When he's not selling padlocks at Home Depot in Hoover, Ala., 60-year-old Gustavo Diaz is heading what Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro calls an "economic war" against his country, laid out in full by the Wall Street Journal. Diaz's instrument: his DolarToday.com website, which Venezuela insists posts fake black-market exchange rates to manipulate the country's currency. The site has already courted two failed lawsuits by Venezuela's central bank, and the government has also unleashed hackers on it. "DolarToday is the Empire's strategy to push down the currency and overthrow Maduro. DolarToday is the enemy of the people," VP Aristobulo Isturiz said in early 2016 (the Journal notes "Empire" refers to the US).
Not that Diaz is simply a bored Alabama guy with a penchant for numbers: He's actually a retired Venezuelan army colonel who assisted in a two-day 2002 coup against then President Hugo Chavez. Diaz is also now a US citizen after seeking asylum in 2005 in Alabama, where his siblings lived. He runs his site—which mixes daily exchange rates with unflattering news about the government, with rates calculated by scanning social media for transaction requests, then comparing that average rate with that seen in underground Venezuelan exchange institutions—with two other Venezuelan expats. "It's ironic that with DolarToday in Alabama, I do more damage to the government than I did as a military man in Venezuela," he notes. (A reporter's struggle to find food in Venezuela.)