Sunday, December 18, 2016

Venezuela: President Delays Withdrawal of 100 Bolivar Banknote Amid Protests and Looting

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has suspended the elimination of the country's largest denomination bill, which had sparked cash shortages and nationwide unrest.

Venezuelans were given 10 days to exchange the 100 bolivar bills at the central bank, but the government on Saturday postponed the decision for two weeks.

The 100 bolivar bills, officially out of use since Thursday and worth just 4 US cents at the black market currency rate, can now be used until January 2, Maduro said.

The surprise pulling of the 100 bolivar note from circulation on Thursday - before new larger bills were available - led to vast lines at banks, looting at scores of shops, anti-government protests and at least one death.

Maduro, speaking from the presidential palace, blamed a "sabotage" campaign by enemies abroad for the delayed arrival of three planes carrying the new 500, 2,000 and 20,000 bolivar notes.

"One plane, contracted and paid for by Venezuela, was told in flight to change direction and go to another country," he said, without specifying who had given the orders. "There's another which was not given flyover permission."

Many Venezuelans had found themselves without the means to pay for food, gasoline or Christmas preparations in a country already reeling from a profound economic crisis.

About 40 percent of Venezuelans do not have bank accounts, and so cannot use electronic transactions as an alternative to cash.

Adding to the chaos, Venezuela has the world's highest rate of inflation, meaning large bags of cash must be humped around to pay for basic items

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