As digital currency gains popularity in Latin America, Venezuela is one of the latest countries where ordinary consumers and businesses are turning to Bitcoin in the face of political instability and economic collapse.
Sinking under 98.3% inflation and economic ruin, the country’s minimum wage even places citizens under the poverty line. High unemployment figures and hyper-inflated food prices are among the huge concerns faced by Venezuelans everyday.
Citizens are therefore looking for ways to protect what remains of their personal wealth. While the majority of Venezuelans remain unaware of Bitcoin, intellectuals and industry experts are pushing to educate their peers of its benefits.
The populist Venezuelan government is picking up on this growing support for Bitcoin over the country’s own volatile currency, the Bolivar. Instead of actively engaging and learning from the trend to try and restore confidence in the Bolivar, the government has decided to publish articles through its state-backed media outlets which criticise the cryptocurrency. The texts discredit Bitcoin as a currency used solely by criminals and terrorist organisations who are its ‘main activists and advocates.’
A write-up published this week by government-backed broadcaster Corporación Venezolana de Televisión (VTV), titled ‘Bitcoin: The cybercrime system’ [Spanish], reads: ‘Is it a coincidence that the criminal and terrorist groups around the world, are the principal activists and advocates of Bitcoin? / this digital currency is not supported by any institution or country and is used to pay illegal transactions.’
The propaganda continues to dismiss the views offered by economists and crypto experts: ‘Some media, technology experts and ‘’scholar’ economists, have defended the use of Bitcoin over recent years, ignoring all of the related risks, not only is it illegal, it is also the preferred system of cybercriminals…it facilitates transactions from criminal groups and terrorists, which affect the peace, political stability and economies of many countries around the world.’
Last month Venezuela was positioned number one in Bloomberg’s list of the world’s most miserable economies for 2016, quoting that a ‘dinner for two at a nice restaurant might demand more than a month’s worth of minimum wage.’