Tag Archives: Venezuela

Reality Check: Will U.S. Use “Humanitarian Aid” As Justification for Regime Change in Venezuela?

Is the U.S. military under the Trump administration about to forcibly create regime change in Venezuela?

For months I have been saying that would not happen but now, all signs seem to be pointing to this reality.  Will the U.S. claim, just like we did in Libya, that a humanitarian crisis is underway and that a military intervention is the only way to protect the people of Venezuela?

I’ll explain in this reality check you won’t get anywhere else.

Venezuela’s Currency Plunges to One-Seventh the Value of World of Warcraft Gold

Venezuela’s ongoing, years-long financial crisis has continued to worsen, and the socialist nation’s real-world official currency, the bolívar, has plunged in a state of hyperinflation to around one-seventh the effective trade value of in-game digital gold from the massively-multiplayer online role-playing game World of Warcraft.

According to analysis by Fortune‘s Chris Morris, in terms of trade value in US dollars, World of Warcraft gold is worth 6.8 times more than the bolívar.

“Here’s how the math works out. Per Google, one U.S. dollar is worth 68,915 bolívar. Compare that to the price of WoW tokens, official in-game credits that can be used to extend a player’s play time or buy in-game items. Tokens can be bought with either $20 real world cash or sold for a fluctuating amount of in-game gold. One tracking service lists the current gold price of a token as 203,035 pieces. That works out to about 10,152 gold gaming pieces per USD,” wrote Morris.

It is worth noting that since Morris published his analysis on Monday, the bolívar’s official exchange rate has already dropped further against the dollar. One dollar is as of press time today worth 69,913 bolívar.

However, Venezuela’s government has enacted strict currency controls, limiting the ability of individuals to convert their bolívar into foreign currencies. For situations such as when companies need to import materials from other countries in order to produce goods, limits on currency conversion can hamstring their ability to produce goods, creating a significant demand for foreign currency exchanges on the black market. This causes the value of the bolívar to plunge even further in real-world terms.

Dolar Today, a currency valuation resource that factors black market value in its valuation of Venezuela’s currency, notes that the black market exchange rate for one U.S. dollar is 661,824 bolívar as of press time. At this valuation, World of Warcraft gold is actually worth 65 times more than the Venezuelan currency.

Venezuela has been in an ongoing financial crisis since 2012. Despite the fact that it has the world’s largest documented oil reserves, Forbes notes that Huge Chavez’ 2007 nationalization of the nation’s oil industry correlated with an oil production drop of 20 percent by the start of the 2012 financial crisis.

Reuters notes that 90 percent of Venezuelans currently live in poverty, and the average Venezuelan lost 24 pounds in body weight in 2017 due to hunger. A Miami Herald report found that significant numbers of Venezuelans with professional careers such as doctors and teachers have been crossing the border to Colombia to exchange sexual services for money in order to survive. According to The Washington Post, Venezuelans are applying for asylum to other countries at explosive rates not seen since the Syrian refugee crisis in 2015.

In a recent episode of Reality Check, Ben Swann explained Venezuela launching its own national cryptocurrency, the petro, and the issues arising from digital currency that is rooted in government rather than fully decentralized.



Seventh Dash Conference Hosted in Venezuela

(DFN) The seventh Dash conference was hosted in Venezuela and fetched over 600 people in attendance who wanted to learn more about how cryptocurrency, in particular Dash, can benefit their lives.

The Dash conferences have grown from around 140 Venezuelans in the first conference to now having over 8,000 people in their database. Eugenia Alcalá Sucre, founder of DASH Caracas and DASH Venezuela spoke with Dash Force News about the “adventure that has taken us to places we had not even dreamed of finding.” She mentioned that the “journey has been full of satisfaction, joy, achievement and hope” and that they “have managed to build a high performance team, whose members are driven by passion and show their commitment and excellence in every little thing they do.”

Eugenia mentioned how the team’s passion and attention to detail has accomplished “important achievements that can be seen in our numerical indicators that we present in the monthly reports that we make in the DASH Forum.” She added that they also have “other achievements that are not so easily measurable, but equally important”.

“[W]ith the help of the DASH Community and the support of MNOs, we have helped to change the lives of dozens of people who have begun to understand that DASH – Digital Cash is an alternative that can give them a new economic reality.”

What has caused the massive adoption of Dash in Venezuela?

Eugenia mention that “speed and low commissions that makes it viable for micropayments” was what attracted Venezuelans to Dash, at first. However, the community strengthened even further when it became “visible that there is a large Dash community in Venezuela that is active and is constantly providing support to entrepreneurs and users”.

In addition to the conferences and large community, a live Dash support desk will soon been launched in Venezuela. When asked what is the most effective advertising method to bring new Venezuelans into the Dash community, Eugenia mentioned “a good combination of an adequate management of social media, appearances in TV, radio, press and word-of-mouth generated by well-produced events is the perfect combination”.

One of the top attractions of the Dash conferences has been ‘Dash City’ (Ciudad Dash), where entrepreneurs can trade their goods and services for Dash. Euginia recalled how her team was only accompanied by two entrepreneurs in their first conference (Sept. 2017), a business entrepreneur and a social entrepreneur, but they now have over 100 entrepreneurs selling their goods and services for Dash.

“[M]any of them are already daring to accept the currency outside our events and have had very good results, which makes the other entrepreneurs also dare to cross the borders of Dash City.”

Euginia described such a wide diversity of products being sold at Dash City that it was difficult for her to name her favorite product.

Future of Dash in Venezuela

Euginia and her team wants to make Venezuela the first Dash Nation through multiple channels. They want to work “in a network of alliances with new communities, with new projects and with many entrepreneurs” to ensure that “in the shortest possible time [that] the most Venezuelans are familiar in how to buy and sell with DASH, and choose DASH – Digital Cash as their favorite cryptocurrency.” They are intending to end their announced conference cycle in September of this year, but immediately afterwards “engage in other kind[s] of activities that takes DASH to the top of mind of our citizens.” Eugenia and her team gained valuable knowledge and insights from their experiences, which they will apply to their new initiative: Dash Venezuela. More of their goals and initiatives can be seen in this forum.

The inflation and economic quagmire in Venezuela shows little signs of abating, but luckily Dash is providing an alternative currency for Venezuelans to institute their own individual economic solutions. The Dash teams in Venezuela understand this and are leveraging quality strategies to continue to spread knowledge of Dash to help increasing amounts of Venezuelans.


*Note: Some of the material from source article was translated via Google page translate


Written by Justin Szilard


This article was republished with permission from Dash Force News.

Reality Check: What Venezuela’s National Crypto Means for Decentralization

President Trump recently announced a ban on Venezuela’s new national cryptocurrency, the petro.

That’s right—Venezuela created its own national crypto, possibly to circumvent U.S. sanctions.

But could the petro do more than that, and actually catalyze government-controlled cryptos around the world?

This is a Reality Check you won’t get anywhere else.

President Trump signed an executive order March 21 banning all transactions involving digital currency issued by the Venezuelan government, after it began pre-selling its own cryptocurrency, the petro, in February.

The petro differs from other cryptos because, according to the Brookings Institute, “The price of one petro is pegged to the price of one barrel of Venezuelan oil…” and “the petro/bolivar exchange rate … includes a discount factor determined by the Venezuelan government.”

By making that distinction, the Venezuelan government is now responsible for managing multiple currency systems simultaneously, creating what Dash Force News Editor Joël Valenzuela described as “an accounting nightmare.”

But isn’t cryptocurrency supposed to make accounting for transactions easier?

Well, actually it’s not the cryptos but the tech they’re built on. A few episodes back, we discussed how cryptocurrency is backed by radical transparency due to the power of the blockchain.


Rather than being backed by radical transparency and being a “trustless system”, as Valenzuela called it, the petro is essentially “fiat crypto.”

“When you back it with something that doesn’t have transparency, you have to trust the party that is providing the assets that back the coin,” according to Valenzuela. “It ruins its original value proposition.”

So why would Venezuela create the petro in the first place?

Once a crypto is a national currency, it’s subject to many tariff barriers and, in some cases, sanctions. Which is why President Trump made the first major national decision by the U.S. to ban a cryptocurrency. But cryptos like Dash aren’t tied to a government and weren’t created to bypass sanctions.

Once the richest nation in Latin America, Venezuela had suffered wild inflation, plummeting the standard of living and causing uproar from poverty stricken citizens. Many Venezuelans facing economic hardship are putting pressure on the government to stop the bleeding.

Anything to ease their suffering in the short term will be a boon to the tyrants, according to Valenzuela. But because the petro is not truly backed by trustlessness, critics say the government crypto won’t last long. And that presents a challenge to other governments considering creating their own cryptos.

Russian President Vladimir Putin already announced his government will issue its own CryptoRuble, likely sometime in mid-2019, according to CoinTelegraph.

The CryptoRuble is supposed to be directly tied to the ruble, issued by the Russian government and could not be mined.

More governments are likely to investigate the benefits of state controlled blockchain technology.

But remember, the two major selling points of blockchain are radical transparency and decentralization, meaning no one can manipulate the supply or the transactions.

And it’s those two aspects of blockchain that governments aren’t fans of.

Recently Congressman Brad Sherman of California read a statement that called cryptocurrencies “harmful,” and appeared to accidentally admit that cryptocurrency reduces government control of our currency. He said, “It hurts the U.S. government in two ways. Our contr… …our ability to have the US dollar be the chief means of international finance is what has underpinned our ability to impose sanctions…”

So Sherman doesn’t like the lack of “contr…” that the government has over crypto.
But on the other hand, imagine if the U.S. decided to use blockchain to track how our tax dollars are spent. Remember when the Pentagon admitted earlier this year that it couldn’t account for hundreds of millions of dollars?

What could help prevent data loss like this? The blockchain.

Corporations are already testing out the tech to prevent major data breaches like what happened to Target, Home Depot, JP Morgan, Anthem and others.

John Oliver explained the power of the blockchain in a recent episode of his show “Last Week Tonight.” He said, “The blockchain… a database that is nearly impossible to hack or tamper with, and which could possibly improve security, efficiency and trust. That is why big companies like Wal-Mart, IBM and JP Morgan have all been experimenting with blockchain as a way to potentially share and secure data transactions in a reliable, easy to access way.”

So what you need to know is that the blockchain presents an opportunity for governments to create a more transparent financial system. But Venezuela isn’t really doing that with the petro.

The crypto market has and will continue to fluctuate. Some crypto will disappear, some will stick around.

The question is, who is going to control the crypto? If governments do… they will take away the freedom of crypto… but if crypto currencies remain decentralized, then we will be able to keep a radically transparent financial system for the people.

That’s Reality Check. Let’s talk about that, right now, on Twitter and Facebook.

Trump Issues An Executive Order to Ban the Venezuelan Petro

(Dash Force News) Donald Trump has issued an executive order to ban all cryptocurrencies issued “by, for, or on behalf” of the Venezuelan government by a “United States person or within the United States”.

“All transactions related to, provision of financing for, and other dealings in, by a United States person or within the United States, any digital currency, digital coin, or digital token, that was issued by, for, or on behalf of the Government of Venezuela on or after January 9, 2018, are prohibited as of the effective date of this order.”

The executive order is a follow up to the sanctions that were placed on Venezuela by the US this past December since the Petro was seen as a work around by the Maduro regime. The action echos the US Treasury Department’s previous statement that advised investors to avoid the Petro, which called it “another attempt to prop up the Maduro regime, while further looting the resources of the Venezuelan people.”

[RELATED: Venezuela’s Government-Backed Petro Faces Obstacles, Scrutiny]

The Petro, pre-sale launched on February 20, was proclaimed to be backed by oil from the country and thus many saw the Petro as a de facto oil future rather than a cryptocurrency. However, the democratically elected body of Venezuela have already called the Petro illegal. In addition, many have called into question the cryptocurrency’s decentralized nature since a majority of the Petro seems to be in a few wallets and many suspect that most buyers were governmental agencies.

Fallout for other cryptocurrencies and the Venezuelan people

This move by the US President is the first major national decision by the US to ban a cryptocurrency. The executive order, which allows the president to act unilaterally, specifically mentions cryptocurrencies that are “by, for, and on behalf” of the “Government of Venezuela” so it does not appear to be an immediate threat to other cryptocurrencies.

The executive order does, however, beg the question if the same action can be extended to other more open cryptocurrencies that may be adopted by the Venezuelan government. Even if this becomes the case, the effect on Venezuelans would still be minimal, as long as the cryptocurrency is properly structured. The USD exchange price would most likely plunge, but Venezuelans will still be able to use said crypto within their country, free of governmental manipulation, and use decentralized exchanges to exchange into other cryptocurrencies when they want to trade within another country that initiated a ban.

For the time being, the Petro seems to only serve the interest of the Venezuelan government rather than the citizens of the country who use Bolivars, USD, and other cryptocurrencies. Thus the citizens of Venezuela should not suffer much from this ban since Venezuelans are utilizing other cryptocurrencies to escape the terrible policies of their government.

Dash is on the ground and improving lives in Venezuela

Dash is continuously increasing its presence within Venezuela, most recently seen in the Dash Caracus Conference, which had such a large influx of attendees that a second overflow conference was held. Then while governments place sanction on the Maduro regime in an attempt to weaken it, the Dash community is volunteering to give direct aid to Venezuelans by donating Dash. Venezuelans have seen their currency suffer from over 2,500% annual inflation and their economy destroyed by a corrupt and ignorant government. Nevertheless, Venezuelans refuse to let external factors stop them and are using Dash to provide real alternatives that better their lives.

Creative entrepreneurs are using Dash to restart their economy. Citizens are using Dash to purchase goods and services, while also maintaining the value of their currency better than the Bolivar. Each Dash Caracus Conference holds a Dash City (Ciudad Dash) to sell goods from local entrepreneurs and the most recent one had 53 vendors. This everyday use of Dash to solve real world problems leads to even greater adoption and a stronger user base, which will further contribute to Dash decreasing its volatility when compared to other cryptocurrencies.


Written by Justin Szilard

Venezuela’s Government-Backed Petro Faces Obstacles, Scrutiny

For years, Venezuela has been on a path of increasing economic turmoil. Suffering from one of the most notable economic collapses in modern times, the country faces mounting debt and hyperinflation, rigged elections, and weakened opposition to those in power while citizens are suffering from hunger and violence.

President Nicolás Maduro’s solution is launching the first government-backed cryptocurrency, the petro, which claims to be backed by oil and reportedly raised $735 million in its pre-sale last week. Each token is said to be backed by one barrel of oil. According to Fortune, the petro appears to be a ploy to raise money to get around sanctions placed on Venezuela, which prevent the country from issuing bonds and securities in the U.S. financial market. The Treasury Department noted that “U.S. persons that deal in the prospective Venezuelan digital currency may be exposed to U.S. sanctions risk.”

Controversy has ensued around the petro cryptocurrency from inside and outside Venezuela, with critics claiming that the petro isn’t actually a cryptocurrency. Opposition leaders have described the petro as an “illegal debt issuance that circumvents Venezuela’s majority-opposition legislature,” according to Reuters.

The Guardian reported that lawmaker Jorge Millan said that the petro “is not a cryptocurrency” but rather a “forward sale of Venezuelan oil.”

One standout issue is the discrepancies within the white papers released by the government regarding which blockchain the petro will rely on.

Leading up to the pre-sale that launched on February 20th, the pre-sale was said to “consist of the creation and sale of an ERC20 token on the [blockchain] of the ethereum platform. This process will promote and guarantee demand for the petro Initial Offer, which will be made later.” Ars Technica reported that by February 21st, “all mentions of ERC20 had been scrubbed from the white paper. A new version of the paper stated that the presale will ‘consist of the creation and sale of smart-asset on the NEM blockchain platform.'”

Another issue focuses on the reported $735 million in initial coin offering raised, which would put them in the top three valuations for Initial Coin Offerings, or ICOs. Reports indicate that all of the petros held are on three addresses and all transfers have been to one address.

“You have to be really naive to believe the government has in fact sold any petros because the blockchain shows all 100 million petros are still controlled by one address,” software designer Alejandro Machado told Florida’s WLRN Public Radio. WLRN noted that this address belongs to the Venezuelan government.

This suggests that the initial coin offering figure has been manipulated and that the petro hasn’t actually raised any funds.

It’s been noted that the petro also contradicts the very core of cryptocurrencies— decentralization— due to its attachment to the Venezuelan government; instead, it’s more of a digital token under government control that claims to be backed by oil.

As Ars Technica reported:

The Venezuelan government has portrayed petro tokens as backed by Venezuela’s vast oil reserves, but they’re not. The government is merely promising to accept tax payments in petros at a government-determined exchange rate linked to oil prices. Given the Venezuelan government’s history of manipulating exchange rates, experts say investors should be wary of this arrangement.

Chris Burniske of venture capital firm Placeholder told Bloomberg that “the petro is really a top-down hierarchically controlled asset, and it’s much more akin to a new way to tokenize oil.” Burniske added that “with the petro, we really have a new wrapper around oil.”

Socialist Party Loses Control Over Venezuela

VENEZUELA, Dec. 10, 2015– On Wednesday, Venezuelan election authorities confirmed the crushing defeat of the United Social Party of Venezuela (PSUV), currently led by President Nicolas Maduro who succeeded Hugo Chavez, by the hand of opposition party Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD). Voters turned out in mass with more than 74 percent taking to the polls to demand an end to socialist policies.

Maduro swiftly declared he would block “the counter-revolutionary right” from taking over the country. “We won’t let it,” he said.

The defeat of Venezuela’s socialist controlled Congress is the first in 16 years. Opposition leaders promised to address socio-economic turmoil in the country created by the socialist revolution. Currently, unemployment is near 20 percent, inflation has increased 100 percent, the GDP shrunk 10 percent in 2015 alone, and food and utilities shortages plague the country.

Venezuela’s National Assembly is the country’s legislative branch. It consists of 167 members sitting in one chamber. Wednesday’s confirmation gave the opposition party a super-majority in the Assembly. The new party will not be sworn in until January 2016, but leaders urged swift action.

“We’re just a few weeks away from a very serious problem in terms of food,” Democratic Unity coalition leader Jesus Torrealba said at a news conference. “We urge the government to start working.”

The opposition also promised to force amnesty laws in order to release political prisoners. While Maduro defiantly promised to block any such actions, the President has limited veto powers under Venezuela’s Constitution.

While the opposition’s new-found power gives them the opportunity to completely oust Maduro, some prominent opposition leaders want to give him a chance to change.

“If Maduro doesn’t change we’ll have to change the government. But the opposition’s response to the economic crisis right now can’t be more politics,” said Henrique Capriles, who lost to Maduro in the 2013 presidential elections.

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Venezuelan President Blames America For Europe’s Refugee Nightmare

By Guy Bentley – Venezuela’s embattled President Nicolas Maduro has launched a fresh tirade against America’s alleged imperialism, blaming the U.S. for the refugee crisis unfolding in Europe.

Speaking to Russia Today, Maduro blamed U.S. foreign policy for the waves of desperate refugees trying to make it to safety in Europe and away from the swathes of war-torn territory in the Middle East from Syria to Libya.

“It is Europe that has to deal with the disaster caused by the U.S., because it is Europe that is now taking in thousands of migrants and they don’t know how to cope with this situation,”Maduro told the Russian state broadcaster. (RELATED: Cheney: It’s Obama’s Fault For European Refugee Crisis)

“By deception, they invaded the country [Iraq] that is a cradle of civilization – and razed it the ground. Now is it literally split into thousands parts and engulfed by terrorism in its cruelest form,” he added. Venezuela has pledged to give asylum to 20,000 Syrian refugees (RELATED: France To Take 24,000 Migrants Under EU Refugee Plan)

In Maduro’s eyes, there are few problems in the modern world that cannot be traced back to the U.S. “The U.S. has caused a real disaster, chaos and now it wants to cause chaos in other regions of the world,” he said.

Venezuela, however, has a border crisis of its own. Maduro has initiated a huge anti-smuggling crackdown along the country’s border with Colombia. The Associated Press reports that over the last two weeks Venezuela has closed six border crossings and deported more than 1,000 Colombians.

Many thousands more Colombians have left Venezuela voluntarily amid the country’s deepening economic crisis and severe shortages of food and fuel. The black market has expanded sharply over the past two years with smugglers buying subsidised goods in Venezuela and reselling them in Colombia for a hefty profit.

In 2014, the situation became so dire that Maduro posted 17,000 troops on the Colombian border and closed crossings at night. The Economist estimated that as much as 40 percent of Venezuela’s subsidized goods are smuggled.

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US Sanctions May Save Venezuelan Govt

External Enemy Could Serve as Unifier Amid Economic Struggles

by Jason Ditz, March 11, 2015

Earlier this year, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro looked to be in a bad way. Falling oil price had crushed the nation’s economy, and he was facing soaring inflation and chronic shortages.

Earlier this week, President Obama tried to cut out what’s left of Venezuela’s support by declaring them a “threat to national security,” with an eye on imposing a new round of economic sanctions.

For Maduro, the timing couldn’t be better, as it has brought the attention off the economy, and turned it instead onto foreign relations. It has given Maduro a new lease on life, railing against American “imperialism.”

While that doesn’t fix the economy, the imposing of US sanctions will give the government a convenient excuse, and an external enemy to rally their own supporters against.

Former scientist jailed for attempting to sell nuclear bomb secrets

A former scientist who worked for the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, has been sentenced to five years in prison for attempting to give nuclear secrets to Venezuelan operatives.

Pedro Leonardo Mascheroni, 79, pleaded guilty in 2013 to charges of espionage for delivering the nuclear plans to FBI agents. Mascheroni, who thought the FBI agents were with the Venezuelan government, also said he would build 40 nuclear bombs for Venezuela in exchange for “money and power,” according to St. Louis Today.

“I’m going to be the boss with money and power,” Mascheroni, who is a naturalized U.S. citizen from Argentina, reportedly said in recordings the FBI released Wednesday. “I’m not an American anymore. This is it.”

According to the BBC, Mascheroni said Venezuela would be able to establish a secret underground nuclear reactor in order to enrich plutonium, and he said the country would be able to produce a nuclear power plant as well.

John Carlin, the assistant attorney general for national security, told the Telegraph, “The public trusts that the government will do all it can to safeguard ‘Restricted Data’ from being unlawfully transmitted to foreign nations not entitled to receive it.” 

The “Restricted Data” included information concerning the manufacturing, design, and use of atomic weapons, as well as information involving the production of special nuclear material to create energy.

New Mexico US Attorney Damon Martinez also said, “Those who work at our country’s national laboratories are charged with safeguarding that sensitive information, and we must and will vigorously prosecute anyone who compromises our nation’s nuclear secrets for profit.”

Mascheroni is sentenced to five years in jail, while his wife Marjorie, who also worked for LANL and pleaded guilty to similar charges, will face one year is jail.