Venezuela extends use of 100-bolivar bill until Jan. 2
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela's government on Saturday extended the use of its 100-bolivar bill until Jan. 2, after its decision to pull the banknote out of circulation left the country largely without cash, and sparked protests and looting.
President Nicolas Maduro said the decision to put Venezuela's most widely used note back in use came after "sabotage" prevented the promised, higher-denominated replacement currency from being ready on time.
Venezuela is plagued by the world's highest inflation, and Maduro made the surprise announcement that the 100-bolivar note would be replaced by a 500-bolivar note on Sunday. It went out of circulation on Friday, yet the replacement bills had not yet arrived at banks or ATMs, forcing people to rely on credit cards or bank transfers, or to try to make purchases with bundles of hard-to-find smaller bills often worth less than a penny each.
Anger at having to deal with an economy even more paralyzed than usual sparked social unrest, with looting and protests reported in at least six cities on Friday. In Caracas, people waved their 100-bolivar bills in the air and chanted "they're useless," then turned and ran as police in riot gear began firing tear gas canisters.
Across Venezuela, authorities said 32 people were detained and one injured.
Maduro also temporarily closed the border with Colombia and Brazil to thwart "mafias" who hoard bolivars. Critics mocked the notion that gangsters would choose to keep their wealth in the world's fastest-devaluing currency. The 100-bolivar bill is worth little more than 2 cents, down from 10 cents at the start of the year.
All week, Venezuelans had waited in lines hundreds of people long all week to deposit their soon-to-be-worthless 100-bolivar notes in banks.