Venezuela Bank Note Chaos Prompts Looting

Venezuela bank note chaos prompts looting

CARACAS, Venezuela, (Pakistan Point News - APP - 17th Dec, 2016 ) :Desperate Venezuelans looted delivery trucks and clashed with police Friday as protests broke out in anger at chaotic efforts to change the country's banknotes, officials and locals said. The authorities took the largest-denomination note out of circulation but failed to release the bigger bills supposed to replace it in time, leaving citizens with no way of buying food. "There is attempted looting in various parts of the country," tweeted Henry Ramos Allup, president of the legislative National Assembly and a leading opponent of President Nicolas Maduro.

"The situation is worsened by the lack of cash. The new banknotes have not appeared." Long queues formed at the headquarters of the central bank as citizens tried desperately to deposit their 100-bolivar bills, which ceased to be legal tender in the inflation-stricken country on Thursday. Venezuela's socialist leader had promised to release a series of new higher-denomination banknotes to save shoppers and vendors having to deal in unwieldy wads of cash.

But staff at the central bank in the capital Caracas Friday told people waiting in line they had no new bills to exchange for the old 100-bolivar notes, AFP reporters saw. Elsewhere, Venezuelans lost their patience over the latest chaotic chapter in an economic and political crisis that has caused shortages of food and medicine in their oil-rich South American nation. Four people in the western city of Santa Barbara were injured when the drivers of a security truck transporting cash opened fire on people trying to break into it, local media reported.

In the eastern city of Puerto la Cruz, "people rioted because they wanted to take out money and they weren't allowed to," a local baker named Genesis told AFP. "The police fired in the air to calm the riot. Everyone dispersed and the police ordered all shops to be closed," said Genesis, who asked not to be identified by her surname for fear of reprisals. In the eastern city of Maturin, dozens of people blocked off a major avenue in protest and looting broke out.

"I went by the market and it was being guarded by the military. A chicken truck was looted," Juan Carlos Leal, a farmer in Maturin, told AFP. Protests also broke out in several other states, reports on Twitter said. Maduro has been fighting off the center-right opposition's efforts to drive him from power over the past year. He says the crisis is the result of a capitalist conspiracy. He said the Currency reform was needed to combat US-backed "mafias" allegedly hoarding bank notes in a bid to sabotage the economy.