HAVANA TIMES — It’s been a year this month since a great percentage of the Venezuelan people voted in favor of opposition legislators instead of the government.
The government, in order to celebrate this beautiful gesture in their favor, has decided to give Venezuelans an unforgettable Christmas.
People don’t have to worry about trying a get a hold of food, or because they won’t have enough money to buy what appears on the market. Maduro and his advisers have known how to fix Venezuela’s economic crisis once and for all with grace and wisdom. Now, people can’t get money. And given the fact that there isn’t any money, people can’t get stressed to try and buy food.
Since a few months ago, lines at ATM machines have grown, swelled and become permanent. Banks stopped giving out reasonable amounts of money at their counters, and when I say reasonable I mean that the Bank of Venezuela has begun to only hand out 10,000 bolivars per day. In a country where inflation lost its name to become hyperinflation, 10,000 bolivars is like having 10 USD in your pocket, or 100 bolivars three years ago. Pensioners, who received their Christmas bonus this month, weren’t able to take out 100,000 bolivars – approx.- in one go of the aforementioned bonus, but had to go and take out 10,000 everyday until they had the 100,000.
A week ago, retail outlets collapsed. The government accused private companies, its mortal enemy. Without cash on the street, and without the chance of using bank cards, the country became chaos for 24 hours. Well, it didn’t become a chaos, it only aggravated the daily chaos we experience.
The largest note that exists right now is the 100 bolivar note. Until last week, giving somebody smaller notes was sacrilege. Any item here costs at least 2,000 bolivars. Counting this amount in 20 and 10 bolivar notes would make any seller go crazy.
Foreseeing this situation, many people – including myself – decided to stop putting money in the bank. It didn’t make sense to have money in the bank if taking it out was more work and trouble than having it at home. However, there are also a lot of people who don’t have any kind of bank account because they generally require certain things which a lot of people can’t meet.
To celebrate then the anniversary of the government’s great election defeat in grand style this Christmas, Maduro announced last weekend that residents in Venezuela had 72 hours to go to the bank and exchange 100 bolivar notes, seeing as they would go out of circulation.
Let me remind you that the largest note that exists right now is the 100 bolivar note.
On the 15th, the government announced that a new currency would be issued, and of course that they would take old notes out of circulation as new ones would be introduced. However, new mafias in Colombia and Brazil have been robbing 100 bolivar notes and it turns out that this is what has devalued the Venezuelan currency. The most efficient measure? Take all 100 bolivar notes out of circulation in less than 72 hours and to close national borders. Today is already the 16th and nobody has had one of these new notes in their hand. After spending 11 hours inside a bank, a friend went to take money out of an ATM machine – because he needed cash – and to his surprise, the machine gave him the amount he wanted in 100 bolivar notes!
The mustached president has claimed his solidarity with pensioners and in the same speech he reduced the time period for accepting 100 bolivar notes. That is to say, after the 72 hours he initially gave, there were still people who had the chance to travel to Caracas, to the central bank, and had 10 days to fo this, but thanks to Maduro’s generosity, they will now only have 5 days. Can you imagine traveling from Amazonas to Maracaibo, in one of those buses that are constantly being hijacked, or in your own car, with the same risk of theft on the highway where the first robbers might be the Police or National Guard?
I don’t think I should go into all of the details about what is happening with this early Christmas present. Today, I went to take out money at a small bank where I get paid – by the government – and they only had a few 2 bolivar notes. However, more than this situation which might only be temporary, I’m more worried about what is hidden behind this smart measure, beyond the government’s revenge or punishment. This is clearly a smokescreen and I don’t believe that it’s just to make people forget about their Christmas tamales or to close our eyes to the hundreds of people who I see eating from the garbage every day.