Venezuelan Currency: The Bolivar Fuerte
Venezuelan currency (VES) has been around since the late 1800’s and it wasn’t until 2008 that it experienced a major change. Due to high rates of inflation, the bolivar fuerte (strong) was adopted at a rate of one to one thousand original bolivars. The new bolivar fuerte banknotes were issued in 2016 and range from 500 up to 20,000. On the 500 is Francisco de Miranda with river dolphins in the back. On the 1,000 note is Pedro Camejo with giant armadillos grazing on the reverse. The 2,000 note features Cacique Guaicaipuro with the American Harpy Eagle in the back. Luisa Caceres de Arismendi and two Hawksbill Turtles are on the 5,000 banknotes. The 10,000 note highlights Simon Rodriguez and on the back, is a roaming Spectacled Bear. Lastly on the 20,000 note is Simon Bolivar and Red Siskins perched on a branch.
In 2017, the 100,000 bolivar was introduced that has the same imagery of the 20,000 banknote but in a golden yellow color.
Political and Economical Instability Drive Hyperinflation
Under Hugo Chavez, Venezuela enjoyed a productive economy based on its oil wealth. Since President Maduro took power, however, OPEC has driven down the price of oil around the world, which caused Venezuela’s GDP to drop by 5% in 2015 and a whopping 19% in 2016. A reduced GDP decreases international demand for Venezuelan currency, leading to devaluation of currency and hyperinflation.
Additionally, the socialist party in power is backed by a strong militia, and the democratic opposition is accusing them constantly of attempting to stage a coup and take dictatorial control of the country. Maduro’s government are accusing the opposition of the same, and with such intense in-fighting, it seems nobody is looking for a way to stabilize the economy, which had just over 180% inflation in 2015 and was up to 800% in 2016.
Introduction of the Bolivar Fuerte
Until the introduction of the bolivar fuerte, the 100 bolivar note was Venezuelan currency’s highest value banknote ever printed. The 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10000, 20000, and 100,000 bolivar denominations where designed to make it easier for locals to facilitate daily transactions. Before the release of these notes, citizens had to walk around with bundles of money tied together just for daily purchases like bread and milk.
Venezuelan currency also features notable Venezuelan historical figures, with the 20,000 and 100,000 bolivar banknotes bearing the likeness of “The Liberator” Simon Jose Antonio de la Santisima Trinidad Bolivar y Palacios, whose name itself, Bolivar, is given to the currency. Simón Bolívar, was a key figure in the South American fight for independence. Bolívar stated himself that the death of his first and only wife caused him to change his purpose in life to that of independence.
Until his death in 1830, Simón Bolívar had spent most of his family’s fortune fighting for what he believed in.
Today, Bolivar continues to be immortalized in Venezuelan currency and has several versions of these banknotes with his likeness to show for it.