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Venezuelan Turmoil Sees $10 Million Spurt on LocalBitcoins

Venezuelan Turmoil Sees  Million Spurt on LocalBitcoins

With the country in turmoil and Venezuela‘s future more uncertain than at any point since 1999 when Hugo Chavez first became president, the trade in Bitcoin has peaked, recording USD 10 million in trading on P2P platform LocalBitcoins in just seven days.

In the past week, the country was thrown into turmoil when Juan Guaido proclaimed himself unofficially as the country’s new president. With Nicolas Maduro still incumbent, Bitcoin P2P trades hit their second-highest weekly total ever. The cryptocurrency, albeit driven underground by the Maduro regime, has been supporting many of those nationals choosing to remain in the country rather than fleeing to neighboring Columbia in order to escape poverty.

As the situation becomes more explosive by the day, and with both Iran and Russia warning the US, who have backed the Maduro presidency, to stay out of Venezuela, nationals are again putting their faith in Bitcoin. In the last week, more Bolivars for Bitcoins were traded than ever before, despite the weakness of the national currency.

It can’t be confirmed if perhaps some of this activity may be due to Guaido’s liberal stance on cryptocurrency and the possibility of a new regime, but the rush on Bitcoin, coinciding with a dump of the bolivar, is unprecedented.

Maduro’s attempts to withdraw the country’s gold supplies this week, having already expelled US diplomats, was thwarted by the Bank of England who currently holds Venezuela’s USD 1.2 billion reserves. As Harvard economist explained, having communicated with Guaido:

“The first rule of business as we speak is to stop the Maduro government from liquidating international assets of the country and steal them.”


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The Road Ahead for Venezuela: Is There a Place for Cryptocurrency in Rebuilding a Failed Economy?

BitcoinNews began following the situation in Venezuela early last year and had since then tagged it as a potential humanitarian disaster. Where does Venezuela turn as it sits on the cusp of a complete breakdown of its political system and its economy while facing the challenge of a new era of effective government?

Bitcoin, albeit driven underground by the Maduro regime, has been supporting many of those nationals choosing to remain in the country rather than fleeing to neighboring Columbia in order to escape poverty. Many have found solace in Bitcoin and Dash which may have at least to this point delivered what they promised.

However, Petro — the national crypto brainwave of Nicholas Maduro which was introduced in December 2017 as a solution to the country’s ever-deepening national crisis has failed. The Venezuelan crisis was started by the much-adored Hugo Chavez and his extreme social programmes which eventually bankrupted the country before his death from cancer. Backed by tangible assets like gold, oil, and diamonds Maduro tried to convince a nation of a solution which was ill planned. It is no accident that the introduction of the Petro came at a time when Bitcoin prices were soaring.

Many Venezuelans, turned on by the hype of Bitcoin through the media, and then its actual applications – its “real-life” workability when they could lay their hands on it, were equally turned off by the near-invisible and highly impractical Petro. This was made even more ludicrous by the arrival of “Petro Gold”, each one backed by a barrel of oil, which took the application of using cryptocurrency as a fix to an economic disaster into the realms of the theatre of the absurd.

Now, Venezuela’s economy has shrunk in half within five years, and it’s hyperinflated, unsupported by oil output which has fallen by almost two thirds since 1999. To worsen the situation, it has to deal with US sanctions, which very quickly ensured that no Americans could own the Petro or Petro gold. Chavez inherited an oil boom and squandered it. Maduro, faced with the challenge of addressing an economic meltdown, introduced a national cryptocurrency and mismanaged it. This begs the question, can a proven cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin find a place in Venezuela’s economy should Maduro go, given that Venezuelan’s may have a little stomach left for cryptocurrency after the Petro fiasco.

Many Venezuelans may have observed that Bitcoin has at least proven itself as an alternative to the worthless Bolivar and the almost unobtainable US dollar during the turmoil of Maduro’s term as President. Juan Guaidó, the country’s President of the National Assembly-come interim unofficial replacement for the still incumbent Maduro, will give some encouragement to nationals. In August 2014, he announced the launch of Bitcoin exchange Plataforma Sur Bitcoin, the first exchange allowing Venezuelans to buy Bitcoin using Bolivars at a time when they still had value. Guaidó would almost certainly write off the Petro as the failure that it is and look for other options for the much-devalued Bolivar as he has long been the national cryptocurrency’s greatest critic.

If Guaidó is to promote the use of Bitcoin on the streets of Venezuela he has a real challenge ahead in terms of logistics, infrastructure and changing the thinking of a whole nation. Data released by the country’s national telecom providers shows that there are only 11.9 million mobile devices in Venezuela, a country with a population of 30 million people.

Currency controls mean that this number is dropping even further because no one is importing smartphones into the country to sell so that the devices in circulation are often unbranded or not up to date. Some cities are completely disconnected from any communication system, some going without access to calls, SMS, text, 3G or even cable internet with no connection beyond city limits.

Educating Venezuelans about the actual applications of cryptocurrencies in the wake of Petro is another challenge if Bitcoin is to find a place. There have been some inroads into this of late with non-profit blockchain firm Cripto Conserje and US company Horizen (formerly ZenCash) collaborating to create an education program for refugees fleeing the country to neighboring Columbia. Cripto Conserje’s Alpha Project has been set up to increase cryptocurrency adoption in Latin America, especially in the border town of Cucuta, and is hoping to encourage more Venezuelans to turn to crypto, as spokesman for the project commented:

“Together we are providing ZEN paper wallets and education to those in need, ensuring they have secure ways to access and control their money no matter where they are and what situation they are in…We are also onboarding 100 local merchants to begin accepting ZEN as payments.”

With over 2 million refugees crossing into Columbia since the economic crisis began, cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Dash have been Venezuelans only viable and usable method of purchasing daily necessities. The US dollar is hard to come by; although, in November of 2018 a hyperinflation expert Steve Hanke teamed up with a Mexico City-based blockchain powered currency platform in order to get financial aid into the country via an airdrop. Hanke, also a professor of applied economics at Johns Hopkins University, and AirTM, launched “AirdropVenezuela” in order to raise cryptocurrency donations up to USD 1 million.

US-based cryptocurrency exchanges have been offering limited support to beleaguered nationals, but every effort of this kind has significant PR value as it proves to Venezuelans that well-managed cryptocurrencies have the capability of changing the well-being of recipients. Although many might argue that this on its own is not enough, Coinbase donated USD 10,000 in ZCash (ZEC) during Christmas period in 2018 through, a non-profit organization that distributes cryptocurrency to people living in poverty. The funds were donated to the wallets of over 100 families living in the Venezuelan border town of Santa Elana de Uairen, located in Bolívar state near the border with Brazil and Guyana.

All such experiences illustrate clearly that cryptocurrencies, used in an innovative way, can help address Venezuela’s current decimated economy and can in fact change lives for the better, but as yet, Bitcoin and other major digital currencies have only just scratched the surface.

Many now wait to see if a new regime is possible and if it is, and Maduro bends to international pressure and gives way to a self-elected new President. If Guaidó does inherit the great challenge of tackling Venezuela’s massive economic problems it remains to be seen if he also selects the challenge of choosing Bitcoin as one of many available tools to begin rebuilding an economy destroyed by two successive leaders.

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“AirdropVenezuela” Recruits Steve Hank as Ally in Plan for Poverty-Stricken Nation

Hyperinflation expert Steve Hanke has teamed up with a Mexico City-based blockchain powered currency platform in order to get financial aid to Venezuelans.

Hanke, also a professor of applied economics at Johns Hopkins University, and AirTM, will work together on project “AirdropVenezuela”, which hopes to raise cryptocurrency donations up to USD1 million. Once raised, the funds will then be released to 100,000 Venezuelans via the AirTM platform.

This #GivingTuesday, AirTM launches Airdrop Venezuela – a campaign to raise USD $1MM for 100,000 ID-verified Venezuelans. 100% of the proceeds will go directly towards recipients’ wallets.

Learn how you can contribute:

— Airtm Inc (@AirtmInc) November 27, 2018

The annualized inflation rate hit a record high of 117,681% this month as Venezuela’s ongoing economic downturn continues to render the country’s currency, the bolivar, almost worthless. President Maduro continues to refuse to peg the bolivar to the US dollar, which has been cited as a possible solution, while the alternative cryptocurrency Petro is rarely available and little used. Also, President Trump signed an executive order in March 2018 which particularly targets Petro for sanctions. Along with Trump, many US lawmakers have also denounced the currency and passed bills to restrict its use.

Hank outlined his plains for an airdrop solution: “We provide in effect a clearinghouse that allows for the exchange of bolivars for dollars and vice versa… This is also much superior to distributing physical cash because you don’t have to run the risk of driving your armored truck into the country.”

Not only are armored cash-delivery vehicles at risk of hijacking, but most stores are empty of provisions due to the worthlessness of the Bolivar. Free trading is highly government controlled and the government shuns private foreign exchange dealing.

Hanke maintains that a sum of USD 1 million would open up the doors to Venezuela, prompting nationals to begin to use the US dollar for everyday transactions, thus helping to re-stabilize the struggling economy.


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Venezuela Calls for Crypto as Tax Payment

Venezuela Calls for Crypto as Tax Payment

The Venezuela state government now requires operators with crypto business in the country and overseas operators dealing in foreign countries to pay relevant taxes using cryptocurrency to boost the economy.

The move further illustrates the move towards digital currencies, as the value of the bolivar continues to fall. Given the economic crisis, Bitcoin has fast become a financial refuge for many nationals, with President Nicolás Maduro struggling to save the economy from going under from highly unsustainable inflationary situations and an ineffective and largely invisible introduction of the oil-backed Petro, Venezuela’s national digital currency.

The new decree states: “The Venezuelan people are currently facing a fierce war waged by internal and external factors that pursue the deterioration of the economy, which is why it is necessary to adopt sufficient measures to ensure the strengthening of the current fiscal regime.”

The Ministry of Popular Power of Economy and Finance is already putting the new legislation in place which will attempt to enforce the Petro as the only tax payment system for this particular group. The only exemptions to the new rule, according to the decree, will be transactions of securities traded on a stock exchange and “the export of goods and services, carried out by public bodies or entities”.

It appears that those “who carry out operations” in foreign currencies or cryptocurrencies as authorized by the law can also pay their taxes in foreign currency as well as digital currency. Normal taxpayers won’t be billed in Petro, as some believed would happen after an announcement by one state region declaring that cryptocurrency would be the new mode of payment for taxes. Tax refunds will be repaid in bolivar, the nation’s fiat currency.

Jean Carlos Martínez, representing the Service Desconcentrado de Administración Tributaria (Sedemat), clarified that “taxpayers will not be charged taxes in Petros”. He explainted that Petro would only be used as a reference unit to determine minimum tax, as “the ordinance of the current economic unit is still stipulated in percentages of gross income”.

He explained that those conducting transactions in Petro, Bitcoin or other currency, should declare their income according to the currency that they use. Als,o he clarified that the Petro has two uses, one as a cryptocurrency and the other “as a unit of account that translates into 9,000 sovereign bolivars, which will be used in passport procedures or current salaries”.


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Church’s Chicken in Venezuela Accepts Dash Amid Hyperinflation Crisis

Church's Chicken in Venezuela Accepts Dash Amid Hyperinflation Crisis

Fast food outlet Church’s Chicken in Venezuela is taking the leap and has begun accepting Dash, the #1 X11 cryptocurrency, and the #16 cryptocurrency on CoinMarketCap overall.

In Venezuela, the native fiat currency, the Sovereign Bolivar (VES), is becoming more difficult to use with each passing week. The inflation rate is at 444,000% per year, based on six months of data from the Café Con Leche Index, where someone buys the same cup of coffee at the same shop in Caracas to gauge Venezuelan inflation. Since this data averages in lower inflation rates from months ago, the true inflation rate is already near 1,000,000% per year. This makes it unsurprising that people are ditching the native VES for other more stable currencies.

Dash has not been particularly stable this year relative to the US dollar, nor has any other cryptocurrency been stable in that relation for that matter. However, it compares far more favorably compared to the VES. Accepting bolivar almost guarantees merchants lose value every hour they hold, with a single day’s inflation capable of wiping out profit margins. Citizens have been exchanging VES for goods or other currencies and assets as fast as possible. Merchants like Church’s have been pricing their menu items in US dollars to mitigate inflation risks.

By accepting Dash, Church’s Chicken can now operate with less stress and actually store their money instead of immediately running out the door and exchanging it for other currencies, goods, or assets.

The choice of Dash is interesting, considering that the Petro, the official national cryptocurrency of Venezuela, is supposed to be a Dash clone. The reason the Venezuelan government chose Dash is that it uses masternode technology which makes transactions highly anonymous and therefore useful for circumventing international sanctions. However, all evidence indicates the Petro is not a cryptocurrency, rather it seems to be a non-fungible paper certificate.

The current situation in Venezuela could lead to widespread and permanent cryptocurrency adoption across the South American nation. Some economists believe it offers a glimpse into what would happen in the future if fiat currencies collapsed worldwide.


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Venezuelan Bitcoin Volume Rallies With Bolivar Redenomination

Venezuela’s peer-to-peer (P2P) Bitcoin trading volume has rallied to record highs on Localbitcoins, the most popular P2P Bitcoin trading site in the world. This massive surge of Bitcoin trading in Venezuela likely has to do with the turbulent switch from the Bolivar Fuerte (VEF) to Sovereign Bolivar (VES).

In the past week, there has been VES 506.3 million of trading volume, shattering the old record of VES 175.8 million set the week before.

Due to hyperinflation of Venezuela’s fiat currency, at the rate of 100,000% per year and increasing towards 1,000,000% per year, Venezuela’s government was forced to redenominate the VEF by chopping off five zeros and launching the VES. This means each VES is worth 100,000 VEF. This was because buying groceries with the old fuerte had become an intensely arduous task and was rapidly getting worse; people had to take multiple bags loaded with cash to the store just to buy common food items. A cup of coffee worth less than USD 0.50 cost VEF 2.5 million.

The switch to the Sovereign Bolivar officially occurred during August 2018, and a currency switch like this causes widespread panic and fear. Venezuelans are choosing to offload their Bolivars for Bitcoin, since Bitcoin is far more stable and a much better currency. Venezuelans are forced to buy goods after work, whatever they can find, and trade them later for the goods they really want, since the Bolivar loses value so rapidly.

The trading on Localbitcoins, amounting to BTC 1,143 worth roughly USD 8 million, is probably just a small fraction of total Bitcoin volume in Venezuela. These volume numbers are just for Bitcoin traded via Localbitcoins escrow, many Localbitcoins deals occur outside of escrow, while lots of deals occur through Bitcoin dealers as well as other P2P trading platforms.

What can certainly be discerned from this data is that Venezuelans are buying Bitcoin faster than ever before, likely due to a lack of confidence in the newly released Sovereign Bolivar. Just because the Venezuelan government redenominated their currency doesn’t mean the situation is any better. The inflation rate will continue to accelerate as before and if projections come to fruition, the Sovereign Bolivar could be utterly worthless in less than a year.


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Venezuela Central Crypto Bank Next as IMF Predicts Million Percent Hyperinflation

It has been reported that there are new plans afoot for a Venezuelan central bank cryptocurrency along with a “superior court to the Supreme Court of Justice”.

According to Venezuela National Constituent Assembly member Hermann Escarra, the government is preparing to change the constitution to allow for the new crypto bank.

Venezuela’s crisis has steadily worsened as a result of lower oil prices, corruption, and a mismanaged socialist system, experiencing all but a total collapse of the economy, public services, security, and healthcare. In February, Venezuela launched its own Petro cryptocurrency backed by the country’s oil reserves.

Shopping bags made of the national currency the bolivar (VEF) are now being made in order to transport the notes, and a cup of coffee costs around VEF 2.2 million (around USD 0.50 at black market rates). For the same price, you can fill a small SUV with petrol almost 9,000 times.

The government continues to print money at an alarming rate with a current inflation rate of over 25,000%. The IMF predicts hyperinflation in Venezuela will reach a staggering one million per cent by the end of this year at the current rate, although this has been refuted as ludicrous by some economists. Economic meltdown and a recent assassination attempt on President Maduro just this weekend continue to paint a grim future for the South American oil-rich giant.

It is uncertain if a cryptocurrency-based central bank can do anything to help to at least alleviate some of the country’s extreme financial problems, particularly as the Petro has so far made little impact. It looks very much as though Venezuela has reached the “try anything” stage. Nonetheless, Escarra divulged the latest plan on Thursday:

“The National Constituent Assembly of Venezuela… is preparing a reform to the Constitution that would include a central bank for crypto-assets and a superior court to the Supreme Court of Justice… the draft changes to the Constitution will be presented in 35 days to the board of the Constituent Assembly.”

Maduro’s new “Bolivar Soberano” which is linked to the Petro is also ready for release on 20 August.


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Venezuela Ditching Bolivar Fuerte for Crypto-Backed Sovereign Bolivar

The Venezuelan government is ditching the Bolivar Fuerte fiat currency and replacing it with the Sovereign Bolivar on 20 August 2018, which will apparently be tied to Venezuela’s state cryptocurrency the Petro. This is due to extreme hyperinflation that has made the Bolivar Fuerte practically worthless, to the point that toilet paper is a far more ideal currency than the Bolivar Fuerte. The Bolivar Fuerte is expected to reach 1 million per cent annual inflation by the end of the year according to the International Monetary Fund. At this point the situation in Venezuela can be considered a currency collapse, like post WW1 Germany and more recently in Zimbabwe.

The Bolivar Fuerte replaced the Bolivar in 2008, with each Bolivar Fuerte being worth 1,000 Bolivars. The transition from Bolivar Fuerte to Sovereign Bolivar will be even more extreme, with each Sovereign Bolivar being worth 100,000 Bolivar Fuerte. Originally, the Sovereign Bolivar was going to be launched in June 2018 at a ratio of 1 to 1,000 Bolivar Fuerte, but was delayed.

There would be nothing to stop the Sovereign Bolivar from experiencing hyper-inflation like the Bolivar Fuerte or the Bolivar if nothing else was changed, but the Venezuelan government is trying something drastically new via anchoring the Sovereign Bolivar to Venezuela’s state-backed Petro cryptocurrency.

The President of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, says, “The economic reconversion will start on August 20 definitively with the circulation and issuance of the new Sovereign Bolivar, the new monetary cone that is going to have a new method of anchoring the Petro.”

Maduro goes on further to say that the Petro will be improved to proliferate globally. Technical details of the Petro are difficult to verify. It is supposed to be backed by Venezuelan oil, but it is unknown how exactly.

This marks the first time in history that a national fiat currency would be backed by a cryptocurrency. If everything is true regarding what Venezuela says about the Petro, then the Sovereign Bolivar would essentially be an oil-backed currency, which is another first. Details on how the Sovereign Bolivar will be anchored to the Petro have not been disclosed.


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Venezuela Targets Bank Accounts for Crypto Sold at “Speculative Prices”

The Venezuelan government has announced that it will start monitoring accounts of its nationals who conduct cryptocurrency transactions.

Vice President Tarek El Aissami explained that the government will start monitoring bank accounts for crypto-related transactions and will prosecute those trading them “at speculative prices,” according to

The new drive to monitor Venezuelan citizens’ bank accounts follows a previous plan called “Operation Paper Hands”, said to be the largest anti-litigation procedure in the country’s history. Venezuela’s Prosecutor General, Tarek William Saab commented that the action was planned “to take action against individuals and companies that have incurred misappropriation, and dissemination of false information about the exchange rate.”

The operation has resulted in 1,382 bank accounts being frozen, equating to 711,967 million bolivars ($10.6 mln) being blocked.

The following phase of the crackdown launched last week is called “Operation Metal Hands” which is now turning its focus towards cryptocurrencies. The government claims that Venezuelans have purchased gold from small mining operations, sold it outside of the country and then by using cryptocurrency transactions the sales have “hit the Venezuelan monetary system.”

Since the launch of Operation Paper Hands, two crypto exchange operators were shut down by the government, but this did little curb elicit trading. In response Vice President Tareck El Aissami authorized just three exchanges, based in Caracas to perform transactions, although the president himself had certified 16 other exchanges in April with the purpose of listing the Petro. It appears however that three new exchanges show no indication of trading in cryptocurrencies.

Bitcoin is now recognized as the only way of getting around the country’s currency controls, and bitcoin mining offers Venezuelans a chance to pay for good imported from overseas. Although the process is not sanctioned for individuals other than going through ‘official’ methods, residents are able to sidestep the government controls to buy foodstuffs from Florida and Miami by trading Bitcoin for bolivars, the local hyperinflated currency.

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Marshall Islands Is Officially Crypto Enabled

The Marshall Islands made its own cryptocurrency, doing away with the US dollar in March, but is unclear as yet if the island’s banking system is ready to adopt it, reports The Verge.

Politically, the Marshall Islands (RMI) is a presidential republic in free association with the United States, with the US providing defence, subsidies, and access to US-based agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission and the United States Postal Service.

Although the new cryptocurrency, the sovereign (SOV), has now officially displaced the US dollar as the official currency, it appears likely that the country’s 53,066 population will continue to use the dollar until banks and credit companies put in place a framework for the currency’s use.

“As a country, we reserve the right to issue a currency in whatever form it is, whether in digital or fiat form,” said David Paul, minister-in-assistance to the president of the Marshall Islands talking to Reuters earlier this year.

Hilda C Heine, the country’s president, was quoted in Finance Magnates as saying, “This is a historic moment for our people, finally issuing and using our own currency, alongside the USD. It is another step of manifesting our national liberty.” The new SOV will have multiple positives, she suggested:

“The RMI will invest the revenues to support its climate change efforts, green energy, healthcare for those still affected by the US nuclear tests, and education. In addition, SOV units will be directly distributed to citizens.”

Although the presale has not been announced officially as yet, the initial offering is reported to be capped at 24 million tokens as a precaution against inflation. The Marshall Islands now joins Venezuela which launched its own national cryptocurrency, the Petro, recently, mainly as a bridge across US sanctions, with US citizens under a presidential ban from investing in it. The bolivar is still in use in the hyperinflated nation.

Several governments, including China, Estonia, Iran, Sweden, and Russia have discussed plans for their own digital currency.


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