efe-epaCaracas

Venezuela's vice president said Wednesday the government had given the green light for the opening of exchange offices to enable people to legally receive remittances sent from abroad, as well as carry out other transactions to be specified in the coming hours.

President Nicolas Maduro's administration has authorized the opening in the coming hours of exchange houses throughout the Caribbean nation, Tareck El Aissami said in a televised address.

"We're going to open exchange offices so that people who may have some kind of currency transaction to make, especially remittances, or any other kind of exchange transaction, have a legal means of doing so," he added.

The idea is to prevent the foreign currency entering Venezuela from falling into the hands of "organized crime mafias that foster and promote the criminal dollar that so greatly affects the national economy."

The so-called Bolivarian Revolution, a leftist political movement that former President Hugo Chavez led until his death in 2013 and which is currently headed by Maduro, established strict exchange controls in 2003 that have severely limited individuals' and companies' access to dollars.

The government has eased currency controls in recent months in a bid to mitigate a nationwide economic crisis and halt further increases in the value of the dollar on the black market, where the greenback trades for many times the official exchange rate.

Separately, El Aissami on Wednesday announced the advances made in the government's "Paper Hands" operation, launched several weeks ago to combat cash contraband and exchange rate speculation.

As part of that operation, the Venezuelan Attorney General's Office has blocked more than 1,000 bank accounts linked to that criminal activity, according to the vice president, who said more than 100 raids had been conducted - 85 of them targeting businesses - and that 54.9 million bolivares ($900) in cash and $15,000 in cash had been seized.

El Aissami said 245 new bank accounts had been ordered blocked and that 149 new arrest warrants had been issued as part of the operation, which has already led to 112 people being taken into custody.