Venezuela's president said Sunday that the sudden decision to scrap the country's most-used currency bill was an economic triumph over the country's enemies even as the government sent troops and police to cities where riots and looting broke out over the measure. In a national radio and television broadcast, Nicolas Maduro said his abrupt action had flooded the country's banks with currency deposited by Venezuelans racing to get rid of the paper bills while also devastating Colombian-border currency traders he blames for the bolivar's precipitous plunge in value against "the criminal dollar," the AP reports.
A sudden announcement last week annulling all 100-bolivar notes led to massive lines at banks and widespread fear by poorer people with no bank accounts and all their savings in the doomed bills, whose value had already plunged to a few US cents. Maduro suddenly changed course late Saturday, announcing the 100-bolivar notes could be used until Jan. 2. Before that announcement, riots and looting broke out in several cities. Maduro claimed the violence resulted from a "macabre" plan promoted by President Obama to extract massive quantities of 100-bolivar notes from the country and stockpile them abroad. He said it was meant to be "the final blow of Obama, a final blow to create chaos, violence, division." (Desperate Venezuelan fishermen have turned to piracy.)