Venezuela Delays Banknote Withdrawal

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro has delayed the withdrawal of the 100-bolivar banknote until 2 January.

The sudden change of policy comes after days of economic chaos.

In a national broadcast, Mr Maduro claimed his country had been the victim of international sabotage, which had prevented new larger currency notes arriving in time.

Many Venezuelans have spent several days in long queues trying to hand in or swap the old notes.

Thousands of shops have closed because of a cash shortage, and people have been unable to buy food.

The government had said the scrapping of the 100-bolivar note was necessary to prevent smuggling.

The president said the aim was to tackle gangs which hoard Venezuelan currency abroad, a move he has previously described as part of the “economic war” being waged against his government.

Mr Maduro has said the gangs hold more than 300bn bolivares worth of currency, most of it in 100-bolivar notes.

He said there were “entire warehouses full of 100-bolivar notes in [the Colombian cities of] Cucuta, Cartagena, Maicao and Buaramanga”.

The president said one reason for withdrawing the banknotes was to block any of the 100-bolivar notes from being taken back into Venezuela so the gangs would be unable to exchange their hoarded bills, making them worthless.

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