Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro on Sunday decided to put on hold his plans to ban the country’s highest denomination bill out of circulation.
The 100 bolivar bills would temporarily remain legal tender, Maduro said yesterday, but the borders with Colombia and Brazil will remain closed to hit what he claims are “mafias” hoarding Venezuelan cash abroad in a US-backed plot to destabilise the country.
“You can calmly continue to use the 100 bill for your purchases and your activities,” Maduro said at a meeting with officials broadcast on state television.
The bill is worth about 15 US cents at the highest official rate, and until recently accounted for 77 per cent of the cash in circulation in Venezuela. Venezuela has the world’s highest inflation rate, set to hit 475 per cent this year according to the IMF.
The government is trying to introduce new bills in denominations up to 200 times higher than the old ones, but the plan derailed when Maduro banned the 100 bolivar note before the new bills arrived. Four airplanes with the new currency set to arrive from abroad were delayed by international sabotage, Maduro said.
He did not say where the money was coming from, or what type of sabotage. Venezuelans stood in long lines at banks all week to meet a Friday deadline to exchange their currency. When the deadline extension was announced people queued up again yesterday.
“I don’t agree with this, I’ve had to come all the way here with my miserable amount of cash to the BCV [Venezuelan Central Bank] in order to get money to eat. This is madness, I’m tired of it,” said Bismary Rivero, a 39 year-old homemaker, told AFP.
Rioting and angry protests erupted in several Venezuelan cities as the chaotic reform left people without cash to buy food or Christmas presents.Opposition politicians said yesterday that four people were killed in rioting in the capital of the southern state of Bolivar, though officials have not confirmed those figures.
Venezuela had decided to ban its currency soon after the Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, had made the shock announcement on demonetisation.
More than 100 people have since then died in India, all reportedly due to demonetisation related stress. The opposition parties have been demanding the rollback on the note ban, but the central government has refused to budge.
Parts of India including Malda in West Bengal and Bulandshahr in Uttar Pradesh have witnessed violence because of local population’s inability to access their own hard-earned money.
Taking a potshot at PM Modi, Congress’ Digvijay Singh tweeted, “Venezuela withdraws demonetisation decision after Riots broke out leading to chaos. I salute the patience and discipline of Indians”
Venezuela withdraws demonetisation decision after Riots broke out leading to chaos. I salute the patience and discipline of Indians.
— digvijaya singh (@digvijaya_28) December 18, 2016
Delhi chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, who has been vociferously opposing the demonetisation move by the PM, tweeted, “Our PM will never do it. Public inconvenience doesn’t matter to him.”
Our PM will never do it. Public inconvenience doesn't matter to him. https://t.co/2qAhUm2HSz
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) December 18, 2016
(With PTI inputs)