Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has temporarily suspended his campaign to eliminate the country’s largest denomination bill amidst the current nationwide cash crunch and civil unrest. The surprise manoeuvre, announced by Maduro on December 12, was introduced as a measure to combat contraband of the bills at the Colombia-Venezuela border and in response to the “economic war” being waged by the opposition and the United States. Its actualisation, however, has led to vast lines in front of banks, looting of shops, a dramatic increase in anti-government protests and sentiment and at least two deaths.
Maduro announced that the 100-bolivar bill would be taken out of circulation – before the new larger bills became available – which left Venezuelans with 10 days to exchange those notes at the central bank. The controversial move, however, backfired with the planes carrying the new 500, 2000 and 20,000 bolivar notes scheduled for a delayed arrival after becoming “victims of sabotage.” Consequently, Maduro’s administration announced that the use of the 100-bolivar bills has been extended until January 2. Maduro’s economic manoeuvre has left many Venezuelans without the means to pay for essentials such as food or gasoline, thereby precipitating its existing profound economic crisis.
Being the nation with the world’s highest rate of inflation, the government’s recent decisions have paralysed its economy more than usual and sparked social unrest. Authorities have reported dozens of protests and incidents of looting in at least six cities, leaving several businesses and establishments sacked. Young men paraded the streets with their 100-bolivar bills in the air, chanting “they’re useless” while dozens were arrested for voicing their dissatisfaction with the government’s apparent lack of planning.
As Venezuelans are inflicted with more suffering at the expense of their government, the Democratic Unity opposition coalition are leading a movement calling for Maduro’s resignation. Opposition leader, Julio Borges, justified this movement as a response to “a government [who is] utterly stupid and destructive in economic management, whose only goal is to keep power at whatever price… with total disregard for its people.” Critics reiterate the need for a new regime, following “18 years of socialist policies [that] have wrecked the economy.” Yet, with no means to diplomatically remove Maduro before the next presidential election in 2018, prospects for any improvement of the Venezuelan economic crisis are slight.
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