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Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro has defended his decision to scrap the nation’s most-used banknote, 100 bolivares.

The 100-bolivar note withdrawal has prompted protests and looting in several states as the supply of ready cash rapidly ran out.

However, Nicolas Maduro said taking millions of notes out of circulation had smashed the black market.

He also decided to postpone the withdrawal until January 2.Nicolas Maduro imposes visas for Americans

Nevertheless, some businesses were reportedly still refusing to accept the 100-bolivar notes, even though they remain legal tender until the New Year.

There were more reports of rioting on December 18. In the western state of Tachira people raided warehouses in search of food.

Many said they were afraid of what would happen next, despite 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.

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

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

In a TV address, Nicolas Maduro said that 300 alleged looters had been arrested.

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

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

State TV showed a plane arriving on December 18 carrying the first batch of replacement notes, the 500-bolivar.

Venezuela will replace its 100-bolivar banknotes with coins within 72 hours.

The government hopes swapping the country’s highest denomination notes will help to stop smuggling and tackle shortages of food and other items.

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro says gangs operating in border areas will not have time to repatriate the notes.

Nicolas Maduro’s critics dismissed the move as the latest desperate attempt by the president to tackle the economic crisis.venezuela-pulls-100-bolivares-notes

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles tweeted: “When ineptitude governs! Who would possibly think of doing something like this in December amid all our problems?”

Others argued it would be impossible to swap all the 100-bolivar notes in circulation in the time allotted.

The 100-bolivar note has lost most of its value over the past few years and is now worth about 2 US cents.

Venezuela, which is facing a serious economic and political crisis, has one of the world’s highest inflation rates.

President Nicolas Maduro said on TV: “I have given the orders to close all land, maritime and air possibilities so those bills taken out can’t be returned and they’re stuck with their fraud abroad.”

Earlier this month, Venezuela’s central bank said that six new bills ranging from 500 to 20,000 bolivars would come into circulation on December 15.

The government last published figures for inflation in December 2015, putting it at 180%, but the IMF estimates that next year’s prices will rise by more than 2,000%.

Venezuela’s Central Bank has filed a lawsuit at a court in Delaware against American website DolarToday.

The bank accuses DolarToday of cyberterrorism and says its managers are sowing economic chaos in Venezuela.

It requested both an injunction and damages, accusing the site’s managers of fanning inflation in Venezuela.

DolarToday tracks the black market value of the Venezuelan currency, the bolivar.

The website publishes a rate in Venezuelan bolivars for the US dollar, which is far higher than the official one.Venezuela sues DolarToday

On October 23, DolarToday it quoted the dollar at 820 bolivars, which is 130 times higher than Venezuela’s strongest official rate of 6.3 bolivars and four times the government’s weakest rate of 200.

Venezuela uses a three-tier system to subsidize key imports with advantageous exchange rates.

DolarToday says it calculates its rate based on trades on Venezuela’s border with Colombia.

President Nicolas Maduro has in the past accused the website of being part of an international capitalist conspiracy against his socialist government.

Critics say currency controls and widespread government intervention in Venezuela’s economy have caused shortages of goods and shrinking GDP.