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Venezuela delays elimination of currency bills

December 18, 2016

The president has reversed a decision to remove the bank note, worth about $0.03, from circulation before the new year. Venezuela's opposition has described his economic strategy as "utterly stupid and destructive."

A Venezuelan national sets fire to a 100-bolivar bank note
Image: Reuters/C.Eduardo Ramirez

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro on Friday announced the 100-bolivar note will remain in use until January 2 after pulling the bank note prompted protests and looting across the country.

Maduro said the decision to extend the use of Venezuela's most widely used note came after a "sabotage" campaign from unnamed enemies abroad blocked the arrival of new higher-valued note.

"One plane, contracted and paid for by Venezuela, was told in flight to change direction and go to another country," he said, speaking from the presidential palace. "There's another which was not given flyover permission."

The president's decision on Thursday to pull the 100-bolivar note - worth approximately $0.03 (0.03 euros) - caused chaos across the country, sparking social unrest in at least six cities on Friday.

According to an opposition lawmaker, up to three people were killed during the protests and looting. Authorities arrested at least 32 people in connection with the unrest.

Opposition leader Julio Borges criticized Maduro's decision to pull the bank note, saying it caused needless further suffering for Venezuelans already dealing with an economic recession in a country with the world's highest inflation rate.

"We have a government utterly stupid and destructive in economic managements, whose only goal is to keep power at whatever price," said Borges.

The government also extended the closure of its border with Brazil and Colombia to block "mafias" that hoard Venezuela's currency. However, critics mocked the idea that criminal organizations would keep their wealth in the world's fastest-devaluing currency.

ls/kl (AP, Reuters)

Have a look on this picture gallery from May 29 of this year.