June 20, 2018 / 12:17 AM / 6 months ago

UPDATE 1-Venezuela taps Citgo engineer Ortega as new central bank chief

(Recasts; adds details on Ortega, context on inflation)

CARACAS, June 19 (Reuters) - Venezuela on Tuesday tapped industrial engineer Calixto Ortega as the country’s new central bank chief as it struggles amidst a hyperinflationary collapse of the national economy.

Ortega has served as vice president of finance at Citgo, a U.S. refiner owned by Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA , according to Citgo’s website.

He replaces outgoing central bank chief Ramon Lobo, who has been leading an effort to cut three zeroes off the country’s bolivar currency and working to rein in consumer price inflation that has unofficially neared 25,000 percent per year.

Ortega was designated by the country’s all-powerful Constituent Assembly, which is 100 percent controlled by allies of the ruling Socialist Party. He is the third Venezuelan central bank chief to be named in less than two years.

Previous changes to central bank leadership have done little to alter monetary policy, which has included a constant expansion of the money supply that economists describe as the principal driver of inflation.

Maduro says the OPEC member country is victim of an “economic war” led by the opposition with the backing of Washington and says inflation is “induced” by unscrupulous business leaders who arbitrarily raise prices. (Reporting by Deisy Buitrago and Vivian Sequera, writing by Brian Ellsworth, editing by G Crosse)

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