Lost Sambista

A Brazil never seen.

Adventures in the time of the Cruzado – part 02


Divine Justice touched the ex-director, as well as the bank, a few years later. Before anything, we must know that the Cruzado plan, as the others before and after it, was a disaster and that a few months after the incident the economic nightmare was back with a vengeance. Because I missed the time to take my money out, I learned that I was not a stock market genius the hard way and lost everything I had put in. Experiencing inflation was bizarre: on average, prices rose around thirty percent a month, although the peak was sixty percent. The rising prices were like a collective illness corroding everything: salaries, revenues, serenity, hope, good judgement and I guess moral standards too. Prices just went up, and up and up again; in the turmoil no one knew how much the simplest of things; a bus fare, a packet of cigarettes or a sandwich would cost the next day.

Every now and again, after the prices of common articles had reached the tens or the hundreds of thousands, the authorities were obliged to come up with a new currency. The original Cruzeiro, became the Cruzado, and from there it went to the Cruzado Novo and so on. What they did was to cut off three zeros from the previous currency, which together with the “plan” that came in parallel; gave the illusion that stabilization was on its way.

This is where my ex-bank director “friend’s” fate comes in. He had gone on a business trip to New York, and on the day previous to his return flight the government had announced the change from Cruzado to Cruzado Novo. In other words they had cut three zeros from the Cruzado so no that now one Cruzado Novo was worth a thousand Cruzados. He took a taxi from the Galeão Airport to far away São Conrado, a handsome forty minute to one hour fare for the driver. After the gorgeous ride through Rio in an air-conditioned cab, he arrived at his luxurious condominium’s gate, passed the security and stopped in front of the Hollywood-like entrance. As in a commercial, the grey haired gentleman got out of the car, took out his suitcase, took his checkbook and a pen out of his hand luggage, wrote out the value, tore off the paper and handed it over.

If only his day had ended with the taxi leaving the gate… In the torpor of his jet lag, inflation, dollars and a new official currency melted in my “buddy’s” head and did allow him to realize that he had written out a check of one hundred and fifty thousand Cruzados Novos still thinking in Cruzados. His check was worth one thousand times more than what was on the meter, which was not a small amount. By any standards this was a respectable amount of cash; enough to spend a couple of years without working. Hardly believing his luck and probably as fond of his passenger as I was. Knowing that the old bastard was an ex-director of ABN Amro’s branch in Brazil because he always used the same taxi company, the driver not hesitate: he went immediately to the bank to withdraw the money.

There was not enough in his account but as this was an ex-director who was friends with all the important people in the board of directors who was known to be “difficult”, they released the money, in cash, without his authorization. The driver had his merit; he was convincing and smart, and vanished without leaving a trace.

This was still fresh when an ex-colleague told me about it, Apparently the lawyers had stepped in, but I am not sure how this ended. The only thing I know is that he was never rude to a trainee again, at least not in that bank.

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2 thoughts on “Adventures in the time of the Cruzado – part 02

  1. Great story! Whats a couple of zeroes, anyway, to a banker? As an ex-bank worker, a Dutchman, and a resident of Brasil I appreciate it on many levels! And thanks for the like …

  2. Many thanks for the comment, Its all true 🙂

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