The bolívar soberano replaced the bolívar fuerte
) after a transition period.
The primary reason for replacement, at a rate of 1 Bs.S to 100,000 Bs.F, was hyperinflation
On 1 January 2008, the bolívar fuerte had itself replaced, because of inflation,
the original bolívar
introduced in 1879 (sign
It did so at a rate of 1 Bs.F to 1000 Bs.
With an exchange rate exceeding two million bolívares per U.S. dollar in April 2021, the bolívar soberano is the lowest valued unit of currency in circulation in the world.
The Bolívar is named after the hero of Latin American independence Simón Bolívar
. The bolívar was adopted by the monetary law of 1879, replacing the short-lived venezolano
at a rate of five bolívares to one venezolano. Initially, the bolívar was defined on the silver standard
, equal to 4.5 g fine silver, following the principles of the Latin Monetary Union
. The monetary law of 1887 made the gold bolívar unlimited legal tender
, and the gold standard
came into full operation in 1910. Venezuela went off gold in 1930, and in 1934, the bolívar exchange rate was fixed in terms of the U.S. dollar
at a rate of 3.914 bolívares = 1 U.S. dollar, revalued to 3.18 bolívares = 1 U.S. dollar in 1937, a rate which lasted until 1941. Until 18 February 1983 (now called Black Friday (Viernes Negro
) by many Venezuelans
the bolívar had been the region's most stable and internationally accepted currency. It then fell prey to high devaluation
The government announced on 7 March 2007 that the bolívar would be revalued at a ratio of 1,000 to 1 on 1 January 2008 and renamed the bolívar fuerte
in an effort to facilitate the ease of transaction and accounting.
The newer name is literally translated as "strong bolívar"
but is also a reference to an old coin called the peso fuerte
worth 10 Spanish reales
The name "bolívar fuerte" is used to distinguish it from the older currency that was being used along with the bolívar fuerte.[original research?]
The official exchange rate is restricted to individuals by CADIVI
, which imposes an annual limit on the amount available for travel.
Inflation represented by the time it would take, in years, for money to lose 90% of its value (301-day rolling average
, inverted logarithmic scale).
Since the government of Hugo Chávez
established strict currency controls in 2003, there have been a series of five currency devaluations
, disrupting the economy.
On 8 January 2010, the value was changed by the government from the fixed exchange rate of 2.15 bolívares fuertes to 2.60 bolívares for some imports (certain foods and healthcare goods) and 4.30 bolívares for other imports like cars, petrochemicals, and electronics.
On 4 January 2011, the fixed exchange rate became 4.30 bolívares for US$1.00 for both sides of the economy. On 13 February 2013 the bolívar fuerte was devalued to 6.30 bolívares per US$1 in an attempt to counter budget deficits.
On 18 February 2016, President Maduro used his newly granted economic powers to devalue the official exchange rate of the bolívar fuerte from 6.3 Bs.F per US$1 to 10 Bs.F per US$1, which is a 37% depreciation
against the U.S. dollar.
On January 26, 2018, the government retired the protected and subsidized 10 Bs.F per US$1 exchange rate that was highly overvalued as a result of rampant inflation.
On February 5, 2018, the Central Bank of Venezuela
announced a 99.6% [sic
, with the exchange rate going to 25,000 Bs.F per USD. This made the bolívar fuerte the second-least valued circulating currency in the world based on the official exchange rate, behind only the Iranian rial
, and between September 2017 and August 2018, according to the informal exchange rate, the bolívar fuerte was the least valued circulating currency unit in the world.[dubious – discuss]
The official exchange rate stood at 248,832 VEF/USD as of August 10, 2018, making it the least valued circulating currency in the world based on official exchange rates.
In June 2018, the government authorized a new exchange rate for buying, but not selling currency. On August 13, 2018, the rate was 4,010,000 VEF/USD according to ZOOM Remesas.
On 22 March 2018, President Nicolás Maduro announced a new monetary reform program, with a planned revaluation
of the currency at a ratio of 1 to 1,000.
The change was to be made effective from 4 June 2018.
In May 2018, the government required prices to be expressed in both bolívares fuertes and bolívares soberanos at the then-planned rate of 1,000 to 1. For example, one kilogram of pasta was shown with a price of BsF. 695,000 and BsS. 695. Prices expressed in the new currency were rounded to the nearest 50 céntimos as that was expected to be the lowest denomination in circulation at launch. The rounding created difficulties because some items and sales qualities were priced at significantly less than 0.50 BsS.; for example a litre of gasoline and a Caracas Metro ticket typically cost BsS. 0.06 and BsS. 0.04, respectively.
President Nicolas Maduro
announcing the redenomination of the Venezuelan bolívar on 17 August 2018.
The change in currency was originally scheduled for June 4, 2018. The President delayed the planned June launch date of the bolívar soberano, citing from Aristides Maza, "the period established to carry out the conversion is not enough".
The revaluation was rescheduled to 20 August 2018, and the rate changed to 100,000 to 1, with prices being required to be expressed at the new rate starting 1 August 2018.
On 20 August 2018, the Maduro government launched the new bolívar soberano currency,
with one bolívar soberano worth 100,000 bolívares fuertes. New coins in denominations of 50 céntimos and 1 bolívar soberano, and new banknotes in denominations of 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 bolívares soberanos were introduced.
Under the country's official fixed exchange rate
to the US dollar the new currency was devalued
by roughly 95% compared to the old bolívar fuerte.
The day was declared a bank holiday to allow the banks to adjust to the new currency.
Initially, during a transition period the bolívar soberano was to be run alongside the bolívar fuerte.
However, from the start of the transition, on 20 August, bolívar fuerte notes of 500 and less could not be used; only deposited at banks.
Concurrently with the release of the new currency, the minimum wage was raised to 1,800 bolívares soberanos per month,
a 33-fold increase,
and sales tax increased from 12% to 16%.
Additionally, the bolívar soberano is supposed to have a fixed exchange rate to the petro cryptocurrency
, with a rate of 3,600 bolívares soberanos to one petro;
a peg of petro and bolívar soberano was announced by Maduro as early as 15 August.
The petro is supposedly tied to the price of a barrel of oil (about US$60 in August 2018).
As of the end of August 2018, there is no evidence that the cryptocurrency is being traded.
Petro is regarded by many as a scam.
Following the introduction of the bolívar soberano, inflation increased from 61,463 percent on 21 August 2018 to 65,320 percent on 22 August 2018.
By 24 August 2018, the introduction of the bolívar soberano had not prevented hyperinflation.
According to inflation analyst Steve Hanke
, between 18 August and 21 August 2018, the inflation rate increased from 48,760 percent to 65,320 percent.
Currency black market
The value of one U.S. dollar in Venezuelan bolívares fuertes (before 20 August 2018) and bolívares soberanos on the parallel (or black) market through time. Vertical lines represent every time the currency has lost 99% of its value, which has happened four times since 2012. The graph shows that as of November 2020, the currency is worth about 6.6 million times less than it was worth in August 2012. Since the beginning of the presidential crisis in Venezuela
in January 2019 and the relaxation of currency controls on May of that year, the curve has been less steep than previously, meaning that the rate at which the value is lost, inflation
, has slowed down.
The black (or parallel) market value of the bolívar fuerte
and the bolívar soberano
has been significantly lower than the fixed exchange rate
and other rates set by the Venezuelan government (SICAD, SIMADI, DICOM). In November 2013, it was almost one-tenth that of the official fixed exchange rate of 6.3 bolívares per U.S. dollar
In September 2014, the currency black market rate for the bolívar fuerte reached 100 VEF/USD;
on 25 February 2015, it went over 200 VEF/USD.
on 7 May 2015, it was over 275 VEF/USD and on 22 September 2015, it was over 730 VEF/USD.
Venezuela still had the highest inflation rate in the world in July 2015.
By 3 February 2016, this rate reached 1,000 VEF/USD. This rate surpassed 4,300 VEF/USD on 10 December 2016. It surpassed 10,000 VEF/USD on 28 July 2017, and on 7 September 2017, the rate surpassed 20,000 VEF/USD for the first time. Inflation accelerated, and on 1 December 2017, it reached 100,000 VEF/USD for the first time ever. The rate surpassed 200,000 VEF/USD on 18 January 2018, then 500,000 VEF/USD on 16 April, 1 million VEF/USD on 30 May, 2 million VEF/USD on 7 June, and 5 million VEF/USD on 16 August.
At the time of redomination on 20 August 2018, the exchange rate was 59.21 VES/USD. By the end of the month it reached 87 VES/USD. The rate then surpassed 100 VES/USD on 3 October 2018, 1,000 VES/USD on 9 January 2019, 10,000 VES/USD on 19 July, and 50,000 VES/USD on 29 December. According to DolarToday
, the parallel exchange rate was 54,702.82 VES/USD as of 1 January 2020.
Exchange rate history
It is illegal to publish the "parallel exchange rate
" in Venezuela.
One popular website that has been publishing parallel exchange rates since 2010 is DolarToday
, which has also been critical of the Maduro government.
This table shows a condensed history of the parallel foreign exchange rate of the Venezuelan bolívar (fuerte and soberano) to one United States dollar
between 2012 and 2020, according to DolarToday
Bolívar fuerte (Bs.F)
1 Bs.F = 1,000 Bs.
Bolívar soberano (Bs.S)
1 Bs.S = 100,000 Bs.F
Various Venezuelan coins
In 1879, silver coins were introduced in denominations of 1⁄5, 1⁄2, 1, 2, and 5 bolívares, together with gold 20 bolívares. Gold 100 bolívares were also issued between 1886 and 1889. In 1894, silver 1⁄4 bolívar coins were introduced, followed by cupro-nickel 5 and 121⁄2 céntimos in 1896.
In 1912, production of gold coins ceased, whilst production of the 5 bolívares ended in 1936. In 1965, nickel replaced silver in the 25 and 50 céntimos, with the same happening to the 1 and 2 bolívares in 1967. In 1971, cupro-nickel 10 céntimo coins were issued, the 121⁄2 céntimos having last been issued in 1958. A nickel 5 bolívares was introduced in 1973. Clad steel (first copper, then nickel and cupro-nickel) was used for the 5 céntimos from 1974. Nickel clad steel was introduced for all denominations from 25 céntimos up to 5 bolívares in 1989.
In 1998, after a period of high inflation, a new coinage was introduced consisting of 10, 20, 50, 100 and 500 bolívares denominations.
The former coins were:
- 10 bolívares
- 20 bolívares
- 50 bolívares
- 100 bolívares
- 500 bolívares
- 1000 bolívares (minted 2005, issued late 2006, incorrectly rumoured as recalled due to official Coat of Arms change during the interval)
All the coins had the same design. On the obverse the left profile of the Libertador Simón Bolívar
is depicted, along with the inscription "Bolívar Libertador
" within a heptagon
, symbolizing the seven stars of the flag
. On the reverse the coat of arms
is depicted, circled by the official name of the country, with the date and the denomination below. In 2001, the reverse design was changed, putting the denomination of the coin at the right of the shield of the coat of arms, Semi-Circled by the official name of the country and the year of its emission below.
Coins of the bolívar fuerte were in denominations of 1, 5, 10, 121⁄2, 25, 50 céntimos, and 1 bolívar. They were quickly rendered obsolete by high inflation. It may be noticed that there was a 121⁄2-céntimo coin and a 1-céntimo coin, but no 1⁄2-céntimo coin. Therefore, giving correct change for a purchase of, say, 41⁄2 céntimos would require using a 121⁄2-céntimo coin and getting 8 céntimos back.
In December 2016, it was announced that coins of 10, 50, and 100 bolívares would enter circulation. These three coins would replace the banknotes of the same denominations.
Bolívar soberano coins were announced to be produced in denominations of 50 céntimos and 1 bolívar (50,000 bolívares fuertes and 100,000 bolívares fuertes). These two coins are worthless by September 2019.
In 1940, the Banco Central de Venezuela
began issuing paper money, introducing by 1945 denominations of 10, 20, 50, 100 and 500 bolívares. 5-bolívar notes were issued between 1966 and 1974, when they were replaced by coins. In 1989, notes for 1, 2 and 5 bolívares were issued.
As inflation took hold, higher denominations of banknotes started being introduced: 1,000 bolívares in 1991, 2,000 and 5,000 bolívares in 1994, and 10,000, 20,000 and 50,000 bolívares in 1998. The first 20,000-bolívar banknotes were made in a green color similar to the one of the 2,000 banknotes, which caused confusion, and new banknotes were made in the new olive green color.
Starting from 2000, banknotes ranging from 5,000 bolívares to 50,000 bolívares were renamed to REPÚBLICA BOLIVARIANA DE VENEZUELA
instead of BANCO CENTRAL DE VENEZUELA
on the front, after the 1999 constitution
was adopted. Moreover, banknotes of 10,000, 20,000 and 50,000 bolívares were updated in April 2006 after the National Assembly
approved changes to the coat of arms
, which were made official on March 12, 2006.
The following is a list of former Venezuelan bolívar banknotes:
New banknotes of the series 2007–2015 with values of 2 to 100 BsF were issued from 20 March 2007 until 5 November 2015 and became legal tender from 1 January 2008 to 20 August 2018. The greater the values, the longer re-issuing occurred. Only the 50 and 100 BsF notes were re-issued in November 2015.
- 2 BsF: March 20, 2007 to October 29, 2013
- 5 BsF: March 20, 2007 to August 19, 2014
- 10 BsF: March 20, 2007 to August 19, 2014
- 20 BsF: March 20, 2007 to August 19, 2014
- 50 BsF: March 20, 2007 to November 5, 2015
- 100 BsF: March 20, 2007 to November 5, 2015
The obverse side is portrait-oriented, with the lower half carrying a portrait, while the reverse side is landscape-oriented, the left two thirds showing an animal in front of its habitat.
Re-issues retain the value-specific motifs, but the printing quality is different. The notes are printed by Casa de la Moneda Venezuela
Venezuelans lining up at the Banco de Venezuela
branch in Chacao
to deposit the BsF 100 note after President Maduro withdrew it from circulation.
, which was a part of Venezuela's economic collapse
, caused the bolívar fuerte's value to plummet. The 2- and 5-bolívar notes were no longer found in circulation due to the hyperinflation, but remained legal tender. By December 2016, the 100-bolívar note, Venezuela's largest denomination of currency, was only worth about US$0.23 on the black market.
On 7 December 2016, a new series of banknotes (recolors of the previous notes) in denominations of 500, 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 10,000, and 20,000 bolívares fuertes was unveiled to the Venezuelan public.
Days later on 11 December, President Nicolás Maduro
who had been ruling by decree wrote into law that the 100 Bs.F would be pulled from circulation within 72 hours because "mafias" were allegedly storing those particular bills to drive inflation.
With more than 6 billion 100 Bs.F notes issued consisting of 46% of Venezuela's issued currency, Maduro enacted an exchange for Venezuelan citizens to transfer all 100 Bs.F notes for 100 Bs.F coins while also blocking international travel to prevent the return of the bolívares that were supposedly stockpiled.
The government justified the move claiming that the United States was working with crime syndicates to spirit away Venezuela's paper money to warehouses in Europe to cause the fall of the government. The government was thwarting this threat by withdrawing the notes from circulation.
On 14 February 2017, Paraguayan authorities uncovered a 30-tonne stash of 50- and 100-bolívar notes totaling 1.5 billion Bs.F on its Brazilian border that had not yet been circulated.
According to a United States Department of Defense
adviser linked to The Pentagon
, the 1.5 billion Bs.F was printed by Venezuela and destined for Bolivia, since unlike the implied exchange rate of thousands of bolívares fuertes equaling one United States dollar, the exchange rate was approximately 10 bolívares fuertes per dollar, making the value of the stash 419 times stronger, from US$358,000 to US$150 million.
The Pentagon adviser further stated that the Venezuelan government tried to send the newly printed notes to be exchanged by the Bolivian government so Bolivia could pay 20% of its debt to Venezuela, and so Venezuela could use the US dollars for its own disposal.
On 3 November 2017, the Banco Central de Venezuela issued a 100,000-bolívar note which is similar to the 100-bolívar note of the 2007 series and the 20,000-bolívar of the 2016 series, but with the denomination spelled out in full instead of adding an additional three zeros to the number 100. This denomination was worth US$2.42 using the unofficial exchange rate at the date of its release.
New banknotes of the 2016–17 series with values of 500 to 100,000 BsF were issued from 7 December 2016 until 20 August 2018, the day when the bolívar soberano was introduced. Notes from 5,000 BsF to 100,000 BsF were recently re-issued in December 2017.
- 500 BsF: August 18, 2016 to March 23, 2017
- 1,000 BsF: August 18, 2016 to March 23, 2017
- 2,000 BsF: August 18, 2016
- 5,000 BsF: August 18, 2016 to December 13, 2017
- 10,000 BsF: August 18, 2016 to December 13, 2017
- 20,000 BsF: August 18, 2016 to December 13, 2017
- 100,000 BsF: September 7, 2017 to December 13, 2017
Maduro has announced that after the currency redenomination has carried out on 20 August 2018, these old denominations with a face value of 1,000 bolívares fuertes or higher will circulate in parallel with the new series of bolívar soberano notes and will continue to be used for a limited time.
Banknotes with a face value below 1000 bolívares fuertes were withdrawn from circulation and ceased to be legal tender on 20 August 2018. They have to be deposited in local banks.
By May 2018, the bolívar fuerte's banknotes represented very little value and they had become in short supply. Weighing scales
could no longer convert mass to price and receipts could no longer fit the numbers on their paper.
On June 2018, seven months after its release, the value of the 100,000-bolívar note (largest denomination), had its value reduced by 98%, from US$2.42 (in November 2017) to US$0.05, as a result of increasing hyperinflation.
The lower denomination bolívar fuerte banknotes (up to Bs.F 500) were demonetized on 20 August 2018; with the introduction of the bolívar soberano. Higher denominations (Bs. 1,000 and above) remained legal tender during a transition period. On 30 November 2018, it was announced that the remaining denominations of the old currency will be withdrawn from circulation and cease to be legal tender on 5 December 2018.
On 22 March 2018, with a declared state of emergency, a redenomination of the currency was announced.
The conversion from bolívar fuerte to bolívar soberano banknotes officially occurred on 20 August 2018, with new denominations of Bs.S 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500.
Four months after entry into circulation, shops and state banks began refusing the Bs.S 2, as its value had significantly declined since the redenomination.
By November of 2019, except for the Bs.S 500, all notes issued in 2018 were worthless. People now prefer to receive a small candy or a small pack of sugar instead of taking any of the banknotes issued in 2018.
Further inflation since the soberano redenomination resulted in the creation of Bs.S 10,000, Bs.S 20,000 and Bs.S 50,000 banknotes in June 2019.
Not mentioning inflation, the Central Bank of Venezuela
said the introduction of the new banknotes would "complement and optimize" the monetary system and that their purpose was to make payment systems "more efficient".
On 23 April 2020, the exchange rate per xe.com was 1 USD = 144,697.34 VES; the following day, the rate slid to 1 USD = 171,140.42 VES.
Banknotes with a narrow segmented security thread were printed by Goznak
, those with a wider one were printed elsewhere.
As of December 2020, the highest denomination banknote (Bs.S 50,000) is worth less than US$0.05
and the minimum wage
is Bs.S 1,200,000 (about US$1) per month.
By September 2020, all bolivar soberano banknotes (VES 2 to 500) issued on 20 August 2018 are deemed worthless.
Venezuelan officials are planning a new 100,000 note.
Meanwhile, as of 16 December 2020, the exchange rate is over 1 million bolivares to one US dollar.
On 5 March 2021, the Central Bank of Venezuela introduced 3 new denominations: Bs.S 200,000, Bs.S 500,000 and Bs.S 1,000,000 which are going to be available to the general public on 8 March 2021.
The 1,000,000 bolívares note is only worth US$0.52 at the time of the announcement.
By early April 2021 the exchange rate had become over 2 million bolivares soberanos
to one US dollar.
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- ^ https://eldiario.com/2020/11/12/aumento-salario-minimo-venezuela/. Retrieved 2020-11-30. Missing or empty |title= (help)
- ^ https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-10-05/venezuela-planning-new-100-000-bolivar-bills-worth-just-0-23. Retrieved 2020-11-22.Missing or empty |title= (help)
- ^ https://www.xe.com/currencyconverter/convert/?Amount=1&From=USD&To=VES
- ^ "BCV amplía Cono Monetario vigente con incorporación de tres nuevos billetes". Banco Central de Venezuela. Retrieved 6 March 2021.
- ^ "Venezuela to introduce 1-million-bolivar bill". dw.com. Retrieved 6 March 2021.
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Last edited on 6 May 2021, at 19:49
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