Venezuela’s Bitcoin purchasing has been breaking record after record in recent weeks, despite the government’s insistence that the national cryptocurrency, the Petro, be the main currency in the country. Data from Coin Dance shows that on Bitcoin trading website Localbitcoins alone, the volume of Bitcoin for bolivar has broken the weekly volume record it set just two weeks ago, with 1,075 Bitcoin changing hands in the seven days to November 3, equal to almost $7 million, which is impressive considering the government’s attempts to marginalize non-Petro cryptocurrencies.
A Clear Message to the President
Viewed in isolation this record-breaking week is impressive, but the overall trend for 2018 is where the real action is found. At the start of the year only 157 Bitcoin per week were changing hands on Localbitcoins, increasing on a regular basis until last week’s all-time high, representing a staggering 584% increase over the year. The trend since August has been particularly telling, with only two of the past nine weeks’ purchasing levels not being record-breaking ones. The level of uptake in Bitcoin this year represents an incredible reaction to the measures taken by Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro to enforce Petro adoption after the disastrous hyperinflation of the bolivar.
Venezuela’s Cryptocurrency Boom
Venezuela has seen cryptocurrency adoption skyrocket in recent months, with Dash as well as Bitcoin being used instead of the Petro or the bolivar. Maduro has been trying various tactics to force residents to use the Petro, from changing bank laws to prevent customers buying other cryptocurrencies, to forcing citizens who wish to buy a Venezuelan passport to do so with the Petro.
Cryptocurrencies have a history of performing their original intended function as a substitute currency, first doing so during the Cyprus banking crisis of 2013 and offering a financial lifeline to residents of Zimbabwe, Argentina, and Venezuela since then. It shows that they can play an important part in protecting citizens from financially irresponsible or oppressive regimes.