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RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - A group of Venezuelan banks has started issuing debit cards to clients who have accounts in hard currency, a move quietly backed by authorities who want to extend the use of dollars in routine transactions, sources familiar with the measure said.

Banks have for more than a year stored cash dollars for corporate clients as part of an economic liberalization under socialist President Nicolas Maduro. For 15 years, dollar transactions were under strict government control.

State officials privately told banks to begin allowing clients with dollar accounts to use those funds to carry out transactions denominated . . .

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