Venezuelans start 'Black Friday' shopping

For a second year in a row, Venezuela's stores have held "Black Friday,'' after President Nicolas Maduro's government relaxed regulations that for almost two decades forced companies to maintain consumer goods prices low despite high inflation.

Malls and small retailers across the country advertised discounts of up to 80% on goods from shoes to electronics, hoping an influx of Christmas shoppers could compensate for weak sales so far in Venezuela's seventh straight year of economic contraction.

In recent years the Venezuelan government has eased a complex, longstanding system of currency controls. That has led to a wider circulation of foreign currency, as Venezuelans turn to the dollar to protect their earnings against a fast-devaluing local bolivar.