Venezuela′s 100-bolivar note going out of circulation, replacement bills yet to arrive | News | DW | 16.12.2016
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Venezuela's 100-bolivar note going out of circulation, replacement bills yet to arrive

Venezuela's 100-bolivar bills go out of circulation on Sunday, but there are no replacement bills in sight. President Maduro has also ordered the country's borders with Brazil and Colombia to remain closed until Sunday.

Venezuela's bid to phase out its 100-unit bank notes continues to frustrate citizens.

With replacement bills yet to arrive, locals lined up outside of banks Thursday to deposit their 100-bolivar banknotes before they become worthless, only to continue to receiving them when they later withdrew money at ATMs.

"I don't get the joke," office worker Yarelis Carrero told news agency AFP. "When you withdraw cash at the ATMs, they give you 100-bolivar bills. And you can't get the new ones inside the bank, either."

The ailing country's president, Nicolas Maduro, on Thursday ordered the 100-bolivar bill - its largest, although now only worth around four US cent (four euro cents) - to be removed from circulation within 72 hours. 

The old bills were originally intended to be phased out of the economy alongside the new ones. However, Maduro announced Thursday that he had shortened that schedule to a December 20 deadline.

According to official figures, the 100-bolivar bill accounts for 77 percent of the cash in circulation.

With the country wrought by inflation, the government's deadline was intended to coincide with a new 500-bolivar bill, the first in a new series of banknotes to be gradually phased into the economy. As a sign of the currency's rapid depreciation, new notes will be issued in denominations up to 20,000 bolivars.

Maduro said on Thursday that the new notes were ready. However, no one has yet been able to get their hands on them.

Maduro said the move to pull the 100-bolivar bill was necessary to stop conspiring "mafias" from hoarding it abroad in what he called a US-backed plot to destabilize the country. 

Watch video 01:02

Venezuela's new banknotes

Closure of Colombia and Brazil borders extended

As part of the crackdown on the "mafias," Maduro on Monday ordered Venezuela's border with Colombia and Brazil to be sealed.

On Thursday, he announced that the closure would be extended another 72 hours until Sunday, the delay likely being the result of the delays in circulating the new notes.

"This is a big effort we're doing to tackle so many evils and tricks.  ... We're burning the hands of the mafia," Maduro said during a television address Thursday, flashing the new banknotes.

The measure, however, is likely to inflict further pain on citizens who work across the border, or rely on importing products such as food and medicine.

With the supply of basic goods into the country in desperately short supply, many Venezuelans are forced to queue up to hours for basic supermarket supplies, such as bread and rice.

Watch video 01:58

Low oil prices hit OPEC members hard

'Economically nonsensical'

Economists have slammed the policy as being 'economically nonsensical.' They say the new bills will not tackle Venezuela's economic imbalances and propensity for excessive money printing.

Venezuela is currently crippled by the world's highest inflation rate, estimated by the International Monetary Fund to reach 475 percent this year.

Economists have also warned that the measure could throw the country into further chaos due to its sloppy execution, bad timing and air of uncertainty.

Maduro's popularity has plunged as a result of Venezuela's crippled economy. Many citizens have reportedly left insulting remarks directed at Maduro on the bills they are depositing.

The opposition-led National Assembly, however, has so far failed to force Maduro to relinquish his grip on power.

dm/msh (AFP, Reuters)

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