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Episode 858: Venezuela's Fugitive Money Traders

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Venezuela's currency, the bolivar, is like an unwrapped chocolate bar these days. The minute it touches your hand it starts to melt. To disappear. So Venezuelans have been trying to trade their money for anything at all: Toilet paper, bags of sugar, and, if they can manage it, U.S. dollars.

But buying and selling dollars is risky business in Venezuela. It's against the law unless you do it through the government, and most people aren't allowed. The government doesn't want too many people selling their bolivars for dollars. Over the last few months, hundreds of people have been arrested for helping trade currencies, and even just for calculating the black market exchange rate.

Today on the show, what happens when nobody wants a country's money anymore? We watch the fight to control a dying currency, and meet black market money traders who narrowly escaped the government's grasp.

For more on Venezuela, check out Episode 731: How Venezuela Imploded.

Music: "Beating All Odds," "Waiting For You" and "Lightning Strike."

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Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Alissa Escarce
Sarah Gonzalez
Sarah Gonzalez is a host and reporter with Planet Money, NPR's award-winning podcast that finds creative, entertaining ways to make sense of the big, complicated forces that move our economy. She joined the team in April 2018.