President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of Venezuela’s border with Colombia for 72 hours in a crackdown on currency smuggling by what he has called “mafias” trying to destabilize the socialist-run economy.
Maduro announced the decision on Monday after meeting with top economic aides. Earlier in the day, supporters of Maduro’s socialist party circulated drawings on social media of criminals trying to smuggle cash into Venezuela like drugs.
The border closure comes as Maduro is trying to curb Venezuela’s galloping inflation and roll out a new range of bank notes after announcing on Sunday that the government would pull from circulation a 100-bolivar bill.
It is currently the country’s largest-denominated bill but worth only about 3 U.S. cents at the widely used black market rate.
Maduro warned Sunday that people would not be allowed to bring back 100-bolivar bills from outside Venezuela to trade them in for the new bank notes.
Venezuelans rushed to spend their 100-bolivar notes Monday, before the government’s Wednesday deadline for taking the note out of circulation. An estimated third of Venezuelans have no bank account and keep their savings in the soon-to-be-worthless bills.