Protests and looting spread across Venezuela as the government banned the nation’s most widely used 100-bolivar banknote and the higher-denomination bills that were supposed to replace it did not arrive at banks or cash machines, reports AP.
Much like the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro had made a surprise announcement on Sunday saying that the 100-bolivar note would go out of circulation by the week’s end. He said the closure was needed to thwart “mafias” who hoard bolivars.
The embattled president held up a new 500 bolivar bill on his television show on Thursday, promising the new banknotes would soon be in wide circulation. He offered to temporarily cut sales tax for credit card transactions. But on Friday, ATMs were still issuing only the now-worthless 100-bolivar notes.
Maduro also said the government has begun to circulate new 100- 50- and 10-bolivar coins, but few seem to have reached the public.
Police put down looting near a bank building in the western city of Maracaibo with several arrests. Young men marched down the street after growing tired of waiting outside the bank to turn in their money. They shouted and waved their useless 100-bolivar bills in the air, then turned and ran as police in full riot gear began firing tear gas shells.
Mobs looted several businesses in the remote eastern state of Bolivar. In total, authorities said there were protests and looting in six cities, leading to 32 people being detained and one injured.
In Caracas, some people passed the day banging on pots and cursing the government’s apparent lack of planning. There was no cash to be seen changing hands on the street or inside shops, and no sign that the new bills were on their way.
Venezuelans waited in lines all week to deposit their cash. On Thursday, shopkeepers put up signs saying 100-bolivar bills would no longer be accepted. That meant many people looking to buy food or take taxis were out of luck, as banks had run out of lower-denomination bills like 50 and 20-bolivar notes during the week, and had not yet received the higher-denomination replacements.