Desperate Venezuelans took to looting in various cities across the country today after being left without any cash as a result of the national government mismanaging the roll-out of new paper bills.
On Sunday, Maduro announced that the Bs. 100 bill – by far the most common in circulation – would become obsolete on December 16. The measure was to coincide with the circulation of new replacement bills, which was supposed to begin on December 15. However, the new bills have yet to begin circulating, meaning that Venezuelans are unable to use cash as of this morning.
El Nacional reports that looting has broken out in Tachira, Trujillo, Monagas, Anzoategui, Bolivar, Barinas and Zulia states.
The city of Maracaibo in Zulia state has seen sporadic looting episodes throughout the day, and appears to be the city that has been hardest hit by this latest round of unrest. At least seven people were arrested during the day’s unrest there.
The video below shows a large crowd of what appear to be looters making their way down a street in Maracaibo:
Below, another video from the looting in Maracaibo earlier today:
Below, a video from the owner of a shoe store in Maracaibo describing the aftermath of the looting:
Woman: Look at this, girls. Look. The door where we receive the merchandise — and the stands, all looted. Everything. Everything over here, looted and broken. Look at the blood here: they broke everything and didn’t care if they cut themselves. Everything was looted.
Look. Everything got looted. They didn’t leave a single thing. Look at all of this. What a disaster. Thank God all the employees are safe. The stands and their purses are empty. The employees are cleaning up now, trying to pick everything up. Thank God they are fine, as is my husband.
They watched everything through the cameras from inside, because they hid themselves in a vault that he [the husband] built in preparation for all of this.
They didn’t leave a single thing. Look at how they left the front door. Broken glass – and look at how they knocked the door… Sadly, I was a victim of looting.
The chaos in Maracaibo appears to have been at least partially started by the fact that the office of the Banco Central de Venezuela (BCV) in the city was overwhelmed early in the day by residents eager to deposit their obsolete Bs. 100 bills in exchange for new ones. With the office overwhelmed, the crowd that had been gathering there since early in the morning quickly lost patience.
Below, a video taken at the BCV offices in Maracaibo earlier today. The video shows National Bolivarian Police officers trying to keep a crowd of anxious residents away from the BCV building. People in the crowd are yelling, among other things, “we need answers!”:
Looters Sack El Callao, Bolivar State
The town of El Callao in Bolivar state also saw widespread looting today. Below, images from the scene there earlier today.
The video below shows looters walking away from what appears to be a market area of the town carrying off goods:
The video below reportedly shows looters making their way down a street in El Callao, Bolivar state. The looters appear to be running away from a cloud of tear gas, which was presumably launched by security forces:
Man: Motherfucker… what is this shit? Look over there! That’s tear gas. Shit – it stings! It’s stinging my eyes and throat. Keep filming – listen to the shooting!
BCV Does Not Have New Bills; Offering “Special Voucher” Instead
Maduro announced on Sunday that Venezuelans would have 72 hours to deposit their Bs. 100 bills into their personal bank accounts. At the end of the 72 hours, Venezuelans would then have until December 25 (later changed to December 20) to take their Bs. 100 bills to BCV offices in Caracas or Maracaibo, where they would be able to exchange the bills for the new bills.
However, the BCV does not yet have the new bills, which were supposed to begin circulating on December 15.
La Patilla reports that as a result, the BCV has been giving “special vouchers” to Venezuelans hoping to get the new bills today. The voucher apparently allows the recipient to, once they’ve turned over their Bs. 100 bills, go to a bank of their choice and redeem the voucher for the new bills whenever they arrive.
The measure has effectively left Venezuelans without cash.
Antonio Mendez visited the BCV office in Caracas this morning hoping to exchange his old bills for the new ones, and received a voucher instead. He told La Patilla:
I don’t even have money for the bus. I’ll have to figure something out.
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