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Venezuela's Maduro orders 100-bolivar notes out of circulation over alleged plot

Venezuela's President, Nicolas Maduro, on Dec. 11 ordered all 100-bolivar bills — the country's largest denomination — to be taken out of circulation within 72 hours due to an alleged plot by U.S.-financed non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, to destabilize the country's economy by smuggling the currency abroad, according to the Venezuela government's website.

The move came just days after the Banco Central De Venezuela announced that six new higher-denomination bills, ranging from 500 to 20,000 bolivars, will go into circulation Dec. 15 amid near hyperinflation, which has seen the value of the 100-bolivar note fall to about 2 U.S. cents on the black market.

According to a statement on the government's website, Venezuela's Interior Minister, Néstor Reverol, accused "NGOs hired by the U.S. Treasury Department" of taking money out of Venezuela, thereby "suffocating the national financial system and leaving our country without currency in circulation."

Reverol, who held a meeting with Venezuela's banking regulator Sudeban on Dec. 12 to explain the measures, said the amount taken out of the country in the alleged operation is estimated at up to 300 billion bolivars.

Maduro's administration is claiming the NGOs allegedly hired criminal gangs to smuggle the bills out through Colombia to Europe and Asia, which Reverol said is designed to undermine the economy and promote a "financial coup" in Venezuela through "economic war." The NGOs' plan, according to Reverol, is to repatriate the bills once the government collapses, which Maduro aims to prevent by taking the bills out of circulation.

Citizens will have a period of 10 days to exchange their 100-bolivar notes at the central bank, supervised by the national intelligence service Sebin, Reverol noted.

The government also aims to create more control mechanisms to report suspicious activities to the national financial intelligence unit, which is being restructured, the Minister added.

As of Dec. 9, US$1 was equivalent to 9.95 Venezuelan bolivars.