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Venezuela unveils six currency notes amid galloping inflation

Published:Sunday | December 11, 2016 | 12:00 AM
The front and back of the newly issued 20,000 Bolivar is displayed during a news conference in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, December 7, 2016. Venezuelan Central Bank President Nelson Merentes unveiled the new series of higher-denominated bills as triple-digit inflation and a currency meltdown leave the country's largest note worth just around 2 US cents on the black market. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

Venezuela has unveiled six new bills set to go into circulation next week.

Central Bank President Nelson Merentes said on Tuesday that the new higher-denomination bills would make commercial transactions easier in the country with the world's highest inflation.

The six new bills ranging from 500 to 20,000 Bolivars will begin circulating on December 15.

Triple-digit inflation and a currency meltdown have left the country's largest note worth just around 2 US cents on the black market. Currently, the largest-denominated bill is 100 bolivars, not even enough to buy a piece of hard candy at a street kiosk.

Some had speculated that the new bills might feature late socialist President Hugo Chavez, or other nods to left-wing causes. But they instead portray the same historical figures, such as independence hero Simon Bolivar, and national heritage as the country's existing bills.

The new bills come as Venezuela borders on economic collapse. Inflation is soaring and expected to surpass four digits next year, according to the International Monetary Fund. Venezuela's government has not published price data since 2015.

The currency meltdown comes amid what should have been a rare bout of good economic news for Venezuela after OPEC last week ceded to months of pressure from Maduro and other oil-dependent nations and decided to cut production levels for the first time since 2008. Crude prices rallied the most in five years as a result.

Venezuela has maintained strict currency controls since 2003 and currently has two legal exchange rates of 10 and around 650 bolivars per dollar used for priority imports.