First, I beseech you: take nine minutes to watch this video.
I mean, really, do it now.
Hell, even after you’ve watched it you won’t quite believe what you just saw.
It’s important that you watch it, because the entire thing is sooooooo crazy any gloss I come up with will lack verisimilitude until you’ve actually seen it.
It shows Interior Minister Nestor Reverol calmly explaining how the U.S. Treasury Department is paying some NGOs (we’re never told which ones) to ferry Bs.100 notes out of the country to destabilize the government. The notes are then transported (we’re never told how) to warehouses in the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Switzerland and Germany where the Venezuelan government (we’re never told how) managed to photograph them alongside recent local newspapers: proof, we’re told, that the bills are alive.
At this point, keen eyed observer that you are, you might be wondering: why not simply burn the notes, or shred them? Because the Treasury Department will pay the unnamed NGOs $1 each for each bill, but only after the Venezuelan regime is overthrown. (So that part makes sense, at least.)
The cherry on top of this bizarre performance is that Reverol — currently under indictment on drug trafficking charges in the U.S. — chose, as a venue to address the bankers he’d gathered for the occasion, the National Anti-drugs Office…the very body he used to lead back when he was running the drugs that got him indicted by the gringos in the first place.
You still with me?
About those bankers…there’s a moment at the end of the video where the VTV camera pans the room, so you get to gauge the expression on their faces.
It’s…a supremely memable moment.
The hot question in the Venezuelan public sphere right now is what the hell the government is trying to achieve with all this.
The government can’t possibly believe these batshit crazy stories about warehouses full of cash in Poland. That goes without saying. The hot question in the Venezuelan public sphere right now is what the hell they’re actually trying to achieve with all this.
It’s a genuinely perplexing question.
Normally, when the government proposes something aggressively stupid, it’s relatively easy to intuit what their intended outcome is, no matter how catastrophically divorced it might be from the idea’s likely consequences. In this case, it’s different…try as you might to think like a chavista, it’s tough to figure out what they think they gain from this.
The chaos that trying to withdraw the highest denomination banknote from circulation in 72 hours is likely to cost it’s clear enough. The way it’ll cause commercial activity to seize up right in the critical weeks ahead of Christmas is obvious. The way it’ll collapse the banks over the next ten days is equally clear. On the other hand, how people are meant to get around if they can’t use Bs.100 bills to pay for bus fare, for instance, is highly opaque. And it’s obvious that the cost of it all will fall most heavily on the 30% of the population that — according to the government’s own estimates — don’t have a bank account at all: poorer people who account for the bulk of what support the government still has.
How is screwing them for no reason in Maduro’s interest?
If Maduro thinks the exchange bureaus in Cúcuta and Bucaramanga are such a big problem, why not just get Diosdado’s cronies to buy them?
None of it makes any damn sense. Our best hypothesis — that they’re trying to strike a blow against the bolivar-peso black market on the Colombian side of the border — is the economic equivalent of trying to get rid of a mosquito on your forehead with a flamethrower.
If Maduro thinks the exchange bureaus in Cúcuta and Bucaramanga are such a big problem, why not just get Diosdado’s cronies to buy them? Worked well enough with Últimas Noticias, amirite? But no, that wouldn’t be any fun. So instead he’s decided to incinerate half the Venezuelan economy for kicks.
Which is why, personally, I’m hanging on to the video at the top of this post. A few minutes ago I set a Google Calendar reminder to show it to my kids on December 12th, 2036. I think it’s important they understand — really understand — how bad things got in the country I keep telling them is theirs, but that they’ve never seen. And this video tells that story in a way mere description just can’t.Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.