Trump Pumps Fake Oil Price Crisis While Strangling Venezuelan Exports

Donald Trump sent the oil market into a tailspin Monday with one tweet claiming oil prices are too high and blaming OPEC for it. Is Trump unaware that oil prices are a function of supply and demand? Or is he deliberately shifting the blame off his destructive embargo of Venezuela?

Though it is a fact that oil prices are at a three month high, “Oil prices are getting too high,” is merely Donald Trump’s opinion.

And calling the world “fragile” and suggesting higher oil prices would be some kind of catastrophe is an alarmist narrative.

Trump is Being a Drama Queen About Oil Prices

Trump’s overly-dramatic tweet fits in nicely with the Goldman Sachs report from earlier today predicting that Brent Crude oil will go even higher to $75/bbl before the end of the year.

But trying to scare up a panic over oil prices is a cry for attention from the sitting president, one that fits in with his television persona as a tough world negotiator.

That Goldman Sachs report also said the $70-$75/bbl trading range would be temporary:

“‘While prices could easily trade in a $70-$75/bbl trading range, we believe such an environment would likely prove fleeting,’ according to Goldman’s global head of commodities research Jeffrey Currie and senior commodity strategist Damien Courvalin.”

And oil prices are determined by supply and demand. So they’re not “too high,” as Donald Trump avers. They’re at the level that reflects supply and demand.

Oil Prices are Higher Because of Involuntary Supply Curbs in Libya and Nigeria

In Libya, the National Oil Corporation refuses to start production in the Sharara oil field, the North African country’s biggest. | Source: Wikimedia Commons

One reason oil prices are higher is because of involuntary supply curbs in socially and politically unstable Libya and Nigeria.

In Libya, the National Oil Corporation refuses to start production in the Sharara oil field, the North African country’s biggest.

The facilities were recently seized by a Libyan militia group, and the oil company’s chairman says the militia has “committed violent and terrorizing acts against workers.”

In Nigeria, contentious political elections underway now have dampened the country’s oil production. Western military interventions have destabilized both countries.

Libya and Nigeria Are Both Obama and Clinton’s Fault

The Obama administration’s regime change intervention in 2011 is partly to blame for the oil crisis. | Source: U.S. Navy

That includes a bill signed by President Obama in 2016 to station U.S. military boots on the ground in Nigeria, stirring up more armed conflict there.

It also includes the Obama administration’s 2011 regime change intervention in Libya, backed by British and French intelligence, as well as U.S. air power.

The result was an unmitigated catastrophe of violent civil disorder, warring factions, and a deluge of new terrorist recruitment, training, and planning in the power vacuum left by the relatively stable, secular government of Muammar Gaddafi.

What makes the intervention in Libya all the more baffling is what a close partner Gaddafi had been with both the Bush and Obama administrations in the Global War on Terror/Overseas Contingency Operation after 9-11.

So the previous administration and both major political parties in Washington deserve their share of the blame for the 300,000 barrels a day that aren’t pumping through Sharara.

Venezuela is Trump and Bolton’s Fault

Nicolas Maduro Petro
Donald Trump himself is to blame for high oil prices, given his administration’s intervention in Venezuela. | Source: Shutterstock

Oil prices are also higher than they would have been otherwise as a result of Donald Trump’s own half-baked geopolitical interventions as president of the United States.

Most notably, the White House blockaded oil shipments to and from Venezuela with an embargo on Venezuelan oil last month.

In a research note Monday, Goldman Sachs said the disruption in oil supply from Trump’s embargo on Venezuela is likely to reach as high as 300,000 bbl/d in the coming months:

“While the decline in net exports has been softened so far by the use of domestic light crude for blending, we believe Venezuelan disruptions are likely to accelerate in coming months to potentially 200-300 kb/d if no political resolution occurs.”

At today’s OPEC Reference Basket price of $66/bbl, that’s $6.8 billion worth of oil annually that Donald Trump is personally responsible for keeping stuck in Venezuela.

So if the world is really so fragile that it can’t take an oil price hike, then instead of telling OPEC to loosen up and take it easy, Donald Trump should take it easy on Venezuela.

Donald Trump Image from AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON


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Author: Wes Messamore
Image Credit: Source: AFP PHOTO / JIM WATSON

Venezuelan Government Decrees Crypto Operators to Pay Taxes in Cryptocurrency

On Monday, the Venezuelan government published the official gazette No. 6,420 dated December 28, which contains a decree No. 3,719 that points towards new tax payment rules for cryptocurrency users. Dinero publication stated that:

“The government of President Nicolás Maduro published a decree that will require taxpayers who carry out operations in foreign currencies or cryptocurrencies to pay their taxes in that same currency and not in bolivars.”

The decree also stated:

“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 in charge of the execution of the decree which is in effect, at the time of press.

The Article one of the decree notes that taxpayers in Venezuela who carry out operations in cryptocurrencies or any foreign currency authorized by the law must “determine and pay [their tax] obligations in a foreign currency or cryptocurrency”.

The decree enlists two exemptions; transactions of securities traded on a stock exchange and the export of goods and services carried out by public bodies or entities. The decree also mentioned that the tax refunds for cases established in the decree will be made in the national currency and not otherwise.

Maracaibo Municipality in Zulia state clarified that it will use the national cryptocurrency, the petro for the calculation of business tax, reported the publication. There was confusion amongst the residents as they thought it meant for non-cryptocurrency users to also pay their taxes in petro.

The intendant of Servicio Desconcentrado de Administración Tributaria [Sedemat], Jean Carlos Martínez clarified to Noticia al Dia publication, a local publication that “taxpayers will not be charged taxes in petros.” He further added:

“We are using the value of the petro as a reference unit to be able to determine the minimum tax since the ordinance of the current economic unit is still stipulated in percentages of gross income.”

He also clarified that the national cryptocurrency, petro has two values, 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.

The decree also mentions that the payment of taxes will be carried out depending on the economic activity of each company or microenterprise. Martinez was quoted in the publication saying:

“If someone had transactions in petro, bitcoin or other currency, [they] should declare [their income] according to the currency that [they] manage.”


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Author: Namrata Shukla
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Russia Will Buy $10 Billion in Bitcoin, Ditch US Dollar and Become Huge Crypto Whale: Russian Economist

According to a new claim from a Russian economist, the world’s 12th largest economy is about to pour $10 billion into Bitcoin.

Vladislav Ginko, a lecturer at Moscow’s Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, says US sanctions are forcing Russia to diversify.

 Ginko told the Australian crypto outlet Micky that at this point, he believes Russia has no other option.

“US sanctions may be mitigated only through Bitcoin use. Because of US sanctions, Russia’s elite is forced to dump US assets and US dollars and invest hugely into Bitcoins. The Central Bank of Russia sits on $466 billion of reserves and has to diversify in case there is limited opportunities to do it.”

A new report from Forbes highlights the impact that US sanctions are having on Russia.

“Sanctions and isolation are having an impact on the Russian economy. Although Russia is not a big exporter to the U.S., canceled energy and defense contracts in Europe coupled with bans on financing Russia’s key lenders have had an impact on the economy. What else can explain the lackluster growth story in the country since 2014? Even higher oil prices have done little to lift the Russian economy.”

In July, the state-sponsored Russian news outlet RT said President Vladimir Putin gave a speech highlighting the need for alternative reserve currencies in global trade.

“Regarding our American partners placing limitations, including those on dollar transactions, I believe is a big strategic mistake. By doing so, they are undermining the trust in the dollar as a reserve currency.”

At that time, Putin said Russia has no plans to stop using the US dollar unless it is prevented from doing so.

In Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro announced that the country’s newly created digital asset, the Petro, is an official government currency. The Petro is supposedly backed by the country’s oil reserves. After its launch, US President Donald Trump prohibited Americans from investing in it, claiming it was designed to avoid US sanctions.


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Author: Daily Hodl Staff
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Flash Crypto Offering New “Human ATM” Feature

Scrypt-based crypto asset Flash is releasing a new “human ATM” functionality in regions of Africa and South America that have seen their national fiat currencies fall victim to inflation. The function will provide peer-to-peer trading in countries like Venezuela that have little to no access to traditional banking services and must instead rely on cryptocurrencies to provide for their people.

Human ATM is available through Flash’s mobile wallet. In addition, Flash offers applications that allow customers to house multiple cryptocurrencies from bitcoin and Litecoin to Dash and Ethereum. At press time, as many as 800 different merchants throughout Africa will adopt Flash in the coming months, according to the company’s marketing director James Hinton.

Providing Crypto to Everyone Who Needs It

The human ATM feature allows customers to load maps of individuals offering in-person trades via their mobile phones. People can purchase or sell their cryptocurrencies in person, then have the units transferred to phone-specific wallets. The service will allegedly give all users in countries like Venezuela 24-7 access to cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ether.

At the time of writing, Flash is supported by several small cryptocurrency exchanges, though it has garnered the attention of larger ventures like the Einstein Exchange in Canada. The currency also boasts over 600,000 active addresses around the world.

Flash was built with the unbanked in mind, though other applications offer similar features. As Flash allows one to keep multiple forms of crypto, Coindex allows users to keep track of their full crypto portfolios. The platform provides mobile users with a dashboard that combines all their wallets into one space, so they can see the progress of their crypto investments and better understand their financial gains. Users can also pre-select specific coins they’re potentially interested in to see how their prices are performing.

Lastly, the application also informs users of any forthcoming or ongoing initial coin offerings (ICOs).

Connecting Crypto to the World

In a related story, Flash has also announced a recent partnership with Crowdforce, based in the African nation of Seychelles.

Crowdforce provides cryptocurrency-based payment options to over 8,000 separate vendors, meaning all registered companies have the option of providing Flashcoin payments to their employees.


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Author: Nick Marinoff
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Dash Aids Venezuelan Adoption As 66,000 KRIP Phones Sold in 4 Months

Dash has recorded yet another adoption milestone driven by special circumstances in Venezuela, with the sale of more than 66,000 KRIP mobile phones that are designed with special cryptocurrency enhancements optimised for the Dash ecosystem. According to the company, from launch in August 2018 to present, the vast majority of the devices have been sold in Venezuela, making it by far the world’s biggest market for the cryptocurrency-enabled phones.

It will be recalled that in August, CCN reported that Dash signed a deal with Kripto Mobile Corporation (KRIP), a South American company that manufactures mobile phones that come pre-equipped with the Dash ecosystem, Dash wallets and the Bitrefill app. According to Dash CEO Ryan Taylor, the deal was expected to bring the Dash ecosystem to more than 10,000 new Venezuelan users every month – a target that has been significantly exceeded with the sale of 53,000 phones in a little over three months.

Dash/Kripto Mobile Partnership Bears Fruits

Information provided to CCN shows that of the 66,000 KRIP K1 phones sold wholesale and shipped under the terms of the Dash partnership, more than 53,000 have been sent to Venezuela alone as consumers and retailers in the country increasingly look to cryptocurrency adoption as the solution to dealing with non-availability of hard currency and hyperinflation which has rendered the Bolivar all but worthless.

Giving the partnership another dimension, Dash and Kripto Mobile have also partnered with DiscoverDash.com, a global Dash merchant directory to develop a mobile app version of the website which has been included in all existing and future KRIP smartphones. The implication of this is that in addition to having access tot he Dash ecosystem, users will also be able to locate and browse through merchants that accept Dash in their locality.

Commenting on the news coming out of Venezuela, Dash Core Group Global Head of Business Development Bradley Zastrow said:

Our focus since the launch of our KRIP phones in August has been to make this incredible Dash ecosystem as complete and inclusive as possible. That we have already sold and shipped over 66,000 phones in only two and a half months clearly shows we are achieving those goals. Now, with Dash Text and the DiscoverDash.com app, we’re expanding our partnership and enhancing the user experience, making it easier than ever before for the Venezuela community to use and transact in Dash in their everyday lives.

After Venezuela, Dash Targets Latin America

Dash has made no secret of its intention to use Venezuela as a staging point to expand adoption across the region, and to this end Dash Text is explicitly identified as a key part of its Latin America strategy. In November, CCN reported that Dash Text provides an SMS-based cryptocurrency transaction service for Venezuelan users, cutting out the need for smartphones or high speed internet connections in a country with just 41 percent smartphone penetration.

All KRIP K1 phones come with a suite of Dash ecosystem apps designed to make a 360-degree Dash transaction experience possible. These apps include Dash wallet for custody, Bitrefill for spending Dash and Uphold for buying Dash. According to information provided by Zastrow, this strategy is proving successful with some strong results recorded since launch in August.

Zastrow revealed that first time Dash wallet downloads in September and October increased by 23 percent over the corresponding figures for July and August. He also revealed that there has been increased volume driven to Bitrefill and Uphold, along with a new retention increase after 15 days.

In his reaction to the news, KRIP Venezuela Marketing Manager Andrea Coll said:

The results to date have been exceptional, and we’re thrilled to now build on that success by expanding to now include Dash Text and DiscoverDash.com. These phones provide users around Latin America with an affordable way to acquire and use cryptocurrency for everyday transactions, like buying groceries or sharing money with family. Dash’s InstantSend feature and low transaction costs makes using cryptocurrency easy and efficient for users, and will help build momentum for cryptocurrency as a viable and stable alternative method of payment.


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Author: David Hundeyin
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Venezuela to Present Petro Crypto to OPEC as a Unit of Oil

The Venezuelan government is reportedly going to present its oil-backed cryptocurrency, the Petro, to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) as a unit of account for oil.

According to local news outlet Telesur, the country’s petroleum minister and the president of state-run oil and natural gas company PDVSA, Manuel Quevedo, stated that Petro transactions will begin in the “first semester of 2019.”

On social media, PDVSA further revealed Quevedo claimed the Petro is the future of the Venezuelan economy, and that “growth and economic prosperity are equal to the Petro.” As CCN covered earlier this year Daniel Peña, the executive secretary of Venezuela’s Blockchain Observatory, told the Cuatro F newspaper he expected the cryptocurrency to positively impact the economy within “three to six months.”

Quevedo, while speaking at the headquarters of the National Superintendence of Cryptoassets and Related Activities (Sunacrip), an organization created to “regulate the activities that are executed by natural and/or legal persons connect to cryptoasset,” stated:

“We will use Petro in OPEC as a solid and reliable currency to market our crude in the world… We are going for growth and economic prosperity of our country giving a hand to the future since the Petro is a currency that is backed by mineral resources.”

Quevedo further emphasized the Petro is part of the country’s economic recovery plan, and as such all oil-based products are set to be commercialized in Petros. At the end of his speech, he called on all companies interested in working with him to “join his platform.”

The Venezuelan government has notably been pushing the Petro’s use. As recently reported, after bankrupting Venezuela the country’s leader, Nicolas Maduro, decided to launch a Petro savings plan that’s set to be available for 18 million Venezuelans.

The oil-backed cryptocurrency was first put for sale to the country’s residents on October 31, and can currently be purchased with cryptocurrencies like bitcoin and ethereum – but not with the country’s fiat currency, the bolivar.

Despite the government’s push, the Petro is a controversial cryptocurrency that has been criticized by the opposition in the country, and by other international organizations. CCN looked at the cryptocurrency’s whitepaper and found it appears to be a ‘blatant’ copy of Dash.

Meanwhile, Venezuelans in the country have been using cryptocurrencies to survive the government’s failures. So much so that bitcoin trading volumes in the hyperinflation-struck country recently hit record highs.


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Author: Francisco Memoria
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Dash Launches Text-Based Crypto Payment Service in Venezuela

Crypto project Dash has announced the launch of Dash Text, an SMS-based cryptocurrency transaction service for Venezuelan users, as it builds on its already strong presence in the crypto dependent country. In an announcement released this week, the company said that Dash Text eliminates the need for Venezuelan users to possess smartphones and internet access to carry out crypto transactions, which has historically been a significant barrier to adoption in the impoverished country suffering from hyperinflation.

Driven by several months of hyperinflation which have rendered the bolivar practically worthless, Venezuelans have increasingly turned to cryptocurrencies as a solution, as has been illustrated by a series of well-publicised incidents.

Dash is looking to build on the success it has recorded in cashing in on the trend by targeting millions of Venezuelans who are not able to partake in the crypto economy because they do not own smartphones or they cannot access the internet. The solution to this problem was built in partnership with BlockCypher, which specializes in blockchain solutions and blockchain agnostic products that enable users to engage with multiple cryptocurrencies through one platform.

DASH/USD | Bittrex

Currently in beta testing, Dash Text will enable users of Movistar and Digitel — Venezuela’s largest telecom providers — to access Dash services via a simple five-digit shortcode.

Speaking about the unique demand that gave rise to Dash Text, Bradley Zastrow, Global Head of Business Development at Dash Core, said:

“Venezuelans living abroad send an estimated $2 billion USD back home in remittances. This process often takes too long and costs too much, making it a huge pain point for many users. With Dash Text, we are providing real solutions that address real problems. People need easy and cheap ways to send money home, and we’ve done it in a way that expands the Dash ecosystem to those without smartphones! Dash Text offers the perfect solution to ensure that everyone can become part of the Dash family, regardless of what phone people own.”

According to the announcement, to get registered on Dash Text, users should send an SMS with the word “DASH” to 22625, followed by another SMS with the word “CREAR,” which will create their Dash wallet. Once this is done, users will be able to send and receive Dash seamlessly via SMS, which could potentially be huge for the sizable population of Venezuelans who use feature phones or lack reliable internet access.

It will be recalled that in August, CCN reported that Dash recorded a sharp price and volume increase as a result of its successful adoption push in Venezuela which saw it sign up several prominent retailers across the country. It also penned a deal with Kripto Mobile, a maker of mobile phones that are pre-equipped with Dash wallets in a deal that was predicted to make the cryptocurrency’s monthly user growth rise to 10,000.


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Author: David Hundeyin
Image Credit: Charts from TradingView.

Soaring Inflation Sends Bitcoin Trading Volume to [Another] New High in Venezuela

The amount of Venezuelan bolivars being spent to purchase bitcoin has risen to record levels as the South American country experiences unprecedented hyperinflation and a worsening economic crisis.

Per Coin Dance, bitcoins worth nearly 900 million bolivars have been traded so far this week in Venezuela, and this is already higher than last’s week volume of slightly over 850 million bolivars.

Source: Coin Dance

However, this spike in volume cannot be wholly-attributed to the rapid devaluation of the bolivar. Last week also saw the highest number of bitcoins traded in the Latin American country, with residents trading 1,089 BTC worth a present value of $7.1 million on the platform. The record could be broken again as already 955 bitcoins have been traded this week so far. The second half of September also saw bitcoin trading volumes breach a high that had only been reached for the first time last April.

Source: Coin Dance

Seven-Digit Inflation Figures

Venezuela’s growing bitcoin trading market comes at a time when the International Monetary Fund is projecting that the rate of inflation will reach 1,370,000 percent in the Latin American country by the close of this year.

Only three months ago, the international financial institution had forecast an inflation rate of 1,000,000 percent,  but in the intervening period, the government raised the minimum wage 60-fold even as the economy contracted, forcing the revision. Next year, the IMF expects the inflation rate to hit 10 million percent.

Among other reasons, the stratospheric level of inflation could be one of the factors causing an increase in bitcoin trading volumes in the South American country since the maximum supply of the flagship cryptocurrency is capped, making it deflationary.

Petro’s Public Sale

Notably, the expansion in bitcoin trading volumes is coming less than three weeks before the launch of the public sale of Venezuela’s state-backed cryptocurrency, the Petro. As previously reported by CCN, the Petro will be purchased using both the leading cryptocurrencies as well as fiat currencies when the public sale kicks off next month.

“If you have bitcoins you can buy Petros, if you have Ethereum you can buy Petros, if you have dollars or euros you can buy Petros. And from November 5, the Petro … will go on sale to the Venezuelan public in sovereign bolivars,” said Maduro during a television interview last month.

To increase the adoption rate of the Petro, the Venezuelan government earlier this month mandated that all passport fees be paid using the state-backed cryptocurrency. Skeptics also saw the move as aimed at discouraging Venezuelans from leaving the country as emigration has rapidly increased in the face of worsening economic problems in the country.


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Author: Mark Emem
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Venezuelans Must Now Pay Passport Fees with the Government’s Petro Cryptocurrency

Starting next week, Venezuelans will have to pay their passport fees with the petro, the controversial state-supported cryptocurrency that is allegedly backed by oil. This was announced in a press conference on Friday, Oct. 5, by the country’s vice president, Delcy Rodriguez, ahead of the coin’s official launch in November. This follows a similar press release by President Nicolas Maduro, who stated that oil purchases will now be made with petros (PTR).

According to Rodriguez, new passports will cost two petros, while extensions can be purchased half that. Bloomberg reports that the new registration price is four times the monthly minimum wage (around 7,200 bolivars), which takes it out of the hands of the average Venezuelan. The enforcement of the new rules will make it even more difficult for Venezuelans to travel out of the country. For Venezuelans living abroad, the cost for new issuance will be $200 while extensions will be $100.

Venezuela has been battling with hyperinflation since 2014, which saw its national currency — the bolivar — depreciate rapidly in value. Needing a currency to fill the void created by the bolivar, some Venezuelans switched to cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and later, dash, which became arguably more reliable as a store of value and medium of exchange, to combat the side effects of the rampant inflation and the nosediving bolivar.

Seeing the remarkable ascendancy that cryptocurrencies were enjoying, especially dash, the Venezuelan government decided to issue an oil-backed cryptocurrency, the petro, in Dec. 2017.

While the creation of the state-backed cryptocurrency has created a more favorable environment for non-centralized tokens to flourish in the country, it has also come with all forms of oppositions and controversies.

In an earlier announcement last week, the Venezuelan President had claimed that petro would be listed on the six major crypto exchanges for trading, but this hasn’t stopped it from courting controversy. Following the announcement, ethereum core developer Joey Zhou shared a tweet in which he called the state-owned cryptocurrency a “blatant dash clone,” at least according to its whitepaper.

Adoption for dash has, however, been on the increase, so much that Ryan Taylor, CEO of Dash Core Group, called the country the second largest market for dash.


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Author: Jimmy Aki
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Bitcoin Trading Volumes in Hyperinflation-Struck Venezuela Hits Record Highs

As the economic crisis in Venezuela worsens leading to a growing exodus of citizens out of the country, the demand for bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies has exploded.

According to Coin Dance, Venezuelans traded bitcoins worth nearly 300 million bolivars last week and the record could be broken again as so far this week bitcoin worth more than 292 million bolivars has already been traded. This is in continuation of a trend on the BTC/VES pair that began earlier in the year.

The worsening economic conditions have resulted in reports of Venezuelans fleeing the country in large numbers on foot and by bus after finding life intolerable in the socialist country. Per statistics from the International Organization for Migration, since 2015 around 1.6 million have fled and the number is still rising. Most of them have fled to other South American countries such as Colombia, Peru, Brazil and Argentina.

95% Devaluation

Besides an increase in demand for bitcoins as a hedge against the high inflationary conditions in the country, part of the reason for the record trading volumes in the BTC/VES pair has to do with the devaluation of the currency a few weeks ago. On August 10, five zeros were stripped off from the country’s currency after inflation levels that had risen to stratospheric levels, as CCN reported. However, this seems not to have solved matters as already the inflation rate is estimated to have reached a 100% even though the ‘new’ Venezuelan currency is less than two months old, per Bloomberg.

Other than devaluing the currency by 95% and renaming it the sovereign bolivar, Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro also announced that the bolivar would be pegged to the Petro cryptocurrency which was unveiled earlier in the year. This was in the hopes of circumventing sanctions and gaining access to international finance besides bringing the persistent hyperinflation under control.

Low Uptake

Adoption of the petro cryptocurrency has, however, been low amidst wide skepticism with some questioning whether it exists at all. Despite this the government has soldiered on making efforts to boost the cryptocurrency by, for instance, decreeing that it would be the official currency of Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PDVSA), the state oil company. Maduro has also pushed for the Petro to become the second unit of account, as CCN reported in late August.

“As of next Monday, Venezuela will have a second accounting unit based on the price, the value of the petro,” Maduro remarked on national television. “It will be a second accounting unit of the Republic and will begin operations as a mandatory accounting unit of our PDVSA oil industry.”


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Author: Mark Emem
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