Venezuela’s bolivar currency is quickly becoming worthless as foreign merchants and local businesses demand all payments in dollars.
According to a report from Reuters, supermarkets, dentists, and medical clinics are now demanding payments in dollars, years after gourmet and design stores began refusing bolivar payments entirely.
“I can’t think in bolivars anymore because you have to give a different price every hour,” said 27-year-old jeweler Yoselin Aguirre. “To survive, you have to dollarize.”
However, the policy is only likely to inflict more pain on ordinary Venezuelans, the large majority of whom are still paid in local currency.
“We don’t earn in dollars,” said 55-year-old steelworker Rafael Vetencourt, who needs a prostate operation costing $250. “It’s abusive to charge in dollars.”
“How do I do it? I earn in bolivars and have no way to buy foreign currency,” said 31-year-old teacher Cristina Centeno, who was trying to find an online job in the run-up to Christmas.
Currency inflation in Venezuela began to soar as early as 2007 as a result of Hugo Chávez’s socialist revolution and has now reached levels similar to Germany’s Weimar Republic or Zimbabwe, which saw people using wheelbarrows to buy products and the introduction of a 100-trillion-dollar banknote.
While, ten years ago, a 100-bolivar note could buy someone a television, it is now worth approximately 0.001 U.S. cents as a result of hyperinflation. With a current exchange rate of over 100,000 bolivares to the dollar, most old Venezuelan banknote denominations are now practically worthless, as inflation
In November, Nicolás Maduro regime made another attempt to solve the country’s currency crisis with the introduction a new 100,000 bolivar bill to reduce people’s need to carry thousands of banknotes to buy necessities such as food and hygienic products. However, this bill is already worth under one dollar and rapidly losing value.
The government previously released 500, 1000, 2000, 10,000, and 20,000 bolivar notes, although continued inflation means that these denominations are also now worth just a fraction of a dollar.
Maduro has also announced the introduction of a new oil-based cryptocurrency known as the “Petro,” allegedly meant to ease the currency crisis and boost the country’s economy. However, critics have dismissed it as lacking credibility.
The worthlessness of the bolivar currency has become the driving factor behind the country’s current humanitarian crisis, with the monthly minimum wage of under $1.50 leading to millions of people suffering from malnutrition and lack of adequate medical attention.