CARACAS — At least three people were killed in Venezuela in violence that erupted when the government tried to remove old banknotes from circulation before new ones arrived, officials said Monday.
A man, a woman and a teenage boy were shot dead Saturday in the town of La Paragua, in the southern state of Bolivar, the attorney general’s office said.
The opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable says five people died in the state.
Unrest broke out Friday after President Nicolas Maduro ordered the 100-bolivar bill removed from circulation before the 500-bolivar bills intended to replace it had arrived.
A first shipment of the 500-bolivar notes was flown in Sunday, according to the central bank.
Desperate Venezuelans looted delivery trucks and clashed with police in towns across the country as Maduro’s order temporarily left them with no cash to buy food.
Bolivar was the state hit hardest by the weekend unrest. A curfew has been in force there since Saturday.
Interior Minister Nestor Reverol said 286 people were arrested in the state.
He accused the “Venezuelan far right” of fomenting violence.
Faced with the world’s highest inflation rate, Maduro’s leftist government is trying to introduce new banknotes in denominations up to 200 times higher than the old ones.
Formerly the highest denomination bill, the 100-bolivar note is worth about three US cents on the black market, and accounts for 77 per cent of the cash in circulation in Venezuela.
Maduro said it had to be shelved urgently because “mafias” were hoarding it abroad in what he called a US-backed plot to destabilise Venezuela.
Following the weekend’s unrest, however, he extended its use as legal tender until January 2.
Maduro has presided over a sharp downturn of Venezuela’s oil-rich economy as crude prices have plunged.
The import-dependent country faces shortages of food, medicine and basic household goods.
Venezuela’s inflation rate is set to hit 475 per cent this year, according to an IMF forecast.