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Cryptocurrency: "At least I have a chance with Bitcoins!"

2019-04-01 | 日記

The economist Carlos Hernández (26) lives in Caracas and writes as a freelance journalist much for US media. If, however, he kept his savings in the local currency of Bolívar, that would be "financial suicide" given the galloping inflation. Therefore, he tries to convince his clients to pay him in bitcoins. The interview, which appeared in the latest issue of Technology Review, was emailed because frequent power outages made a phone call impossible.

How do you get cash in Venezuela at the moment?
Carlos Hernández: Access to cash has been a problem for years. The banknote with the highest value of 500 Bolívar is just 15 cents worth. However, most ATMs do not work, and no shop accepts small banknotes. My debit card in turn often does not work in the supermarkets. Not only do I have to go to many stores to find products like coffee or milk, but also to find one where I can pay.

Why is the situation better with Bitcoins?
So at least I have a chance to survive in the competition for ever-shrinking goods.

What do you have to do to exchange bitcoins in Bolívars?
I have my bitcoins at, which is a peer-to-peer exchange, so users are doing business with each other, much like eBay. Have I found someone who is with the same bank as me - so that the transfer passes immediately -, I make an offer. If the buyer responds quickly, it only takes five minutes.

And how do you get to the bitcoins?
The easiest way is to convince an employer to pay me in bitcoins - or any other cryptocurrency. Because Venezuelan banks accept only Bolívars. It's really crazy what we've come up with to avoid currency control. I tried PayPal first. From Venezuela, however, it is difficult to get a PayPal account, because you need a US bank account. Big companies also expect me to have one. It only worked by showing a friend's account in the US and he signed a document confirming that he was getting the dollars for me. Then he transfers the money from his PayPal account to mine.

In the meantime, I've discovered financial services provider Payoneer, which provides a US bank account, and use it for large companies that do not use bitcoins. The problem then, however, is to convert Payoneer or PayPal money into Bolívars. I would lose a lot. So I can not spend this money while living in Venezuela.

What do people who are not familiar with Bitcoin technologies so well?
In fact, there is a kind of arms race among the cryptocurrencies in Venezuela to see who can offer the most reliable and easiest method for their use. Digital purses are very easy to use nowadays. The hard part is the exchange in Bolívars and back again. There is no lack of guidance for these technologies, but cryptocurrencies can be very intimidating to most. But most people are simply too poor to afford a smartphone or to buy credit. After all, sometimes something as simple as cold medicine is missing here. Then we have to settle for a hot lemonade, use medicinal plants that we pull at home, or just wait for the cold to pass. But there are diseases that are hard to wait for, and that's really scary. Food and drug shortages are my biggest concerns as a Venezuelan.

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