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.

Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.

67 COMMENTS

  1. Over the last few weeks, cash has all but disappeared here. The only way we could generate any at all was to sell a kilo of masa at the ridiculous price of 150,000 bs per kilo, and even then most buyers opted to pay a higher price via a wire transfer.

    Last time I was in Punta de Mata, I asked a vendor how much he was charging for platanos. He said, 200,000 bs in cash, 750,000 bs via transfer. That’s the norm today and if the new bills don’t arrive in enough volume, or depreciate at the same rate as the old bills (which is what I fully expect), then this phenomenon will continue.

    Still haven’t seen a new bill here in town.

    On another note, our former maid and her husband each received their latest free cash for merely holding a Carnet de la Patria. Don’t recall the amount, 600,000 or 6,000,000 each. Doesn’t much matter because the buying power is pretty much the same in my view . And I’m sure that’s been repeated by the millions all over the country.

    Wonder what will happen with all that new money chasing fewer products?

    • “Wonder what will happen with all that new money chasing fewer products?”

      = Classical recipe for inflation.

      But there is more, coupled with a collapse of domestic production (i.e. fewer products on the shelves) this means a higher dependency on foreign imports, which only strains the foreign reserves in a country that has exchange controls and little foreign reserves to begin with.

      = the BCV is literally blowing worthless money out of their ass to falsely spur demand (hence the 600Bss bono to all the monkeys holding their carnet) and absolutely nothing to back it up the foreign reserves.

      Quite literally this is an inflationary blackhole.

      Maybe these crooks have a bit more illegally mined gold, or really stepped it up on drug trafficking, but there is no way of getting out of this mess.

      BTW, all those comemierda escualidos were at panaderia where my girlfriend works buying coffee and sweets with their carnet bonus. The baboons were able to have a smile on their face for a bit, but it will not last for long.

      September looks to be the month where we feel the consequences of maduros paqueta rojo…

      • “Quite literally this is an inflationary shithole.” (FIFY!)

        I don’t know how you manage to not go insane just trying to deal with life and not being killed/kidnapped.

  2. Just curious, MRubio (greetings and best wishes) are your former maid and her husband worried about the economy, happy with the government. Even though they are Chavistas have they been adversely affected? This is all very hard for me to figure out as I dont get it.

  3. Hello Mr. Crispin, hope you’re doing well this fine day.

    Good questions. First let me say, unless one is a chavista enchufado, everyone has been adversely affected by the insane policies of this regime. Of course, you already knew that.

    As best as we were able to gather, talking to the maid in particular, they’re worried about the economy from the standpoint of prices going higher, literally every day. How are they going to pay for what they need, she’d often ask after seeing what we charged for the basics in the bodega. And this couple has three young children to feed and clothe as well.

    They grapple with the concept of inflation, well, the woman does, because her husband can neither read nor write. I tried to explain to her one day why the government giving them free money was not really free at all, and how it was actually detrmental in the long term because of its effects on the one problem they worry the most about, the increasing cost of basic goods. I think she actually grasped the concept of the effects of the government printing money to give to the citizens who then use it to try to buy ever scarcer products was doing to the economy. But, she was still happy they were getting their extra money. LOL

    The most maddening aspect of trying to discuss any of this with her, any average chavista, or any opposition voter for that matter, is that the majority of them actually believe that the elections are free and fair. And honestly, the more it goes, the more I’m convinced that while they all complain every day about the state of the economy, the lack of food, the run-away prices, when election day comes, they go to the polls and pull the lever for the one guy they know is going to give them free stuff.

    It’s all about today, not the future.

  4. For the frequent commenters here who know me, my wife and I have left Venezuela and are not coming back. We just got to our limit. It was a combination of things that brought us to this point.

    One, I was arrested (kidnapped) back in April of last year on Margarita. I wasn’t in the protest. In fact, I was at least four blocks away from the protest. But they were rounding up anyone outside on the streets, and I just happened to be there. Another guy of my age was grabbed coming out of Unicasa with his groceries. There 42 of us arrested that day. We spent five days in custody, sleeping and eating on a bare floor.

    Secondly, late last year, I almost lost my leg. I had an arterial thrombosis. They could do nothing to help me in Margarita, because there was not one cardiovascular surgeon in island. Not one! Eventually, we got me to Caracas, where I had an emergency arterial bypass operation. It was too late to open the blockage with a catheterization. So, a much more complicated, invasive, and risky surgery was necessary.

    But it wasn’t those that finally convinced us. It was a slow process, in which we finally realized that living in the midst of so much misery was affecting our own mental health. We avoided going out. Our circle of friends reduced as one by one, they all left, and we avoided making knew friends. We were no longer living. All we were doing was surviving each day. And we could see no end in sight to the misery.

    To all of you who are still there and still “en la lucha”, I wish you strength and luck. If the time comes when you too decide you have reached your limit, leave knowing you have fought the good fight.

    I will continue to follow the news of Venezuela, but I won’t allow it to consume all my attention any longer. I now have other interests with more favorable outlooks. Good luck to all of you.

    Roy

    • I hope that you won’t be a stranger to CC, Roy. Your comments are always thoughtful – and eloquent, as you describe your reasons for going. All the best to you, and yours.

    • Roy, I had no idea what you went through both with the kidnapping and emergency surgery. Amazing that with an island the size and population of Margarita, there were no medical services there that could help you…..but then again, not so amazing considering.

      I too have cut way back on my outside activities. I loved my ranch. It was beautiful and I had basically built it from scratch….clearing the land, building fences, building ponds…5 in total…..installing an irrigatino system, and planting pasture for my animals. Owned the place for 10 years, very productive in both grains and bales of bermuda.

      A number of years ago, the guy who normally cared for the place left to visit family in another state for a week or 10 days. The guy taking his place came to town to stock up on supplies. When he returned after nightfall and pulled up to the locked gate, he was suddenly surrounded by 5 armed guys, faces covered, “looking for the gringo”. Told me he almost peed his pants because he was sure it was the end for him. He eventually convinced them I was not there. For some reason they were sure I’d be in the jeep with him. With faces covered I figured they were locals, possibly looking to kidnap me or possibly just to rob me of my semi-auto pistol.

      They were definitely not there to rob the place because they let him enter, told him to drive up to the house and not to come out until morning. He followed their orders. With no phone he could not contact me until the following day when he drove into town. We later found that they’d hidden their car inside the neighbor’s ranch, then cut the fence across from the gate to hide under a tree and wait for the jeep. They’d been there quite a while as there were plenty of footprints where they’d been pacing around.

      Never figured out who they were, or exactly what they were after. They never returned either apparently.
      That episode obviously changed my daily habits entering and leaving the ranch. I hung in there until the pressures from theft became too great and finally sold the place. I’m comfortable here at the house, enjoying my garden, watching my chickens, aggravating my dogs.

      But I’m always armed, my pistol never more than arm’s reach away.

      • MRubio,

        My “kidnapping” was by the National Guard. I used the term, because although it was official, there wasn’t anything about it that felt like an arrest. They just grabbed me and ran. Afterwards, they tried to follow procedures, but everyone involved knew it was a farce.

      • MRubio…sounds like they intended to kidnap you and it also sounds like somebody who knew your routine had told them where to wait for you. You were lucky!
        Have you got any corn mash fermenting for your chickens yet? You mentioned that after a steady diet of fermented corn your chickens grew to a huge size and their skin turned yellow. I wonder if the yellow skin was caused by the color of the corn or possibly….if they had been eating the fermented corn long term it might have been an early sign of liver failure if they were alcoholic chickens. Lol…just kidding

        • Now that you mention it, the chicken livers were chewy. LOL

          On the kidnap issue, I’m not convinced that someone was passing information to them because I rarely slept at the ranch and most anyone in town knew that. I normally slept in the same home I live in now, though I was leasing it at the time. Had they wanted to grab me, they could have done it easily late most any day as I took the only road out of the place back to town.

          I also considered that maybe they didn’t know my routine because someone hired them from outside to do the job. But then why wear masks? You wear masks if you don’t want the target to ID you. If they were hired from outside, I wouldn’t know any of them. I’ve spoken with other kidnap victims who said their attackers didn’t wear masks. If they were local, which I suspect they were, I believe they either planned to rob me and leave me there, or haul me off and negotiate a ransom for my release. That would be the only reason for the masks.

          Someone suggested they were hired to kill me for some reason. Hired killers don’t normally wear masks. They don’t usually leave witnesses.

          Back to fermented corn. I’ve been looking at stills on-line and reading about the process. I could probably sell that stuff. 🙂

          • Yep…you may know that moonshine. white lightning, mountain dew…whatever you want to call it has gone mainstream in the U.S. these days. I guess it is sold in liquor stores now and with all kinds of flavors…apple cinnamon, smokey apple, etc etc. Of course most stills have not gone legal due to cost and regulations and are still operating as “outlaw” stills.
            If you get the right flavors going it will probably sell like hotcakes . You may have to slide a few free bottles to local police chief every month! Lol

  5. Roy, good luck to you where ever you are headed. It’s bound to better than what you are leaving. The good news is that you are leaving with both legs still in place! I enjoy your posts!

      • Oregon, the pan, is better than Venezuela, the fire, but you can find the collectivos there, too, operating under the guise “Antifa” – masks and everything from pea-shooters to iron pipes. Support Republicans, not Democrat-socialists. But don’t go around wearing a MAGA hat or you risk being harassed, thrown out of restaurants, or even attacked and beaten.

        • I don’t know much about antifa other than a few articles. But, I suspect the people where we live in Oregon wouldn’t put up with such nonsense. They are highly armed, and thus, politeness is highly encouraged.

  6. SEEDS FOR VENEZUELA!!! Around August many gardening clubs in the northern hemisphere are happy to give away leftover seeds. Otherwise these seeds would need to be stored in somebody’s closet and by next spring they might not even sprout. Your local library can probably tell you if such a local gardening club exists. If someone in Miami etc can volunteer as the collection point for these seeds, the collected seed packets could be forwarded to Venezuela. I just received 50 packets of assorted veggie seeds that will be headed to Venezuela next week.

  7. Pilk, if you don’t have contacts on your end or here in Venezuela, try to hook up with CC member John. He’s been sending packages down here periodically with seed packets which I then distribute to the locals. Plenty of folks are now producing vegetables in their gardens because of John’s good work.

    The packages arrive at his contact’s home in Caracas and we then arrange pickup from here. There’s a package with seed waiting for me right now in Caracas.

    • It is not easy, to get the staff of this site to share one’s information. John and have each requested this multiple times.

      • Hi Waltz
        I just sent another request to [email protected].
        Hopefully someone will see it and act on it.

        If they don’t, I will talk to my lady in Miami and have you send the items to her. The last time I posted the shipper’s name and address, the national guard hijacked my next shipment. Maybe a coincidence, but it has made me be very careful. I don’t want to expose anyone in Venezuela to any risks.
        Since that shipment was lost, I have been using airfreight and sending the most necessary items. So far, so good with no losses.

    • Thanks, I will keep that in mind. My family works with a group that is now based in Yaracuy, I’ll give them first dibs.

    • I just wasted a few minutes and read this article.
      The one thing I took away from it is that the author, Omar José Hernández, Will never, ever, ever, drop a Mensa membership card.
      The chances of getting him and anyone that agrees with him to understand how the regime has destroyed the country are zero.

      • LOL John. You just described about 75% of Aporrean articles. The ones describing the details on how the US assassinated El Gigante by implanting him with cancer in order to loot their oil and other treasure are in the same vein.

        These guys (and a few gals) have a huge chip on their shoulder. They apparently were raised being told everyday about how Venezuela has all the riches of the world, and how the gringo pirates are always trying to steal their buried treasure. They also signal each other by affirming that, of course, the root of all problems is the economic war waged by El Imperio. Easiest war the US has ever fought. Just requires a website, and we are kicking ass. But, they will get their glorious revenge and destroy the evil illegal dollar. They sound like Boris and Natasha talking about how the will get moose and squirrel.

          • I honestly can’t believe that someone that stupid can figure out how to turn on a computer to submit his “article”.
            The old saying that “It is better to keep your mouth shut and let people assume that you are stupid than to open it and prove it”, comes to mind.
            That said, I know this is going to sound like a stupid question,
            Do the contributors to Aporrea have any credentials? Were they in academia, politics, government or industry?
            If the answer is yes, the people of Venezuela are in for a long long time of poverty and suffering. The most liberal university in the US can’t come close to the whacked out economic theories that these idiots espouse.
            I had many discussions about economic theory with my daughters when they were in college. Economics is an interesting discipline. Many factors influence economics to the point that identical actions will bring about different results. The Fed’s quantitative easing was a good example of the same actions yielding decreasing returns. During the Obama administration, the Fed’s actions resulted in a 380% increase in the money supply without inflationary pressure. I still don’t know why.
            Any economist will tell you that continually increasing your money supply by whatever the amount Venezuela is doing will cause uncontrollable inflation.

  8. Now THAT is a conspiracy theory I can believe! There is no telling how many of his people would “take him out” if they could!

        • A couple of small squalls have blown through today. But the storm is moving slowly and not expected to get serious on Kauai until late tomorrow evening – Saturday. They are closing down the road to our neighborhood tonight at 11 (last call to get out), and not re-opening until after storm and it has been inspected. They also are shutting off the public water system.

          Ask me Sunday. If I answer, then we did well!

          • As a frequent hurricane victim myself, why do they shut off the water pumping stations where you are?

            In Florida, they work overtime to divert the water elsewhere and prevent flooding.

          • I don’t know, Ira. Maybe because our neighborhood does not have political clout? But the storm has slowed to a crawl and the weather here (for now) is mighty fine, and they have not made good on their threat to turn off the water (yet). Road closes tonight, though.

          • Ira
            I believe that you are talking about pumps that remove surface water.
            I think Another Gringo is referring to the pumps on the potable water supply.
            Keeping a system pressurized will keep contaminated water out of it.

          • Mahalo, John. Yes, correct. And too much rain overwhelms said system pressure pumps.

            Hurricane Godot (I have renamed it) is barely crawling towards Oahu. It’s down to a “2” and by the time it makes it to Kauai should no longer be a hurricane, or so “they” say. Will still probably dump a lot of rain, though.

          • Good to hear that the threat level is decreasing.
            I imagine that clean up is more costly and probably takes longer than the mainland. Just getting the supplies that you would need to you could be a logistics challenge in the aftermath of a devastating hurricane.
            Stay safe.

          • Iniki trashed Kauai 26 years ago. We weren’t here back then, but people that were say it was a long (several years) recovery. Not just infrastructure, houses, etc., but plants and trees. And they grow fast on this island.

            This present storm is moving so slow, it still has not done much at the far top of the Kauai. But, it has dumped 2-3 feet of rain on Big Island, and Maui is on fire (literally – dry as a bone with hurricane level winds is a bad combo). I am hoping it goes from “2” to “1” to tropical storm before it finally gets here.

          • The BBC news just had a feature from Wakiki Beach.
            They said that yesterday the authorities were concerned about the storm surge from the Hurricane that was a category 4 at the time.
            The authorities decided to test the tsunami warning sirens.
            When the sirens went off, the locals began to get away from the water while most of the tourists ran towards the ocean to take selfies.
            Nature’s way of thinning the herd.

          • The locals refer to the tourists taking the selfies as “Dumb fucking Haoles” – it’s not meant in a nice way.

            The classic example is a cool natural water feature in the jungle that locals go to and have for years, including as little kids. Word gets out in a tour book or on internet as a place to go, suddenly is overrun with tourists, and then tourist drowns or falls off a cliff or whatever, the the county shuts down/fences off the place for being too dangerous.
            When our kids were still kids, we used to go to this awesome blow hole on Maui that is one of the few that was not destroyed by the sugar plantations (they would dynamite them to keep the salt spray from hitting the nearby crops back in the 1800s.
            We went there every trip. It is an awesome site provided by nature, no tickets needed. You just have to know where to park and trial to take. Sure enough, about 5 years ago, some dumb ass manged to fall into the hole and drown in the ocean. Now, its closed off to the public.

  9. I read all your stories and count my blessings. We had dinner with family and enjoyed grilled burgers and chicken.

    My oldest is bed ridden with pnemonia and is on antibiotics. The pills she takes have to be taken with certain foods that won’t upset her stomach. But having good doctors and nearby phrmacy makes this better to be treated at home than in a hospital.

    I have nightmares of one of my kids becoming I’ll like this in VZ. No medicine and doctors left without proper care units. Home hospice would not be by choice but the only option.

    MRubio, your ranch story is enlightening. A firearm is a great responsibility, but better to be judges by 12 than carried by 6.

  10. Meanwhile Fernando Toro is posting articles on the Washington Post telling them how this is “totally not socialism fault you guys!!! Trump is the bad guy here you meanies “

  11. Serious question for you gringos who are living in Venezuela. Why?

    You don’t sound like you are well off and live in the middle of no where. Many of us have known that Venezuela was going to collapse over a decade ago and left the country.

    It doesn’t seem like you integrated into Venezuelan society either. I don’t blame for you for that especially in this moment in time, but it’s speaks hypocrisy considering all the comments I read that you guys write about immigrants in the U.S.

    I don’t see anyone of you who live in Venezuela trying to become Venezuelan, like how you complain about immigrants in the U.S not trying to become American.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here