Venezuelans flocked to banks starting early this morning in order to get a head start on exchanging their soon-to-be-obsolete Bs. 100 for legal tender, following Maduro’s surprise announcement on Sunday that the most common bill in circulation in the country would become worthless tomorrow.
Long lines began to form outside of banks starting in the early morning. Below, some images of the line ups outside of banks from around the country today:
The Ministry of the Interior deployed 58,000 uniformed officers throughout the country today in support of the operation.
According to the national government, the Bs. 100 bills are being phased out in order to combat organized crime groups that are working to undermine the Venezuelan economy.
BCV Chief Unveils New Monetary Policy
The head of the Banco Central de Venezuela (BCV), Nelson Merentes, held a press conference today in which he spoke about some new measures affecting Venezuelan currency.
Refusing to provide concrete details, Merentes said that Venezuelans would be unable to bring in “large quantities” of Bs. 100 bills from overseas, even if they happen to resuming residency in the country or visiting for vacation. At the same time, Merentes said that Venezuelans would also be unable to leave the country with “large quantities” of the bills, but also refused to specify what exactly qualified as a large quantity.
To Venezuelans scrambling to deposit any Bs. 100 bills they may have in their processions in banks today and tomorrow, Merentes said:
To the people of Venezuela, please… you cannot come with a truck full of Bs. 100 in large quantities [to deposit them in banks]. That is illegal and will not be accepted.
Merentes did not clarify exactly which law would be broken by carrying large quantities of Bs. 100 bills, or what exactly constitutes a “large quantity” for the purposes of depositing into a private account.
While the Bs. 100 bill is the highest in circulation today, it is nearly worthless. A Bs. 100 bill is equivalent to approximately 2 US cents, which means that it is not at all unusual for anyone to have large quantities of the bills.
For example, the current minimum monthly wage is Bs. 27,092.10. In Bs. 100 bills, that sum would equal 270 bills, but be worth only $6.77.
Merentes also spoke on the overall manner in which the process of removing the Bs. 100 from circulation has unfolded so far, and suggested that attempts to sabotage the process had been unsuccessful. Merentes said:
The people have set a great example. Today, the process went off completely normally around the country (…) and in those places were people wanted the lines to become complex, they couldn’t [sic].
National Assembly Moves to Impeach Maduro
The opposition-controlled National Assembly drafted a resolution today laying blame on Maduro for breaking the country’s “Constitutional thread”, and will move to impeach him. The move comes as a tenuous dialogue between the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD) – the country’s opposition bloc – and the PSUV collapsed earlier this month.
The National Assembly’s resolution includes the following declaration:
The President is responsible for the violation of the human rights of Venezuelans and the devastation of the country’s economic foundation.
Following the resolution, the National Assembly will formally ask the Public Ministry, which is the agency in charge of laying criminal charges and prosecuting individuals, to begin the impeachment process against Maduro. Were Maduro to be successfully impeached, he could be removed from office.
It is extremely unlikely that the Public Ministry will abide by the National Assembly’s request and impeach Maduro given the partisan nature of the organization.
The National Assembly’s resolution can be found here, in Spanish.
TSJ Ignores National Assembly, Re-Appoints CNE Rectors
The Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ), the nation’s top court, ignored the National Assembly’s efforts to appoint new rectors to the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) and simply re-appointed pro-PSUV rectors Socorro Hernandez and Tania D’Amelio to their posts. The National Assembly had spent several sessions narrowing down the list of candidates for the two positions in preparation for making the appointments.
In its ruling, the TSJ said that since the National Assembly continues to be in contempt of the law, all of its acts are null and without effect. As a result, the court saw no option but to step in and make the appointments itself.
Back in November, the PSUV promised the MUD that the two sides would work to appoint the CNE rectors together as a token of goodwill in light of the now-defunct dialogue process between the two dies.
The re-appointment of Hernandez and D’Amelio to the organization that oversees electoral processes in the country is guaranteed to keep to body firmly under PSUV control.
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