Photo: El Confidencial
“This is all the cash I have left.” That’s what he said before he showed us two lonely bills: a BsF 100 banknote and a BsF 20,000 banknote.
We couldn’t help but laugh because this was the chairman of a private bank talking. However, he sternly tried to convince us that he was telling the truth. “I used to be like a narco because I only used cash. No cards, I always had lots of bills. Recently, I told my assistant to get me some cash and he told me: ‘There’s none, boss’.”
For months, thousands of Venezuelans have had problems to get cash due to the shortage intensified by hyperinflation, a daily blow on our currency’s value, creating a huge demand and causing that, among other things, people resort to selling banknotes at up to 500% their value.
Recently, I told my assistant to get me some cash and he told me: ‘There’s none, boss’.
Many citizens think this is a dishonest action, but it’s the result of a failed State that turned its currency into the most worthless in the world today, which means there’s always people willing to pay whatever they can for it, because they need it for basic transactions such as paying for transport to go to work. We’ve yet to see how things will work out, now that the BsS is in circulation around the national territory. Also, we frequently see shop owners selling basic food basket products at steeper prices if they’re paid through electronic transactions. Also, Venezuelan bills are smuggled to border countries like Colombia or Brazil, where they’re used to do business in currency exchange offices.
That’s why, even though my friend is a banker, we could give him the benefit of the doubt. But this wasn’t the only incredible confession he had for us that July afternoon. According to him, it’s been weeks since the bank he chairs has had any estimates on its own earnings due to a particular issue: the figures have so many numbers that the calculator machine can’t show them. “That’s why they backed off from the idea of removing three zeros from the currency, and increased it to five zeroes. Hyperinflation is monstrous,” he said.
That’s why they backed off from the idea of removing three zeros from the currency, and increased it to five zeroes. Hyperinflation is monstrous.
I wonder what tales the executives of international banks tell each other. I’m sure their stories are filled with with trips to Disney and luxurious presents they’ll buy for their wives. Or perhaps anecdotes of the prestigious universities where they studied, or how they reached the top despite their humble origins.
But in the Venezuela of 21st century socialism, they’re threatened, accused of conspiring or even jailed, as high-ranking Banesco managers recently found out, after the government accused them of being involved in a plan to destabilize the economy. Here, those “lucky ones” who should theoretically live in a magic bubble against the crisis, have stories of resistance. Because that gap between high, middle and low class vanished in Venezuela long ago. Now the classification could be defined as: regime cronies (enchufados), middle-low class (the historical high class) and those who struggle every day to have three meals, at least.