Venezuela delays 100-bolivar currency withdrawal after protests

The roll back decision stirred protests all over Venezuela with some leading to skirmishes in six cities on Friday, the Associated Press reported

Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro has reversed the government’s decision to withdraw 100-bolivar bank notes following days of economic chaos. The decision has been delayed until 2 January.

Mr Maduro announced through a national broadcast that his country had been facing international sabotage, which delayed the arrival of new 500-bolivar currency notes in time.

Many Venezuelans have already spent several days in front of queues in long lines to exchange the old notes. Due to a severe cash shortage, many shops have been forced to close, and the public have started relying on credit cards for daily expenditures. Many, according to reports were unable to buy food.

The roll back decision stirred protests all over Venezuela with some leading to skirmishes in six cities on Friday, the  Associated Press reported. According to the report, 32 people were detained and one person was injured.

People gathered for protests in Caracas, waved their  100-bolivar bills in the air and shouted “they’re useless”, and as the police fired tear gas, they ran away. The government clarified the move as necessary to tackle smuggling.

The president publicly stated that the aim of the move was to tackle gangs which hoard Venezuelan currency abroad, a move which he previously termed as part of the “economic war” against his dispensation. Maduro said the gangs were holding more than 300bn bolivares worth of currency, most of it in 100-bolivar notes.

He also said there were “entire warehouses full of 100-bolivar notes in [the Colombian cities of] Cucuta, Cartagena, Maicao and Buaramanga.”

Data from Central bank suggests that more than six billion 100-bolivar notes are in circulation, which makes almost half of Venezuela’s currency exchange.

Experts worry that the move will have very few positive effects on the country’s chronic economic and political problems. Opposition leaders accuse that Maduro’s move is ruining the country and he should be ousted.