He was born in March, without much verve, when he changed for 52 cents, but the ticket one million bolivars spent weeks without being seen in Venezuela, invisible which Bin Laden. Now that it is widely circulated, the relentless devaluation has led it to trade for less than 25 cents, so it is doomed to disappear.
“Look at nothing, not even a piece of candy; with this you pay a ticket for the (bus from) here to the corner and back. You are not going anywhere,” explains Maribel Ramírez, a Caracas citizen who carries one of those tickets on the street. hand and answer the eternal question of what can you buy with it.
In a blue tone, without many flourishes and with the face of Simón Bolívar rebuilt by the Venezuelan Government in 2012, in its image and likeness, the bill pales every day against a dollar in which most citizens make their calculations and which is already the almost hegemonic currency in Venezuela.
A search between buses
One million bolivars is barely enough to buy a bus ticket in Caracas. Photo: EFE
The constant devaluation of the bolivar, which has devoured the purchasing power of Venezuelans as it grew with inflation, shows its harsher side with the short life it has given to a banknote born with more value for collectors than for citizens.
Ramírez explains that in April, when the blue ticket began to be seen, the dollar was around two million bolivars and for each package of rice he paid 1.4 million bolivars.
“Now, a package of rice is worth a full dollar, 4 million bolivars,” he says.
With eight zeros less
And to this bolivar, officially born as “sovereign”, eight zeros are missing, since it has already undergone two monetary reconversions -the ones that made the “strong” and the current “sovereign” transition from the original one – and a third that seems imminent threatens.
With that low value, today “the million” is only used to pay for a ticket (round trip) by bus in the capital or to pay street vendors.
Products on a shelf with their prices in bolivars, in Caracas. Photo: EFE
They are informal merchants like Orlando Viloria, who walks the streets of the popular Caracas neighborhood of Catia. In the Plaza Sucre, in the shadow of the statue of another hero who gave his name to an already bankrupt coin, he sells a kind of homemade punch, a sugary drink and Christmas that he makes himself.
In March, when the bill came out, a glass of that concoction was selling for 300,000 bolivars; Today, as advertised in your cart, it has a price that goes from 700,000 to 1.5 million.
His main problem is that the elements with which he prepares his punch pays them in dollars and, if you calculate in bolivars, “they increase from one day to the next.”
A person holds several bills, including one for a million bolívares, in Caracas. Photo: EFE
“We bought sugar for 2,300 (2.3 million) and now they are asking for up to a dollar for a kilo,” he says.
“The (plastic) cups have risen from one week to another that you are astonished “, he adds about another fundamental element in his day-to-day life.
He then faces a dilemma very similar to that faced by most Venezuelans: he receives a coin every day with which can not buy almost anything and that, therefore, you must use quickly to exchange for dollars.
If you do not do this and, for example, wait until you reach a certain amount of bolivars to buy banknotes in the US currency, you run the risk that the value of what you have in your pocket evaporate by the daily devaluation.
The future conversion
For weeks, in Venezuela it seems that nothing else has been talked about. Everyone expects a new conversion that eliminates zeros from the bolivar and illuminates a new currency, which would give the final finishing touch to a bill that is as ephemeral as it is striking.
“I’m from the year 61 and since I can remember (…) this has never been seen here“, says Guillermo, a neighbor of Catia, about the transience of a bill that” five years ago was a fortune “and” now is nothing. “
However, this man from Caracas, who does not reveal his last name and spends hours reading the newspaper, explains that he does not want to give up having his own currency, despite the fact that now Venezuelans have gone “crazy about the dollar”, that “every day go up, go up and go up “.
“It is crazy”, concludes emphatically.
The million-dollar bill was born in March, although it was distributed in April, and became universal soon after. Now he seems to be waiting only for the final death date.
The author is a journalist for EFE