(Updates with $2 bills in fifth paragraph.)
Jan. 25 (Bloomberg) -- A photograph of Hugo Chavez’s 14- year-old daughter flaunting a fistful of dollar bills is stirring controversy among Venezuelans angered over her father’s tight control of the economy, which has made foreign currency hard to come by.
The picture was posted on Instagram, an application available on Apple Inc. products such as the iPhone and iPad, by Rosines Chavez, the youngest of Chavez’s four children. Her mother and Chavez’s second wife, Marisabel Rodriguez, defended her daughter’s actions. Rodriguez and Chavez are divorced.
“I told her that her mistake wasn’t to take the picture, but rather posting it on a medium where there are ignorant people who don’t respect others,” Rodriguez said on her Twitter account Jan. 22.
Venezuelans mocked and criticized the photo on Twitter and other social media sites. On micro-blogging site Tumblr, the photograph was mimicked more than 30 times with items that have become scarce under Chavez’s rule, including cooking oil and corn flour, substituting for the fanned-out bills.
Rosines Chavez hasn’t explained why she took the photograph of her holding the notes, including what appears to be a few rare $2 bills, or why she decided to publish it.
The self-declared socialist Chavez, who often rails against alleged U.S. imperialism, will seek election for a third six- year term on Oct. 7.
Chavez’s government established currency controls in 2003 in a bid to shore up the country’s international reserves by stifling capital flight. A government agency known as CADIVI is charged with enforcing rules that limit to $3,000 for travel and $400 for internet purchases the amount of greenbacks Venezuelans are allowed to buy a year at the fixed rate of 4.3 bolivars per dollar.
Venezuelans who don’t receive approval to buy dollars at the official rate pay about 8.5 bolivars per dollar on a black market. Importers can also obtain dollars through a currency market administrated by the central bank that allocates dollars through bond sales at 5.3 bolivars per dollar.
Rosines courted controversy on social networks in the past when she posted a picture of herself alongside Justin Bieber, the Canadian pop singer, after meeting him off his plane in Caracas airport when he visited Venezuela during a Latin American tour. Twitter users in Venezuela said she used her status as Chavez’s daughter to set up the meeting.
--Editors: Philip Sanders, Joshua Goodman
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