Political Trouble in Venezuela Means Economic Damage for Some South Florida Businesses

The political trouble in Venezuela goes beyond just the trouble out in the street. A significant number of companies in South Florida – including many in Doral and Sweetwater – that rely on customers in Venezuela are taking a bit hit in the wallet because of the instability there.

That has an impact on jobs and the firms’ ability, ultimately, to stay afloat.

On Monday Orlando Castro and his business partners were taking inventory of the off-road products they sell at Autobruder in Doral. They were also keeping watch on the latest in Caracas. The demonstrations now underway are highlighting the economic trouble that government critics say are a result of policies strangling free trade.

"It’s been really difficult lately,” Castro said.

Venezuela used to be a prime market for his company’s products. But on Monday Castro said that while many in Venezuela want to buy their goods, it is not happening – because it almost impossible to get anything through the port or airport due to government controls, he said.

"Lately some of those controls include different permits – or different processes to import tires, to import suspensions, bumpers, lights, all different types of products that we sell that we provide to our customers,” Castro said. “Taking them to Venezuela is really complicated."

Castro said his firm now has to find another place to market the products to make up the losses.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro says the U.S. is creating all the trouble and on Monday came the news that he is giving three U.S. Embassy officials 48 hours to leave the country. But the U.S. State Department says it hasn't been officially notified of anyone is being kicked out and denies it is behind the street violence.

On Sunday thousands of Venezuelan immigrants turned out in downtown Miami calling for change in their homeland.

Several small business owners told NBC 6 that Maduro significantly cut the amount of American dollars Venezuelan citizens can get their hands on.

Juan Carlos Reggeti, a cell phone wholesaler, said, "We are sending practically nothing. This year with Venezuela the market is empty with them."

Reggeti, who is the director of U.S. One Corp., says two results are that his shipments to Caracas are restricted, and tourists are limited in what they can buy in South Florida.

“And Maduro cut the dollar for the currency. The people is not coming here,” he said.

Venezuela has a great impact on Miami’s economy, Reggeti said.

“They come here and they buy everything,” he said of Venezuelans. But right now they are not doing that, he added.

Venezuelans in South Florida said the tourists leaving their homeland are also going to other places in the U.S. and not Miami because if they land at Miami International Airport the amount of money they can take out of the country is less than if they go to another American city.

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