Coinbase CEO Tackles Challenges of Sending Bitcoin and Crypto to Crisis-Ridden Venezuela
Venezuela is in the throws of political and economic turmoil that has plunged the country into hyperinflation and an ongoing humanitarian crisis. Another round of power cuts began on Monday, blanketing Venezuela in a new nationwide black-out that’s affecting hospitals, water plants, public transport and other services, and leaving people without food or medicine.
Brian Armstrong, the CEO of cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, mapped out the recent challenges of trying to send aid to Venezuela through his initiative GiveCrypto.org.
“A long ways to go still, but starting to gather some data. Thank you to everyone who donated to make it possible.
Getting a store set up that accepts crypto in close proximity to recipients seems to help. Also, we had to build a new version of
@CoinbaseWallet that runs on Android 4.x since 75%+ of recipients in Venezuela are still running this version of Android from 2012.
The intermittent power outages we did not anticipate. Crypto still needs internet and electricity to function, although there are some potential relay type solutions in low connectivity environments that we could try in the future.
We need to find a scalable way to get evidence of impact, and try to measure fraud. @joewaltman and team have gotten some good advice from the awesome folks at @GiveWell.
Would like to be very data driven and not assume anything about impact until we see evidence. Still very much an experiment.”
The experiment highlights a current drawback of cryptocurrencies: their dependence on electricity.
— Annika H Rothstein (@truthandfiction) March 25, 2019
— Sputnik Insight (@Sputnik_Insight) March 28, 2019
As the US eyes secondary sanctions against Venezuela, Russia is reportedly training Venezuelan pilots on how to fly Russian-made Mi-family helicopters.
While opposition leader and president of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, claimed victory on Friday to end the reign of embattled Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro, the power struggle continues.
Civilians wait for Juan Guaido at San Antonio, the last meeting point of Guaido's tour during today's protests across #venezuela
— Amir Richani (@amir_richani) March 30, 2019
With Guaidó attempting to assume power, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) expects clear access to roads and says it will start helping roughly 650,000 within the next two weeks.
Debemos organizar los Comités de Ayuda y Libertad en cada comunidad para conformar cada espacio de protesta.
— Juan Guaidó (@jguaido) March 30, 2019
For many, waiting until mid-April for aid isn’t feasible. According to a Bloomberg report, Venezuelans are traveling on foot to escape the political turmoil.
“They’re called “los caminantes”—the walkers—the Venezuelans so poor and so desperate to flee their country’s humanitarian crisis that they set off on foot to surrounding nations in search of work. Their journey may only take them to Cucuta, the Colombian town just across the border, or as far south as Buenos Aires, some 5,000 miles from Caracas.
And while most of them manage to hitch rides for parts of the trek, they will have no choice but to hoof it for hours and, at times, days on end, through what can be brutal conditions—the bitter cold of the Andes and the searing heat of the tropical savanna. One dreaded spot alone, the Paramo de Berlin, a frigid, wind-swept highland in northern Colombia that soars some 12,000 feet into the sky, is reported to have claimed several lives.”
Meanwhile, Maduro has reportedly allowed 65 tons of medical aid from China to enter the country.