President Hugo Chavez has urged supporters to use Twitter to blow the whistle on currency speculators and announced that police raids on illegal traders would continue as Venezuela’s government tries to defend the embattled Bolívar.

The socialist leader asked Venezuelans to send messages identifying illegal traders. He described them as “thieves” who must be punished for currency speculation, which he blames for rapidly rising inflation.

“My Twitter account is open for you to denounce them,” Mr. Chavez said during his weekly radio and television programme.

“We’re going to launch several raids. We’ve already launched some raids, thanks to the complaints from the people.”

Venezuelan authorities began raiding currency trading offices last week and arrested a man who posts black—market rates for currency on the Internet. Jaime Renteria, 52, is apparently the first person arrested for illegal currency trading under Mr. Chavez’s new crackdown, which has been prompted by a sharp decline in the free—market value of the Bolivar.

Renteria is the registered administrator of ’notidolar.com’, a website that offered visitors a chance to exchange Venezuela’s Bolivar currency, according to version cached by Google.

His downtown Caracas office was one of four raided Friday night, according to the government’s Bolivarian News Agency.

There was no answer at Renteria’s phone number on Sunday.

The crackdown on traders and threats to punish websites that report the Bolivar’s decline on the black market has alarmed economists, who have predicted that the measures will backfire.

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