Mar 21, 2018

Hyperinflation strangles Venezuela's economy

A man counts Venezuelan Bolivars. Photo: Wil Riera / Bloomberg via Getty Images

As Venezuela's economy descends into chaos, its currency, the bolivar, has taken a big hit, with one town inventing its own money to get around hyper-inflation and the government developing a state-issued cryptocurrency to evade U.S. sanctions.

In perspective: The black market exchange rate currently sits at 230,941 bolivars to one U.S. dollar, per DolarToday. And Bloomberg is tracking inflation in Venezuela by using the price of a cup of coffee as an indicator. One café con leche is now priced at 80,000 Bolivars, reflecting 4,344% inflation over the last year.

  • Paper money is increasingly difficult to acquire in Venezuela, and people have taken to paying cash dealers 100% premiums for it.
  • Russia was behind the creation of the "Petro," Venezuela's cryptocurrency, which the U.S. banned its citizens from buying, per a TIME investigation. The Kremlin has denied involvement in the development of the digital currency.
  • The town of Elorza has developed its own currency, named for the town, to make it easier for residents and visitors to conduct financial transactions, BBC reports. Residents of Elorza can get the paper money at the mayor's office.
  • The country's GDP has shrunk by close to 15% a year for the past two years, and that decline expected to continue in 2018

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Debate night: Candidates' last face-off before Super Tuesday

Sanders, Biden, Klobuchar and Steyer in South Carolina on Feb. 25. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Bernie Sanders wanted to keep his momentum after winning contests in New Hampshire and Nevada, while former Vice President Joe Biden hoped to keep his own campaign alive. The other five candidates were just trying to hang on.

What's happening: Seven contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination were in Charleston, South Carolina, for the tenth debate, just days before the South Carolina primary and a week before Super Tuesday. They spoke, sometimes over each other, about health care, Russian interference in the election, foreign policy the economy, gun control, marijuana, education, and race.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

4 takeaways from the South Carolina debate

Former Vice President Joe Biden, right, makes a point during Tuesday's Democratic presidential debate, while Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders listens. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

The 10th Democratic debate was billed as the most consequential of the primary thus far, but Tuesday night's high-stakes affair was at times awkward and unfocused as moderators struggled to rein in candidates desperate to make one last splash before Saturday's primary in South Carolina and Super Tuesday.

The big picture: After cementing himself as the Democratic favorite with a sweeping win in Nevada, Sen. Bernie Sanders came under fire as the front-runner for the first time on the debate stage. Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who will be on the ballot for the first time next Tuesday, was a progressive foil once again, but he appeared more prepared after taking a drubbing at the Nevada debate.

Coronavirus spreads to Africa as U.S. soldier in South Korea tests positive

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

A 23-year-old American soldier stationed at Camp Carroll in South Korea has tested positive to the novel coronavirus, as the outbreak spreads to more countries.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed more than 2,700 people and infected over 80,000 others, mostly in mainland China. Public health officials confirmed Tuesday the U.S. has 57 people with the novel coronavirus, mostly those repatriated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 3 hours ago - Health