Venezuelans rush to banks to turn in 100-bolivar bills

Caracas, Dec 14 (IANS) Thousands of Venezuelans on Tuesday rushed to public and private banks around the country to turn in their 100-bolivar bills, the highest denomination in the local currency, which will lose their value and be removed from circulation on Thursday by order of President Nicolas Maduro.

According to what EFE was able to confirm, lines of up to 150 people were forming at banks located in the eastern part of the Venezuelan capital and most of those citizens were elderly and waiting their turn to turn in their currency.

Just one private financial institution among those checked by EFE said that it was exchanging cash, that is to say, accepting up to 50,000 bolivares (about $75) in 100-bolivar bills and returning the same sum to customers in 2, 5 and 10-bolivar bills.

The rest of the banks were accepting the bills as deposits to people’s accounts.

About a dozen customers told EFE that they had decided to make a trip to their banks exclusively to deposit those bills during the first of the three days the government has designated for Venezuelans to get rid of them.

Meanwhile, ATMs which up until last week were mobbed with people looking for cash that had dried up days ago around the country now are mostly easily accessible and people using them to withdraw cash are continuing to receive the bills that are only good for another 72 hours.

Interior and Justice Minister Nestor Reverol reported the deployment of more than 58,000 police and soldiers at 3,504 “financial entities” around the country to implement a “public national security” system until December 15.

The decision to remove the 100-bolivar bills from circulation was made by Maduro on Sunday to deal with alleged criminal groups who allegedly are stockpiling paper currency with an eye toward destabilising the country.