Maduro Aims to Drive Petro Use by Blocking LocalBitcoins

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Entering his second term as president of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro is well known for his strong stance against Bitcoin following his decision to make his own government-backed cryptocurrency. Maduro even changed the banking laws in the country to force banks to disclose any clients that are suspected of buying Bitcoins, while any attempts to access banking from outside the country will not be permitted unless travel is pre-notified. In this latest twist of bizarre events, it appears as if Maduro temporarily managed to get LocalBitcoins blocked in Venezuela, however the service now appears to be back to normal in the country.

LocalBitcoins is a Saving Grace

For those citizens trapped in Venezuela and facing hyperinflation, cryptocurrency appears to be the only way out. Bitcoin quickly became a favorite, but with no local exchanges available, locals had to turn to LocalBitcoins in order to get their hands on Bitcoin. It’s essentially a platform where people can post sell orders and buy orders for Bitcoin without an exchange in the middle – think of it like eBay for Bitcoin. Trade volume from Venezuela on LocalBitcoins has been going through the roof since the Petro was introduced, and fears that Maduro could end this party are starting to sink in.

Petro or Nothing is the State Message

Maduro’s government is so determined to make the dodgy cryptocurrency work that it’s not giving locals a choice. The government automatically converted all pensions into Petro and now only accepts Petro for passport applications and renewals. This is forcing Venezuelans more and more down the path of having to use the dodgy cryptocurrency – something Maduro is very proud of. This forced usage pumps up the stats of the cryptocurrency, helping to semi-legitimize it on the few crypto exchanges that have Petro trading pairs.

Bitcoin ATM is On the Way

In preparation for the worst-case scenario, Cryptobuyer – a Panama based crypto ATM provider – is working on installing Venezuela’s first Bitcoin ATM in the country’s capital. Set to go live in two weeks, Venezuelans in Caracas will have full access to the ATM in order to buy Bitcoin without the need for consulting their bank or masking their IP. Venezuelans will be able to walk up to the ATM, put cash into the machine and scan a QR code to receive their Bitcoin. It’s unclear as to how long this ATM will last before Maduro and his armed forces remove the ATM and destroy it, but for the time being the ATM will be a god-send for those trapped in the country.
The situation in Venezuela is becoming dire, forcing many to flee the country while they still can. Maduro’s reign of terror is far from over, and as he clamps down on other cryptos, the Petro appears to be the only way out for millions of people.