Lufthansa has announced that it will suspend flights to Venezuela from June 18 due to economic difficulties in the country.
The German airline also said currency controls in Venezuela made it impossible for airlines to convert their earnings into dollars and send the money abroad.
Venezuela’s economy has been hit hard by a sharp drop in the price of oil – the country’s main source of income.
The country has high inflation and severe shortages of basic goods.
In a statement, Lufthansa said that it “will be forced to suspend our service between Caracas and Frankfurt as of June 18”.
The company noted that the demand for international flights to Venezuela had dropped in 2015 and in the first quarter of the current year.
However, it said it hoped to restore services in the near future.
Strict currency controls were first imposed in Venezuela in 2003 by late President Hugo Chavez.
The restrictions were further tightened two years ago, forcing several airlines to reduce their operations in the country as they struggled to repatriate billions of dollars in revenue held in the local currency – the bolivar.
Some airlines are now requiring passengers to pay their fares in dollars.
Venezuela’s government has defended its policies, saying it must prioritize.
Caracas says it is using its foreign reserves – which are now scarce – to pay for essential items such as medicines and industrial machinery.
Coca-Cola has been forced to stop producing soft drinks in Venezuela amid an escalating food and energy shortage.
The company said that sugar suppliers in Venezuela will “temporarily cease operations due to a lack of raw materials”.
The announcement comes after Venezuela’s biggest brewer, Empresas Polar, closed plants due to a barley shortage.
Venezuela’s economy has contracted sharply as oil prices plunge.
A Coca-Cola spokeswoman said the company would continue producing sugarless drinks such as Coca-Cola Light (Diet Coke).
She said: “We are engaging with suppliers, government authorities and our associates to take the necessary actions for a prompt solution.”
Sugarcane production has been falling due to price controls and rising production costs, as well as problems in obtaining fertilizer.
As a result, many smaller farmers have turned to other crops that are not price controlled and thus generate higher income.
Venezuela is expected to produce 430,000 tonnes of sugarcane in 2016/17, down from 450,000 tonnes for the previous 12 months, and import 850,000 tonnes of raw and refined sugar, according to USDA figures.
The country’s economic problems have forced many consumers to queue for hours to buy basic foodstuffs.
Venezuela’s economy is expected to shrink by 8% in 2016 after it contracted by 5.8% in 2015.
Its reliance on oil to generate foreign currency and investment has made it a victim of regular recessions.
President Nicolas Maduro has declared a state of emergency in an effort to combat the economic crisis. Critics argue it is an attempt to strengthen his grip on power.
Meanwhile, Bridgestone said on May 23 it was selling its Venezuelan business after six decades in the country.
Bridgestone’s Venezuelan assets will be sold to Grupo Corimon.
Other multinational companies such as Procter & Gamble, Ford and Halliburton have either slowed or abandoned their investments in Venezuela.
Venezuela has declared a 60-day economic emergency as the country deals with its worsening crisis.
President Nicolas Maduro will govern by decree for two months.
The edict includes tax increases and puts emergency measures in place to pay for welfare services and food imports.
The government’s move came as official figures released by the central bank showed that the Venezuelan economy had contracted by 4.5% in the first nine months of 2015.
The emergency was declared hours before President Nicolas Maduro delivers a State of the Nation address to Congress for the first time since his centre-right opponents took control of the legislature.
The decree also instilled more state controls on businesses, industrial productivity and on electronic currency transactions.
Venezuela has the world’s biggest known oil reserves but the huge fall in oil prices in the past 18 months has slashed its revenues by 60%.
Annual inflation up to September 2014 is said by the Venezuelan Central Bank to have reached 141%.
President Nicolas Maduro and new Economy Minister Luis Salas have argued for the need to protect social program established by his predecessor, former President Hugo Chavez, from the global drop in oil prices.
Oil exports account for as much as 95% of Venezuela’s revenue.
The government says the country’s soaring inflation and basic goods shortages have been induced by political opponents.
Correspondents say Venezuelans will be watching carefully to see if the opposition-dominated Congress will support President Nicolas Maduro.
If it does not, the Maduro administration could appeal to the Supreme Court of Justice.
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