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World

Venezuelan Protests Economic Crisis Through Currency Art

Bills worth one fifth of a U.S. cent with the crisis have become an artistic denouncement

A man picks up a two-bolivar Venezuelan bill with a drawing by artist José León at his workshop in Maracaibo, Venezuela. León makes art out of the worthless bills, photo: Reuters/Stringer
By Reuters Whatsapp Twitter Facebook Share
1 year ago

CARACAS — With Venezuela‘s highest denomination bill now worth less than a stick of gum, one local designer is protesting his country’s economic crisis through currency art.

A two-bolivar Venezuelan bill with a drawing by artist José León. Photo: Reuters/Stringer.

A two-bolivar Venezuelan bill with a drawing by artist José León. Photo: Reuters/Stringer.

José León, 24, has been covering the faces of national heroes on the smallest bills of two bolivars — worth one fifth of a U.S. cent at the black market rate — with the intricately-stenciled faces of American superheroes.

“One day, I was paid in two bolivar notes: what a pain! At night, watching the (U.S. superhero) film ‘Deadpool,’ I decided to draw it on the bills,” said the tattooist and amateur cartoonist.

“People started rejecting the two bolivar bills. I travel a lot by bus, and they wouldn’t accept them. Not even for a cigarette. Nothing.”

Bills in Venezuela have become a serious nuisance after the currency’s precipitous fall in value. The largest 100 bolivar note is worth just 10 cents on the black market and people often carry bags full of money for basic purchases.

José León's art was criticized by a pro-government website for replacing national heroes for foreigners. Photo: Reuters/Stringer.

José León’s art was criticized by a pro-government website for replacing national heroes for foreigners. Photo: Reuters/Stringer.

León has been covering the faces of Venezuela‘s independence heroes including Francisco de Miranda with images from Star Wars to Batman.

After exhibiting his work on Instagram, he received hundreds of reactions and a hashtag was born: #VenezuelaDevaluada (#VenezuelaDevalued).(instagram.com/lion_mix/)

“It is a protest against a government that takes away my hopes and dreams,” León said from Venezuela‘s second city Maracaibo where his murals adorn city walls.

Looting and food protests are occurring daily in Venezuela, hit by triple-digit inflation and a scarcity of basic goods.

While critics blame 17 years of socialist policies, President Nicolás Maduro says the opposition, business leaders and Washington are sabotaging the economy.

A pro-government website blasted León’s “childish” work, saying he was replacing homegrown heroes with “Yankees.”

EYANIR CHINEA

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