Claim: Citizens of Venezuela are using microchips to purchase food, drinks, and other basic necessities instead of cash.
Facebook user Chichi Dagg’z made this claim in a post she shared on April 3, 2019. Facebook Claim Check, the social media platform’s tool for identifying dubious content on their site, flagged the post for fact checkers to review. It had over 6,400 shares, 797 reactions, and 506 comments as of writing.
The post contained 3 photos – two images of streets littered with printed cash and one image of citizens in a queue.
The caption said the photos were taken in Venezuela, where cash is not valid for purchases anymore and where the citizens must use microchips for daily transactions instead.
It included the hashtag “#JesusIsComingVerySoon” and referred to Revelation 13, a chapter in the Bible that discusses the apocalypse.
Claim Check flagged a similar post from Facebook user Kesha Kaye Lee Nhingua, which had over 3,600 shares, 369 reactions, and 11 comments as of writing.
The facts: The paper bills on the streets were considered worthless currency, but not because the citizens are using microchips for transactions. It was because the government replaced the bills with new notes called the Bolivar Soberano or “sovereign bolivar.”. (READ: Venezuela relaunches currency, as analysts warn of worsened crisis)
The old currency in Venezuela, the Bolivar Fuerte, had devalued too much due to hyperinflation. The government’s solution to this was not to replace the country’s legal tender with microchips – printed notes were retained but a new currency was introduced in August 2018: the Bolivar Soberano. It slashed 5 zeroes from the Bolivar Fuerte. (READ: Venezuela devalues bolivar by 96% under new rate)
A Google reverse image search of the photos shows that the images shared by the two users were indeed taken in Venezuela.
Descifrando la Guerra, a portal created by a group of academics and researchers to discuss and analyze geopolitics and armed conflicts around the world, tweeted one of the photos in March 12, 2019.
The tweet explained that a bank robbery took place in Merida, a municipality in Venezuela, the day before the tweet was posted. They said that looters even burned down the devalued currency during the incident. (READ: TIMELINE: 5 key moments in Venezuela crisis)
Ayer se produjo el saqueo de un banco bicentenario en la ciudad de Mérida, en las cercanías de la plaza Glorias Patrias. Los saqueadores incendiaron una pila de bolívares además de dejar muchos billetes por el suelo. pic.twitter.com/7gmL7FqMYo— Descifrando la Guerra (@descifraguerra) March 12, 2019
Hyperinflation happens when the increase in prices of goods in an economy goes extremely fast that the purchasing power of the local currency becomes worthless. Venezuela has struggled with severe economic crisis fuelled by hyperinflation, which caused the Bolivar Fuerte to extremely depreciate in value. (READ: EXPLAINER: What is hyperinflation?)
Among the biggest contributors are the high government spending for subsidies, plunging of the global price of oil, and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s instruction to print more money amid the soaring consumer prices. (READ: What does 10,000,000% inflation look like? See Venezuela) – Pauline Macaraeg/Rappler.com
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