I See Your Million, and Raise You a Beco Bond

While chavismo insists on looking for solutions to the cash shortage that in the short run worsen the economic crisis, the private sector gets smart

On Friday, before the Venezuelan public opinion was sucked into the mind-numbing vortex of the Oprah royalty-TV interview, the Venezuelan Central Bank announced that a batch of not-so-flashy newly denominated bolivar banknotes was on the way. Banknotes ranging from Bs. 200,000 to Bs. 1,000,000—smartly replacing all the zeros with the word “MILLION”—will soon arrive in Venezuela to help alleviate the cash shortage crisis. If you’ve been keeping up with the hyperinflation chronicles, you know that Bs. 1,000,000, at the time of the announcement, were roughly equivalent to $ 0.52. 

As things change so quickly in Venezuela, it’s hard to keep track of what is scarce in the street. And this time it’s not food—although what is available is pretty much out of reach for many—but cash for change after you make a purchase, since Venezuelan banknotes became nonexistent and low denomination dollar bills are hard to come by. This has become a problem for the majority of Venezuelans, who don’t have access to paypals or zelles or venmos and depend on bolivar electronic accounts and mainly U.S. cash dollars. So the government’s solution was to print (PRINT!) these Bs. 1 Million half a buck bills to solve the problem for… Two? Three months? It won’t be too long before people looking to pay for a bus ride will have to carry an extra bag to store the wads of cash needed to cover the ticket.

But the unsinkable Venezuelan private sector, from bodegas to bodegones, have been dealing with this in lots of different ways since transactions in dollars have become more common and customers have become more resistant to rounding up prices. Some still try to offer candy, Torontos usually, as change, others use older, more traditional, methods.

Well, today the Venezuelan superstore chain Beco, which has been around for quite some time, through an interesting marketing campaign announced that they would be handing out flashy IOUs (or a sort of promissory note on demand, perhaps? Beco bonds?) to customers when they don’t have cash for change.

These tickets are worth, of course, the equivalent to their dollar counterparts. If chavismo doesn’t crack down on them, we will surely see more of these IOUs from other stores. Imagine just what would it look like? People exchanging Makro dollars for Beco dollars. Using the Epa dollars to buy a Coke at the bodega. And the bolivar in its rightful place, at the bank by the Marapolio deck.