Venezuela’s big­gest bank note gets new stay of ex­e­cu­tion

Botched plan to re­tire it trig­gered vi­o­lent protests

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

CARACAS:

Venezue­lan Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Maduro again de­layed re­mov­ing the coun­try’s largest bank note from cir­cu­la­tion Thurs­day, af­ter a botched plan to re­tire it trig­gered vi­o­lent protests. The 100-bo­li­var note will now re­main le­gal ten­der un­til Jan­uary 20 in­stead of the 2nd, “so ev­ery­one can spend their New Year’s in calm,” Maduro an­nounced in a na­tional ad­dress.

The cen­tral bank mean­while an­nounced the ar­rival of new 20,000bo­li­var bills, meant to re­place the old money as Venezuela grap­ples with the world’s high­est in­fla­tion rate-set to hit 475 per­cent this year, ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Mon­e­tary Fund. As Venezuela floun­ders through a dev­as­tat­ing eco­nomic cri­sis, in­fla­tion has gut­ted the value of the bo­li­var.

The 100-bo­li­var note is worth just 15 US cents at the high­est of­fi­cial ex­change rate, leav­ing Venezue­lans stuck car­ry­ing huge stacks of them for even mi­nor pur­chases. Maduro trig­gered ri­ots and loot­ing two weeks ago when he tried to pull the 100-bo­li­var bill from cir­cu­la­tion be­fore re­place­ments had ar­rived-leav­ing Venezue­lans des­per­ately short of cash for food and Christ­mas presents.

The left­ist leader al­leged in­ter­na­tional “mafias” were hoard­ing 100-bo­li­var bills abroad in a US-backed con­spir­acy. But af­ter his move to pull it from cir­cu­la­tion trig­gered un­rest, he ex­tended its life un­til Jan­uary 2. Venezuela has been rocked by low prices for its key ex­port, oil. Now in its third year of a deep re­ces­sion, it is fac­ing se­vere short­ages of food, medicine and ba­sic house­hold goods. The cen­tral bank sought to re­as­sure Venezue­lans that its cur­rency re­form was on track. Its deputy di­rec­tor, Jose Khan, an­nounced a ship­ment of 2.9 mil­lion 20,000-bo­li­var bills and 4.5 mil­lion 5,000bo­li­var bills had ar­rived from Malta. An­other 60 mil­lion 500-bo­li­var bills have ar­rived in re­cent days, he said. The new bills have yet to ap­pear on the street, how­ever. So far, Venezue­lans have only seen new 50-bo­li­var coins. The date the new bills will en­ter cir­cu­la­tion will be an­nounced in Jan­uary, said Khan. — AFP

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