Last week Venezuela announced it would withdraw its highest-denomination banknote from circulation. Long queues formed outside banks as people scrambled to change theirs before they became redundant. The withdrawal of the 100-bolivar note has now been delayed until the start of January, but ordinary people must still grapple with spiralling prices and increasingly worthless notes, as Gideon Long reports.
"Have you modified cash yet?", my local freinds requested me on my first night in Caracas. I had not.
"Well, don't," they said. "Not at the formal amount. Give us your hard earned money and we'll modify them for you."
So I passed over a single US $100 (£80) observe. The next day, I obtained two large loads of financial institution notices in come back - and I mean large. 1000 notices in each collection, 200,000 bolivars in complete. I experienced like I'd won the lotto.
Except, of course, this is no lotto and there are very few champions.
The nonwinners are common Venezuelans, whose incomes are dropping value by when, and who have to line for a long time to buy primary foods that they can hardly manage.
All this in an oil-rich nation whose people were once popular for their worldwide purchasing sprees. It does not add up. To comprehend the arithmetic of the problem, you'll have to deal with with me - it gets complex.
There are in fact three forex prices in Venezuela.
If you're publishing important products like choice meals and medication, and you eventually know the right individuals in govt, you can buy a US money for the state-controlled price of just 10 bolivars - a bargain!
Everyone else ought to modify at the second government-controlled amount, currently 670 bolivars. But there's also a real-world, black-market amount, which has gone tremendous in latest several weeks.
In Oct, there were 1,500 bolivars to the money. By delayed Nov there were well over 4,000.
The Venezuelan forex has increased since then but, even so, it's missing 50 percent its value on the blackmarket in just several weeks. My two massive loads of financial institution notices were value $100 when I joined the nation. When I remaining two several weeks later they were value $50.
The 100-bolivar observe, the most important in flow, is value just two US pennies. So when going out for an espresso or a chew to eat, you had to take a bag of cash with you.
The main financial institution is now providing larger denomination-notes and new money to make life simpler, but that's resulting in its own problems.
With financial institution notices so useless, cash devices can't deal - they can only distribute a few dollars' price of cash at a time. I never saw an ATM in Venezuela without a line of individuals before it - unless, of course, it was out of order.
"I come here every day," said Ramiro, a youngster in a white-colored T-shirt and red football cap, as he patiently waited to take out a wad of almost useless notices from an ATM. "We're all putting things off of our lifestyles looking your cash can buy."
Even if you do have cash, you can't always buy what you want.
Some choice meals - grain, flour, food preparation oil - are marketed at government-controlled costs. That makes them relatively cost-effective, but provides are incredibly restricted, and you can only buy them on certain days, identified by the number on your nationwide ID card.
"Monday is my day," said my cab car owner Alexander, a big man with an unusual similarity to Venezuela's delayed chief executive Hugo Chavez. "I go to the grocery store every Thursday. But even then, there's often nothing to buy."
No one even knows what the actual amount of rising costs is in Venezuela. The us govt does not post the numbers any more. Last season, it was 180%. This season, the IMF desires it to hit 500%, and for GDP to drop by 10%. It's hard to see how any economic system can endure that.
The govt places blame on reduced oil costs and a US-led fringe movement to challenge the economic system. Recently, President Nicolas Maduro held responsible the mob in nearby Colombia for fuelling Venezuelan rising costs with big, cross-border cash offers.
But in fact Venezuela is affected by its own serious mismanagement. Zimbabwe, Argentina, the Weimar Republic - record reveals us that when nations start publishing cash to support their financial systems, it rarely finishes well.
The joyful lighting is now on in Caracas. The reindeers, the snowmen, the sleds - all look very incongruous amongst the town's luxurious, exotic plants. But this will be a hard Xmas for a large number of poor Venezuelan family members, some of whom are now experiencing authentic starvation in what used to be one of the richest nations in Southern The united states.
As I sat in Caracas international airport patiently waiting to keep, I started out a local paper and found a animated. It revealed a confused Santa, studying through a long Xmas wish-list. "But this is all food!" Santa is saying to an elf. The elf - grim-faced - looks back at Santa. "It's the Venezuelan record," he says.