I stayed in Venezuela for six weeks from late March to early May 2016. This ethical question has been bothering me ever since. Its answer will determine whether or not I recommend my family and friends go there.
Since the price of oil has gone down, the Venezuelan economy has crashed and the country is in a severe crisis. There is strong inflation: the Venezuelan bolivar (BsF) has lost 99.2% of its value in the past four years, so that one needs 1000 BsF to buy today what four years ago would have cost 8 BsF. Electricity is in short supply because of a drought, scheduled black-outs are common. Food is in short supply, starving people in the capital have raided supermarkets for food (though I have not witnessed this). Toilet paper is in short supply, people are paid to distribute it to users of public restrooms.
I converted US dollars to Venezuelan bolivars on the street, because the street exchange rate is four times better than the official one. (Official currency exchange kiosks give you 250 BsF to the dollar, street traders will give you 1000). The government blames the currency black market for the very high inflation and many Venezuelans believe it, but that seems dubious. The black market reflects the inflation and the true market value of the Venezuelan bolivar (by contrast with the value the government would want the currency to have).
Assume one stays in budget hostels and goes on a couple of organised tours for a few hundred dollars. Further assume, for I do not want to encourage illegal behaviour, that one does not use the black market to convert currency (though I've never met a tourist who doesn't). Is travelling to Venezuela in mid-2016 ethical?
Consider a behaviour ethical if the people of the visited country are better off (or at least not worse off) after the traveller's visit. For example, if food is in short supply and travellers consume food, causing locals to be hungrier, consider that a negative ethical point. If the increased demand for food creates more jobs for Venezuelans, consider that a positive ethical point. If bringing in foreign currency helps the country, consider that a positive ethical point. Finally, if you believe the currency black market is detrimental (or beneficial) to the country, please explain why.