The great currency swindle

Francisco Toro on how Venezuela’s elite cashed in on the oil crisis

The World Today Updated 23 November 2020 Published 28 September 2017 4 minute READ

Francisco Toro

Journalist and founder of

For Venezuela, 2017 has been a year of political and economic chaos. From April to July, the country witnessed four months of daily street demonstrations, often violent, as thousands of people turned out to protest against a government widely loathed for its toxic combination of economic incompetence and increasing authoritarianism.

As riot police met peaceful protesters with tear gas and water cannon, jailing more than a thousand dissidents and setting the stage for dictatorial rule, commentators soon settled on a consensus explanation.

The narrative goes something like this: under the charismatic Hugo Chávez, who ran the country from his first election in 1999 until his death from cancer in early 2013, Venezuela had achieved real social progress, with poverty and inequality falling sharply. This was achieved on the back of record oil revenues, and when the oil price collapsed, the strategy’s shortcomings were brutally exposed.

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