I wish I knew how to write about this less apocalyptically, but what has been happening in Venezuela late yesterday and all day today is…truly bizarre. Layered on top of the shortage of cash people have been dealing with for two weeks now, with withdrawals capped at just Bs.10,000 (=$2.15) per day, the nation’s debit card payments backbone seems to have seized up and stopped working today.

Durante jueves y viernes distintos usuarios se han  quejado de la imposibilidad de pagar con tarjeta de débito o crédito a través de puntos de venta electrónicos. El problema está vinculado a que todas las personas están acudiendo al pago electrónico debido a la imposibilidad de retirar dinero en efectivo.

El pasado viernes 25 de noviembre la Asociación Bancaria de Venezuela emitió un comunicado, a través de su página web, en el que hace un llamado a sus clientes a utilizar los canales electrónicos en lugar del efectivo, debido a un proceso de ajuste para introducir los billetes del nuevo cono monetario.

Social media is shot through with reports of long waits for any sort of transaction, and many local bank websites have gone down under the strain of traffic, as well.

Long story short, it’s impossible to exchange money for goods and services in Venezuela right now. I’d write more but I have to look around my house to find something I can barter for food.


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  1. With Hyperinflation hitting Zimbabwe back in 2009, as a matter of survival people naturaly turned to foreign currencies with stable value. Later the government had no choice but to officially accept other currencies to do businesses.
    If I was there I would get my hands on US$ or Colombian Pesos. Even if they are not legal tender, people and some businesses will gladly accept them.

    • Everyone here would accept dollars. Getting your hands on them is 4 times more expensive, in bolivares, than it was 2.5 months ago. For most, that’s not an option, especially since the dollars available are typically large bills, not the $1, $5 or $10 notes that would be useful. So say you want to buy something that costs 3500 bolivares. Maybe you got your hands on a $20 bill. First you have to negotiate an exchange rate with the store owner, and he or she will have to have approximately 85000 bolivares to give you in change. Then you have to safely get home with that much cash.

      The better option now is bank to bank transfers. If you share the same bank as the store owner, the money arrives in their account instantly, assuming your internet connection is working.

      The entire financial system is breaking down rapidly and just in time for the holiday season.

      Merry Christmas!

  2. This seems like a great place to ask something I have been wondering lately. It really seems like things are finally coming to a head in Venezuela. Hyperinflation seems imminent. My question is for the people actually living in Venezuela: is there a feeling within Venezuela that this is a new phase, that the system is about to collapse?

    • The only thing venezuelans are feeling everytime they get angry, is that they remember they might get a bullet in the forehead if they dare to protest, then their annoyance goes away.

      Lo único que sienten los venezolanos cada vez que se enfurecen, es que se acuerdan que les pueden meter un balazo en la frente si se atreven a protestar, y entonces la rabia se les pasa.

    • No. There’s a vague feeling of “this can’t last much longer” but simply because the situation is desperate and it’s hard to rationalize how this can go on for years. So there’s this feeling that this NEEDS to be “the end” phase somehow. At the same time however what I see is desperation because it could take six months or five years, I don’t think there’re many venezuelans really believing now that in six months chavismo will fall. Or a year or such. Many desire it, but really believing it? One can’t have that luxury and fall into deep desperation yet AGAIN…there’s no hope, we’re all thinking like ten years from now I think. Hoping it will be done by then because “there will be so many opportunities then”…I think the majority is pretty clear that as things are going right now, Maduro will stay at least until 2019. This christmas is going to be really depressing as we see no future but suffering for some more time, I think.

  3. ño! Emi que vaina tan Pelua!!!
    Me interesaria saber al igual que Benjamín, que se siente en la calle?

    Are people thinking things ara about to reach a climax, and some revolt is inminent, or actually are many of you thinking how you have been finally been beaten, game over. Comunismo, tarjetas de racionamiento, hambruna y control social…
    It is so surreal to hear the economic and political news, and then look into my friends facebook accounts and all I can see is parrillita con cervecita.
    What gives!¨?

    Feliz espíritu de la navidad!

  4. points of sale breakdown have happened randomly for weeks, some days the cards pass instantly but most of the time they take minutes and severals tries to be able to pay, I have had to leave items on the counter after it won’t pass after several attemps, it makes long qeues even longer. I’ve heard a few friends saying they had to call bank support because the charge appear on their accounts but not on the point’s owner,

    Don’t worry, they’re calling Sebin to fix the problem :-/

  5. The jackass solution of printing money or raising saleries has now seemingly tanked, since no matter how much currency you have or receive it’s all basically worth nothing. I fear that in a matter of hours, any transactions involving Bolos will stop since they have become – or are quickly becoming – valueless. The countries reserves of real money have been so depleted even populist methods seem unlikely. Hope this doesn’t get as ugly as I think it might, leaving a lot of people (and family) living on nothing.

  6. “Maduro also confirmed that he had instructed the director of the country’s intelligence services SEBIN to “take all the necessary legal measures” against Credicard, a Venezuelan company which manages debit and credit card transactions for financial institutions.”

    It never occurs to the idiot Maduro that threatening the very people and companies who are still trying to make Venezuela run could be counter productive. The people and companies that provide service might stop providing them altogether out of fear of government retribution. Thus doing what the MUD is too incompetent to accomplish, which is a general strike.

    • It does, but in Venezuela being a bussiness like Credicard you can’t just simply strop providing service, you go to jail for doing it and for not doing it because it will also be “saboteo”…in dictatorships the power forces everyone to do something illegal everyday, anytime just because what is legal or not, or treason or not is decided arbitrarily. Basically they’re -we’re- fucked.

  7. I think what is happening is pretty obvious. People are using their debit cards for EVERYTHING. Purchases that would have been done with cash before, are now done with debit cards, because nobody has or carries enough cash to buy anything. A single Savoy brand Toronto (a single bite-sized chocolate) costs BsF. 350. So because virtually all purchases are being made with debit and credit cards instead of cash, the systems are being overloaded with more transactions than they were designed to handle. The result is the same as a DoS attack on a website. The introduction of the larger bills should solve this problem.

    There are a lot of reasons for apocalyptic predictions for Venezuela, but this is not one of them.

    • The problem is that the bigger bills that are set to be introduced are already not worth too much. 5,000B is no longer big enough. Obviously it’s better than having a 100 as your biggest bill but it’s still silly. They need more like a 100K bill as the largest denomination. Of course, it doesn’t look like it will matter in the long run. A currency collapse is coming.

      • Also just noticed that the government says that “millions” of 5,000 Bolivar bills will be introduced. That’s not many. With 5K being worth little more than 1 USD, they need way more bills than that. They still haven’t accepted the reality of the situation.

    • Not a bad strategy, right? Debase the currency to the point where people use it for fuel for parrilladas and force all transactions to be electronic. E- currency can be cheaply replentished and distributed at will by the gov’t, and can only be used by the peeps as they are allowed…

  8. “with withdrawals capped at just Bs.10,000 (=$2.15) per day”

    I wonder if the Chavistas use the World Bank poverty line value (currently at $1.90 per day) as parameter to define the withdrawals limits. “Let’s put above the line a bit que esto no es África!”

  9. I think we’re looking at a combination of many factors, Roy. Including the difficulty of disbursing what is increasingly becoming worthless: B’s. Since virtually all goods are now imported, and since the B is not negotiable for the purchase of said goods, the gov. is using petro dollars or reserved cashed out in other currencies to purchase what Venezuelans are buying with bolos. Effectively, the government has already switched to a foreign currency to do business since the bolo is worthless in the international market. I suspect it will become impossible to keep the Bolo afloat much longer, and it’s real value will assert itself in the local marketplace, across the board. That, I believe, is the definition of being flat broke. The diplomats don’t have guns so skipping their pay checks is only an embarrassment. But once the military is no longer being paid – and it has to be soon – one wonders how much longer this hours of cards can stay standing.

    • The Soviet Union, the principal enemy of Western Civilization for four decades, and one of the most brutal and feared totalitarian governments in history ended, “…not with a bang, but with a whimper.”

  10. Emiliana, whatever you do, don’t barter away the poodle–it’ll just end up on the street, starving to death–like other pets of all breeds in record numbers in Venezuela….

  11. Was just talking to relatives in Carabobo about the new 20,000 Bolo note. If the 100 B note is presently worth 2 cents, the new 20,000 article is worth 4 dollars US. Till Wednesday, when it will probably be worth 2 dollars, then 1 by the next Monday. Thinking they can print their way out of hyperinflation is amazing. An interesting point raised by a cousin: Even if this “financial war” is true, the Chavistas have had 17 years to defeat it. How’s that working out?


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