Goodbye Bolivar

Venezuela’s currency is dying not with a bang, but with a whimper as virtually all large —and many mid-sized— transactions are switching, de facto, to the dollar.

Photo: Caraota Digital retrieved.

The bolívar is on the brink of extinction.

Nobody talks about bolivars anymore. Now it’s either “soberanos” (to highlight the difference with the monetary cone ruling until August, 20) or dollars. Soberanos are still used for day-to-day, low-cost operations, but almost every other transaction is dollarized. Purchase agreements for real estate and vehicles are paid in dollars, along with many professional services (like medical, dental and veterinary consultations), repairs for vehicles and home appliances, and even works of art; many retailers discard any currency except greenbacks and there’s no way to keep employees, unless part of the salary is in Benjamins. Luggage carriers ask for tips in dollars, as do manicurists and valets, restaurants and all kinds of businesses.

But the biggest outrage is saved for the stone-faced greed of public service providers, which are strictly State-run, and they demand dollars in addition to their normal fees (in soberanos), for poor-quality service. Cities and towns in Venezuela suffer extended blackouts which prevent people from working, you all know this. What’s not that known is that, when consumers report power outages, they’re visited a long while later by a technician from the State-run electric company. In his speech, you learn that a key part of the system is damaged… and it takes thousands of dollar to be fixed. Like that, in your face. Shamelessly.

Soberanos are still used for day-to-day, low-cost operations, but almost every other transaction is dollarized.

The same applies for water supply. The tanker trucks that replenish water at apartment buildings demand dollars, a fee that increases from one week to another. Also in dollars flowing through the alleys of corruption are the payments that citizens make to get their passports, because they can’t wait for the socialist bureaucracy to respond. We’re talking about formal papers, issued by the State which can, however, be processed only after steep commissions.

Essentially, this is the privatization of public services (allegedly provided by the State, with large subsidies). Venezuelans pay for collapsed public services in prices subjected to wild fluctuations, in a currency that’s not the one established in 1879, with Bolívar’s visage.

In other words, they pay in gold and greens.

“You know what? I have to pay in dollars at the repair shop to get my car back.” That’s how Marianella Salazar’s advert on Instagram begins. Expelled in August 2017 from the radio, where she had a successful decade-long career, Salazar has turned social media into her new platform. Recently, she posted an ad for Maru Consign (a retailer of second-hand luxury items), where she appears in front of her open closet. “So I’m going to take one of these purses and I’ll give it to Maru Consign. This one’s Chanel! Done!”

Marianella’s advert, undoubtedly done by herself, as she’s well aware of the nation’s situation, is a metaphor for the decapitalization of a hostage country, forced to pawn off everything it owns. By the way, street, police and guerrilla crime ditched bolivars a long time ago. Even gangsters feel insulted if they’re given our national currency, especially soberanos, that poor reflection of the Weimar mark. They only want dollars. Have you ever seen a sanctioned official whose frozen accounts are in Venezuelan banks?