As we start to recover, más o menos, from Nicolás Maduro’s move —reversed last night— to pull the country’s largest bank note out of circulation, one fact stands out: nobody understands why he made this enormously reckless decision. Not really. We have a proliferation of theories and hypotheses on what he may have been hoping to gain, yes, but none of them are especially coherent. Which means even the wackier ones are plausible.
It could have been Maduro trying to emulate Narendra Modi’s move in fighting corruption in India, or a desperate attempt to curb a sharp rise of the dollar’s value in the black market, or even as they claim, a last ditch move to dump what is ultimately toxic money out of the economy.
Or it could have been nothing other than sheer stupidity by a guy who has raised the bar of stupid on a daily basis since he took office.
It wasn’t a matter of ifs or even whens, but of what would be the breaking point.
Remember, this is a man whose signature election campaign moment featured a conversation with a bird. It shouldn’t come as a shock that his understanding of macroeconomics exactly MIT-level.
The violent reaction in Ciudad Bolívar this weekend couldn’t have surprised anyone. Venezuela’s chronic food and medicine scarcity, rampant crime, low living standards, collapsed health and education system, and beaten down economy were bound to end in riots sooner rather than later. It wasn’t a matter of ifs or even whens, but of what would be the breaking point.
The punchline is that this was only the amuse-bouche, a sneak peek into the future.
In Ciudad Bolívar, the police sided with the rioters and the National Guard wasn’t willing to pull the trigger. Not even uniformed mercenaries can ignore how unhinged removing the 100 Bolivar bill was.
It showed how vulnerable and unprepared to stay in power they are. Even amid a militarized country effectively under martial law.
Maduro’s solution was a famous U-Turn to make the now infamous bank note legal tender again. But there aren’t enough bills in the world to hide how ugly their downfall will be.
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