there are a myriad of other pressing issues facing the Venezuelan government that will vie for attention.

Venezuelans are dying of treatable illnesses due to shortages of medical supplies, for example. The government of Venezuela reports that one out of three Venezuelans who are admitted to public hospitals died in 2015. Essentially, the Venezuelan people now have a 33 percent chance they will not leave the hospital alive. (RELATED: 1 In 3 Patients Admitted Admitted To Venezuelan Hospitals Die)

Inflation is so bad that the government ordered millions of pounds of provisions (in the form of Venezuelan currency, i.e. the Bolivar), to be dropped by plane-load across the nation. The inflation rate in Venezuela is expected to hit 480 percent this year and 1,600 percent by 2017. The government is even putting its own military in charge of the country’s food supplies.

Díaz’s DollarToday began as a Twitter feed showing the black market exchange rate for the Bolivar. Díaz and his partners would calculate the exchange rate by using data from polling exchange houses in Columbia. Venezuela has controlled the Bolivar’s official value since 2003 and bans people from posting unofficial exchange rates (as Díaz’s website does), the Journal reports.

The website now calculates exchange rates based on skimming software that compiles data posted by Venezuelans on social media outlets. That rate is then checked against underground markets, the Journal reports. Díaz and his fellow owners have no plans to sell or stop the website in the near future.

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