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South America: Crypto and Blockchain News Roundup 12-18 October 2018

South America

Welcome to another weekly blockchain news roundup from around the world. Here we present to you all the latest Bitcoin news, continent by continent and country by country.

Brazil

Presidential Candidate Fernando Haddad Announces His Government Plans on Blockchain: Brazilian presidential candidate Fernando Haddad has announced that he has released his future plans for the government on blockchain to combat fake news and propaganda against him. The move came after a notorious campaign was launched against him which is in contradiction to what he has promised in his plan.

Haddad’s plan was launched on Decred’s blockchain system in partnership with Brazilian company OriginalMy earlier this week. The release was a success and showcases Haddad’s ability to forward a progressive approach towards blockchain innovation. Haddad’s rival far-right candidate, Jair Bolsanaro is also interested in blockchain technology and both have promised to help promote the industry in the South American country.

Brazilian Specialist Says USD Tether’s Decrease in Prices Will Impact Cryptocurrencies Significantly: Brazilian Bitcoin specialist Paulo Boghosian believes that cryptocurrencies will be affected by the recent drop in prices of the USD Tether.

Boghosian believes that actions of the Tether company and liquidity issues are worrying signs and will result in massive issues for the industry if not resolved. However, he did point out that other stablecoin options are also available including TrueUSD, Gemini, Pax and USDC and they will help maintain enough competition to help it not become a short-term problem. However, if Tether is facing an insolvency issue, then the alternatives may not be of much help.

Boghosian is a lecturer at the Blockchain Academy and currently teaches an investment course there.

State Deputy Defends Blockchain and Wants Government to Be More Decentralized: State deputy from Rio Grande do Sul, Fabio Ostermann is one of many cryptocurrency-advocating government representatives in Brazil according to a latest interview.

Ostermann was of the opinion that decentralization and blockchain applications will go a long way in ensuring the distributed nature of democracy in the country. He also stated that he will advocate for the industry in the state legislature.

Prosecutors Believe Lack of Regulations May Make Cryptocurrencies a Means for Money Laundering: According to the Public Prosecutor’s Office (MP), the absence of rules of cryptocurrencies means that cryptocurrencies can be used for illegal money laundering activities.

Rodrigo De Gandis, a prosecutor said at an event organized by the Brazilian Federation of Banks – FEBRABAN:

“We do not know the proper way they are processed, how they are used. There is a legal limbo in terms of regulation, the bodies have not understood how the matter should be regulated. But for the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office, crypto-coins are vehicles and tools for money laundering,”

The Brazilian judiciary has already sought information on cryptocurrencies and battle lines may be drawn between cryptocurrency exchanges and banks regarding regulations.

Argentina

Argentina Posts Record Bitcoin Trading Figures Amidst Hyperinflation: Bitcoin trading volumes soared high in Argentina and other parts of South America as inflation rears its ugly head again.

Argentina especially is embracing Bitcoin more openly because the government’s attitude towards the cryptocurrencies is overall positive. Bitcoin ATMs are being opened across the country and many merchants are accepting payments in Bitcoin.

Chile

39% Chileans Have Heard of Cryptocurrencies: A recent study in Chile concludes that almost 39% of the country’s populace has heard of cryptocurrencies. The study was conducted by a group of Chilean researchers who are identifying the impact of cryptocurrencies on the populace.

Cryptocurrency adoption and knowledge is especially associated with the younger generation as 43% of the 18-34 demographic have heard of cryptocurrencies. High resource class (75%) is also leading on the front rather than lower resource groups (25%).

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Brazilian Presidential Candidate Fernando Haddad Releases Future Plan on Blockchain

Brazil’s presidential candidate Fernando Haddad has announced that he has released his future plans for the government on blockchain. The move comes after his rival candidate Jair Bolsanaro announced his own plans for the blockchain industry a week ago. The two candidates are going to face each other in the final round of Brazilian presidential elections later this year.

Haddad, belonging to the Workers’ Party has promised that blockchain record-keeping was the only way the campaign found to disassociate the candidate from the kind of false news being spread about Haddad’s proposals. Therefore, the campaign found a partnership with Brazilian company OriginalMy earlier this week and thus their request was subsequently registered on Decred’s blockchain.

The move comes after fears that fake news attacks against politicians in the country were reaching the next levels as a recent survey by BTG Pactual pointed out. The survey reported that 47% of Brazilians used WhatsApp for political information and around 87% received fake news through it. The survey covered almost 2,000 random people in the country.

Haddad believes that his far-right rival Jair Bolsanaro is using fake news to his advantage and getting an unfair advantage. Thus, he became the first candidate in history to register his future plans and statements on the immutable blockchain technology.

Fake news is now being combatted around the world with the help of blockchain technology because of the latter’s incorruptible nature. Blockchain technology is becoming increasingly popular in Brazil as many leaders have come forward with their plans for blockchain adoption in the country. Former candidates Marina Silva and Joao Amoeda also announced their plans for the use of blockchain to register donations and creation of a digital government respectively before the first round of elections.

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Largest Brazilian Brokerage to Launch Crypto Exchange

Brazil’s largest brokerage Grupo XP has announced that it plans to enter the cryptocurrency ecosystem with an exchange in the coming months.

Brazil’s largest financial group will launch the exchange XDEX with plans to offer both Bitcoin and Ethereum exchange services. According to the company’s CEO Guilherme Benchimol, the company is being pushed towards cryptocurrency due to Bitcoin’s huge popularity in the country.

In terms of volume traded, Brazil is currently the world’s largest Bitcoin market with 3 million Brazilians being exposed to Bitcoin, compared to only 600,000 that invest in the stock market. The company intends to open the new exchange with forty employees.

The CEO appears reluctant to make the move but clarifies that he is simply following financial market trends, stating: “this is a theme I’d rather didn’t exist, but it does…we felt obligated to start advancing in this market.”

Next month’s presidential elections could be critical for the advancement of cryptocurrency in terms of who is elected. New Party candidate João Amoêdo has recently expressed pro-Bitcoin views and aims for the privatization of public enterprises like Petrobras, Central Bank of Brazil and Banco do Brasil. Although the party supports welfare programs like Bolsa Família, it aims to privatize the public health system and public education. The state would give vouchers for health and education to people who couldn’t afford it, according to Wikipedia.

Another Brazilian presidential candidate, João Goulart Filho from the Partido Pátria Livre (PPL) party, recently gave an interview to local blockchain media outlet Criptomoedas Fácil, where he discussed the necessity of regulations for the country’s growing cryptocurrency industry. Filho said that he and his party are, ‘following with caution’ the recent movement in the cryptocurrency market, hoping to be able to provide much-needed and well-informed regulation for Brazil if elected in October.

According to Reuters, Brazil’s banks are under investigation for closing brokerages trading in Bitcoin, after a request lodged by the Brazilian Blockchain and Cryptocurrency Association (ABCB). Grupo XP will clearly be watching the outcome of the investigation with vested interest.

Grupo XP has huge targets for the future, setting itself a goal of $245 billion under custody over the next three years with a bank scheduled for opening later this year.

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Brazilian Banks Investigated for Unfair Crypto Restrictions

Brazil’s government agency dedicated to inspecting economic power abuses has reportedly opened cases against six major banks in the country thought to have been undermining the performance of cryptocurrency brokers.

The banks in question include Banco do Brasil, Bradesco, Itaú Unibanco, Santander Brasil, Banco Inter and Sicredi.

The Administrative Council for Economic Defense (CADE) claims that the financial institutions have been abusing their market power by limiting, and even prohibiting access to banking services for crypto-derivatives brokers. This has been said to disrupt the operations of brokers and at times bring financial losses.

Several banks are already facing legal challenges from brokerage firms for closing banking accounts without providing an explanation or reason why, and have been accused of undermining economic order.

The Brazilian Association of Cryptocurrency and Blockchain (ABCB) requested CADE to launch this investigation, and have asked that at least temporarily banks must be obliged to both keep and open accounts for cryptocurrency brokers. At this time, CADE has not fulfilled that latter part of the request.

The banks claim that the accounts were closed due to a lack of compliance with anti-money laundering (AML) legislation that requires brokers to maintain basic customer data. According to a Reuters report, sources from the bank said privately that there is no guarantee their crypto clients will follow the AML policies and they would rather risk contestation over the closures than face sanctions during an AML lawsuit.

Speaking to Reuters, an antitrust expert said: ”It does not seem reasonable for banks to apply restrictive measures a priori on a straight-line basis to all cryptocurrency companies, without examining the level of compliance and anti-fraud measures adopted by individual brokerage firms individually conferring unlawful treatment per se on the brokerage business of crypto-coins.”

The case prosecutors, Bradesco and Banco Inter, would not comment on the matter.

 

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US Defence Department Facility to Become Crypto Mining Data Center

A Nevada-based cryptocurrency investment company is planning to convert a US Department of Defense facility into crypto mining data center.

The company, Wuhan General Group (China) Inc, has seized the opportunity to use the redundant facility, originally called the Defense Department Data Center, for its mining project which will eventually be able to tap into a power supply able to support a total of 1,300 mining rigs.

Amid stiff competition around the world, companies are finding it increasingly difficult to find locations suitable for Bitcoin mining. The US has seen a flurry of activity this year with numerous outmoded plants being readapted for crypto mining.

Many aluminum sites around the country have been readapted towards utilization for mining. Alcoa World Alumina and Chemicals (AWAC), with customers in China, the United States, Europe and Brazil, have notably seen some of their old operational US sites for aluminum processing go.

Bitmain has been creating mining supersites, mining farms on a scale never seen before. Other major cryptocurrency mining firms like Coinmint are also building similar sites. Ramy Kamaneh, Wuhan General Group’s CEO, maintains that it was just a matter of time before the company seized the opportunity to become another overseas company to mine in the US:

“We had planned to build this operation three months ago, but with the bearish cryptocurrency market, we took a step back to reassess our strategy. The decision to wait for market stability was a good one, especially considering many cryptocurrency machines are no longer profitable in the current market.”

Once negotiations have been completed, the first 1,300 rigs will be installed in October, followed by the potential to add 12,000 more rigs in 2019. The initial installation according to the company should create a monthly revenue of USD 3.5 million.

The challenge for industrial-scale crypto mining in the US as the sector moves forwards is to develop more sustainable methods of operating, such as utilizing more hydroelectricity. A good example of how this can be both profitable and ecologically sound is DPW Holdings new Installation at Valatie Falls, New York, and geothermal plants in Iceland.

 

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Brazil to Receive 1,000 Multi-Crypto Point of Sales Terminals

Brazil is set to receive 1,000 point of sale (POS) terminals that can accept multiple cryptocurrencies as payment.

Indonesian POS terminal suppliers Pundi X Labs have finalized a deal with Brazilian company BitCapital that will see 1,000 X POS devices distributed to hundreds of retail outlets, according to a joint press release. BitCapital states one of its main goals as creating an infrastructure network that can make cryptocurrency to fiat transactions as straightforward as is achievable.

Pundi X recently established headquarters in Sao Paulo, Brazil, with this being the company’s second distribution deal; 1,000 X POS units are also planned to be distributed in Colombia over a period of six months. Recent trends of Bitcoin adoption in South America indicate there is a growing market for the cryptocurrencies, with a growing number of retailers accepting cryptocurrency payments surely welcome to those living across the continent.

Zac Cheah, CEO and co-founder of Pundi X described the region as quickly gaining a reputation as being central for cryptocurrency adoption, calling Brazil, in particular, an ”ideal point of entry”, saying the demand from merchants has validated the company’s decision to expand into South America.

Ricardo Guimaraes Filho, founder of BitCapital believes there is still a lot of room for cryptocurrency to develop in Brazil. “Brazil and Sao Paulo lead on every metric when it comes to traditional finance and tech in South America. Yet, crypto lags unaccountably behind,” he said, blaming an anti-crypto attitude from banks as the real problem hindering adoption.

A positive move for South America

Getting 1,000 POS terminals active in retail outlets across Brazil and Colombia respectively is certainly a step in assisting adoption across the continent as residents are given more ways to spend their cryptocurrency funds on a day-to-day basis.

Bitcoin News recently spoke to Bitcoin Venezuela founder Randy Brito who described one of the main struggles of Bitcoin adoption in Venezuela as the lack of proper tools stopping citizens even having cryptocurrency wallets. One of the projects his non-profit is working on includes creating cheap devices that can be kept in every house and shop, working on their own network rather than relying on Wifi, that can be used for instant Bitcoin sales or exchanges.

While POS terminals are a good option for the more affluent regions of South America, it is perhaps not the most accessible way for the regions that suffer from a harsher economic climate as many people cannot afford to have and keep smart devices with them. A combined approach may be the best way to assist wide-scale adoption on the developing continent.

 

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Brazilian Government Inspects Activities of Local Crypto Exchanges

In an apparent government crackdown on corruption and money laundering, Brazilian cryptocurrency exchanges have been given a 14-point survey to fill out detailing a number of areas in their operations.

Local news outlet Portal do Bitcoin covered the incident in an exclusive piece after obtaining a copy of the document that was served to the exchanges, despite the message being signed by the prosecutor Ana Paula Bez Batti warning that the dissemination of the message is prohibited by law.

The questionnaire covers a number of topics that will supposedly contribute to the study of combating corruption and money laundering in Brazil, and covers topics including compliance issues, limits offered to customers in relation to declared income, control over the number of operations, control over the originator’s identification, hashes of the portfolios and data of the partners themselves.

Question 10, for example, reads: ”Does the Crypto-Exchange trade popular crypto-coins for their anonymity, such as Monero, Dash and Zcash?” most likely querying these coins in particular as they are notably more difficult to trace ownership of. Other questions were more direct, such as number six: ” What measures, if any, does Crypto-Exchange take to mitigate risks related to money laundering and terrorist financing?”

The Ministry of Finance supposedly issued the questions as part of a stealth dossier “to protect the integrity of the financial system”. Each brokerage was notified they had five days to respond, with the data promised to be kept entirely confidential.

What do the exchanges say?

Portal do Bitcoin contacted three of the countries top 10 exchanges by trading volume, each giving a different response to how they are handling the situation and each wished to remain anonymous. One has been fully compliant, answering each question and has already sent its response. Another claims they do not know if they have received it but are looking onto all possible communication channels.

The final exchange to comment said they do not have any plans to respond to the survey, as it was not sent as an official document from the Brazilian government but rather sent through its contact form. As most inquiry forms on similar platforms send an automated reply, it is unlikely they will be able to claim they never received the survey when the government approaches them.

 

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Aluminium Sites Revamped As Search for Crypto Mining Locations Increase

It appears that old Alcoa aluminium facilities are being put to good use, as one more is now earmarked for cryptocurrency mining.

Alcoa World Alumina and Chemicals (AWAC), with customers in China, the United States, Europe, and Brazil are letting some of their old operational US sites for aluminium processing go. The last to be utilised for a completely different type of product was the company’s aluminium smelting facility in New York State with crypto company Coinmint’s new installation making it one of the world’s largest cryptocurrency mining centers.

The smelting plant in Upstate New York has signed a deal with Coinmint, offering the facility on a 10-year lease, with an option for renewal. The cryptocurrency mining company is investing about USD 700 million into this new facility which is expected to bring in over 150 new jobs to the nearby town of Massena.

Bitmain is now in on the action, using a $500 million investment to construct another facility for crypto mining in Rochdale, Texas. The new operation is said to be viable for 7 years, adding to the local and state economy. According to Bitmain’s press release, the new construction on the old Alcoa Rockdale Operations site is underway and hopefully be ready in early 2019. The new Bitmain facility will be bringing 400 local jobs to the economy in the first 2 years.

The company is already recruiting employees for its data center in Rochdale and is seeking senior management, sales and finance specialists, engineers and technicians. Bitmain also plans to work with local schools and educational programs in order to prime locals for possible employment over the next few years as the data center develops and expands. Jeff Stearns, executive vice president and director of operations at the company, commented:

“Bitmain is truly honored to announce this news and is excited to work with local partners, government and stakeholders in realizing this vision, throughout the initial set-up phase, operations and beyond.”

Amid stiff competition around the world, companies are finding it increasingly difficult to find locations suitable for Bitcoin mining. The revamped Alcoa plant promises to be a boon for this particular local community at least.

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Bitcoin Comes with Advantages Says Brazilian Presidential Candidate

Brazilian presidential candidate for the upcoming October elections in that country João Amoêdo has recently expressed pro Bitcoin views.

Amoêdo’s Brazil New Party aims for the privatization of public enterprises like Petrobras, Central Bank of Brazil and Banco do Brasil. Although the party supports welfare programs like Bolsa Família, it aims to privatize the public health system and public education. The state would give vouchers for health and education to people who couldn’t afford it, according to Wikipedia.

In terms of the country’s financial system, the party opposes extensive regulation in many aspects of Brazilian society. They believe the central bank should be independent of the state. When asked about cryptocurrency, Amoêdo said that Bitcoin comes with “advantages.” On the development of blockchain in Brazil, he was particularly upbeat about its place in the country’s economy.

“I see the blockchain as a protocol that increases the reliability and integrity of the data. There are obvious applications, such as for interbank transfers or to register as a notary. Another, not so commented, is to use the blockchain to follow the productive chain of products…. We could follow every step of the production chain of a product, ensuring less bureaucracy and more intelligence.”

When quizzed whether he thought that Cryptocurrency’s had a role in a new Brazil and whether it might be used as legal tender, he responded:

“As a means of payment, I see no doubts that bitcoin can be understood as a legal payment method. If both parties want to exchange a product via bitcoin… I do not see any legal barriers to doing so” adding:

“I do not think they are a threat to the traditional banking system. I see advantages in providing another means of payment for consumers,”

With a population of nearly 200 million and the largest economy in Latin America, Brazil is a significant economic force, and an increase in the adoption of cryptocurrency use would certainly have an impact under a liberal government, which on the whole tend to be more favorable towards crypto. It’s hard to say what stance Amoêdo would take regarding the sector if he becomes the new Brazilian president in October.  Like any other politician, he would want to be seen as a staunch supporter of the country’s national currency, the real, which is tightly pegged to the US dollar. On this he commented:

“But it must be clear that the country has only one national currency, one that has a legal course, that is, the one that people are obliged to accept, the real. No other currency, including the dollar, has this characteristic. Only the real. In addition, there are restrictions on the use of the dollar for payments and as a currency of account, which are the same for any other foreign currency, including crypto-coins.”

He suggests that governments must be made aware of the public’s assets held on-line as the internet shouldn’t become a “tax haven.”

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Universities Getting Clever with New Blockchain Courses

Despite Bitcoin’s current downturn, universities are increasingly opening up educational projects for blockchain technology reports Econotimes, with the number of universities and educational facilities running blockchain and cryptocurrency courses growing as financial markets expand and absorb more blockchain-related products.

There are now many opportunities for blockchain developers but clearly not enough skilled technicians to fill these gaps. Toptal, a marketplace for hiring tech talent, has recorded a 700% increase in demand for blockchain developers since January 2017. These positions can be well paid. According to Jerry Cuomo, VP of IBM’s blockchain technologies division, the best blockchain developers can command a salary above USD 250,000.

There are have been some early starters; institutions offering courses in digital information systems, the blockchain, and cryptocurrency. In the US, the Northeastern University College of Engineering in Boston and George Mason University in Virginia run courses in blockchain technology as part of other advanced educational postgraduate Science programs.  The University of Cape Town now offers a cryptocurrency and fintech elective module as part of its wider Data Science Masters program.

In Scotland, the University of Sterling – as part of its Financial Technology Masters program, offers participants a primer to blockchain technology, which includes cryptocurrencies, decentralized applications, smart contracts, and applications and case studies.

What is changing now is the way in which blockchain hard forks and other cryptocurrency specifics are taking the technology in directions which also require new specialized skills.

Professor David Yermack from NYC Stern School of Business was an early teacher of blockchain and crypto tech on the university’s MBA program suggests business schools will have to update their curricula due to the rapid rate in which the markets are moving. His current class has doubled over the past year and lessons are conducted at a larger auditorium because of the recent surge of student applications.

In the UK, Garrick Hileman, a research associate and lecturer at the University of Cambridge and the first to develop a blockchain graduate course, said other departments including finance and law are now jumping on the blockchain educational bandwagon. “It wouldn’t surprise me to see some turf wars break out over who owns the blockchain curriculum at business schools,” comments Hileman.

Blockchain training and education is needed in many sectors now and is not simply limited to IT and finance. Even cattle farming has branched into the new tech. Take Bonita Carlson of Persson cattle Ranch in Wyoming who’s trying to create a worldwide-link-of-cattle supply chain, so that electronically tagged cattle can be on an immutable ledger verifying their free-range farming credentials.

From farming to health, the need for more blockchain specialists is clearly on the rise., and it appears that universities are now catching up with the market’s surge of new uses for the burgeoning tech across all sectors.

 

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