In most parts of the world, withdrawing a little money from the bank is an easy to forget daily activity. But for millions of people in Venezuela, it's so complicated, boring, unreasonable, to impossible. This has happened since the economic crisis ensnared the country in Latin America.
Stefano Pozzebon writes his astounding experience while trying to withdraw cash that ended up taking four hours and four different bank branches on CNN Money.
Debt-induced, prices in Venezuela skyrocket and the currency of the bolivar loses its value. Markets and banks are a source of confusion and chaos. Customers are lining up long and some banks only allow electronic transactions without cash.
When Pozzebon wrote his article, a dollar cost about 199,000 bolivars, Venezuelan currency. Figures are taken from the widely used black market exchange rates. The official excessive exchange rate is no longer believed after the government loses its credibility.
A year ago, a dollar can still be exchanged for 3,100 bolivars. Bolivar has lost 98% of its value since then.
According to an official statement, the Venezuelan banking authorities each month determine the amount of money that can be withdrawn from the bank. This amount is not published.
How hard is it to get the one dollar bolivar? Stefano Pozzebon has tried it and failed.
First Bank, 'Minimum One Hour' Waiting
Stefano Pozzebon arrived at the first bank at 9:30 am. Five lonely ATMs indicate the endless amount of money there. The only option is to withdraw money directly from the bank counter. 21 people have been in line and only one cashier on duty.
"At least wait here for an hour," said the man at the end of the line as Pozzebon walked over.
Kahirnya he decided to try his luck elsewhere.
Second Bank, 'It's Not Sure!'
Stefano Pozzebon walked several blocks to the second bank. This is easy to do because he is located in Venezuela's largest city, Caracas. Things would be more difficult if Pozzabon were in the countryside.
In the second bank, even though the hour has not shown at 10 am, all the ATMs are running out of money. With only 10 people in line, Pozzebon decided to join the ranks.
Pozzebon meets a man named Gustavo Vasquez in the queue. Vasquez requires only 30,000 bolivars (about 18 cents) for a CLAP bag. CLAP bag is a bag of food and toiletries from the government for the Venezuelan poor every month at a subsidized price.
These days the CLAP handbags are small and often delayed as more and more Venezuelans become poor. The government also ran out of money to import essential goods.
Although now dependent on food aid, Vasquez's life was different. Before inflation, Vasquez has a steady job and lives quietly in his home. Government programs such as CLAP are now a family and her family.
Critics argue that the CLAP is used as a political weapon by Maduro to force people to support him. But the political ethics of the aids is not Vasquez's thinking. He just wants to withdraw money to buy it and eat.
"Here, they only allow [you] to take 5,000 per day," Vasquez said. "How do I open an account in six different banks? It's nonsense!"
Upon arrival at the counter, Pozzebon cannot use his debit card and must show a check to withdraw money. Feeling annoyed he left the second bank and two other banks. Finally, he gave up and went home to pick up his checkbook.
Waited four hours to get 6 cents. Spend everything in one place.
Returning to the first bank, Pozzebon waited another hour until finally to the front of the line. Everyone in the line seemed silent and calm as if forced to accept this situation.
Social anger broke out last year in Venezuela as hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Caracas for more than 90 days to protest the constitutional amendment for the election and humanitarian aid. The protest was blocked by government troops and more than 120 people died.
The current terrible economic situation makes the average Venezuelan population too busy scrambling for money and food to take to the streets again.
At 1:23 pm, Pozzabon finally received 10,000 bolivar (about 6 cents) cash from his struggle.
Cashier Yarmira de Motos says the bank manager each morning fixes the amount the customer can withdraw as much money as the Central Bank of Venezuela has sent.
Therefore some banks may be able to allow the withdrawal of 5,000, 10,000 to 30,000 bolivars per day.
With his 10,000 bolivars, Pozzabon meets a friend for a cup of coffee. The cappuccino he bought was worth 35,000 bolivars.