Venezuela's President Maduro tries to calm nerves

International bridge in Urena, Venezuela December 18, 2016Image copyright

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People clashed with Venezuelan National Guards as they try to cross the border to Colombia on Sunday.

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro says his abrupt decision to scrap the country’s most-used banknote has allowed the country to triumph over its enemies.

He said taking millions of 100-bolivar notes out of circulation had smashed the black market.

The withdrawal prompted protests and looting in several states as the supply of ready cash rapidly ran out.

On Saturday President Maduro postponed the withdrawal until early January.

But there were still reports of rioting on Sunday as anxiety continued to run high.

Local reports said some businesses were still refusing to accept the 100-bolivar notes, even though they will now remain legal tender until the new year.

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In the western state of Tachira people raided warehouses in search of food.

Many said they were afraid of what will happen next, even after the government’s attempt calm the situation down with the postponement of the withdrawal.

At the Colombian border there were scuffles as people scrambled to buy food and medicine, which are scarce in Venezuela.

The president said that Venezuela’s borders with Colombia and Brazil would remain closed until the 100-bolivar note ceases to be legal tender on 2 January, in order to prevent black market trading.

Venezuelans are only allowed to cross the border on foot for family visits.

Mr Maduro said on state TV 300 alleged looters had been arrested.

Addressing opposition parties, he said, “Don’t come and tell me they are political prisoners.”

He accused the riot leaders of taking instructions from President Barack Obama, alleging they wanted to engineer a coup against Venezuela’s left-wing government.

Mr Maduro said the first batch of new higher denomination bank notes which will replace the 100-Bolivar note would arrive on Sunday and be put into circulation.

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