Photo: Medium retrieved.

Common sense says you shouldn’t wash your teeth with bleach, you shouldn’t walk around Carapita on your own at 2:00 a.m., and you can’t help Venezuelans from abroad by sending direct cash transfers. Not only are we under communist currency exchange controls, but the government has also been denying and blocking international humanitarian aid for years.

Well, Joe Waltman has decided to put those controls to the test.

On September 7, Waltman published this post. He was the newly appointed executive director of GiveCrypto.org, and spoke about sending money to people in need, all over the world. Tests are about done in places like Uganda, Lebanon… and Venezuela.

In a Reddit post, he explains how he offered $10 in Ethereum to anyone filling a form saying what they would do with the money. $5 first, $5 after pictures of the food bought with the money (and the receipt) are sent.

50 users filled the form within nine hours, and by the time he published the report, 31 followed through, pictures and all.

Bringing crypto to El Pueblo.

In a second test, Waltman contacted restaurants accepting cryptocurrencies in Venezuela, offering two of them $100, so they could give food to people in need.

One of those restaurants was El Portal Grill, by the way.

He’s beating our controls, through folks experienced with crypto. There are many examples of this, and not all of them come from super techie companies running fancy experiments to spread crypto better and, like, change the world.

One Reddit user, Windows7733, says he bought more than 100 kg worth of food using donations from the nano community, all with a Reddit post. He didn’t have to set up a GoFundMe through a friend with an American bank account, he didn’t use a shady third party to handle the transaction.

He received the money, bought the food and, I presume, ate.

Better than CLAP

On June 27, Brian Armstrong, GiveCrypto.org founder, said, “there are so many early holders of cryptocurrency who’ve become wealthy, I’m excited to see them begin to engage in philanthropy. If it helps further cryptocurrency adoption at the same time, that’s a win-win.”

Many people abroad are lining up to help Venezuela, and with cryptocurrencies they totally can. If you set aside for a second that we now are one of those poor nations in need of help, this is exciting.

I’m not super into sending money to random Reddit users; ideally, they’d send money to well-reputed NGOs that are already doing an amazing job in Venezuela with increasingly less resources. But do these organizations know how to use cryptocurrencies like “Windows7733” does?

We’ll get there.

UPDATE (PLOT TWIST): windows4477 got more money after his first post got kind of viral in the crypto world, and his story was mentioned in many crypto sites. That’s why I didn’t think of digging deeper. Well, thanks to some good folks from the Venezuelan crypto-community I learned that -apparently- the dude cashed out and exit-scammed everyone.

It’s sad -but also kind of hilarious-, that this was one of the examples in the post. Although this is exactly what this section is about, a space to discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly of cryptocurrency. There’s still a lot that needs to be drilled down. At this point, experience and communication are key. Anyways, now let me just emphasize something that I did mention in the post: giving money to random reddit users? Not a great idea.

This piece is part of our #Omichronicles series in partnership with Omipedia. If you want to help bring crypto to the masses, create an account here and share your knowledge! 

Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.

17 COMMENTS

  1. We used to send care packages via FedEx, etc. up until a few years ago. Are packages still getting delivered? We used couriers to deliver business journals (Chavistas don’t read) stuffed with currency until that well ran dry.

    I recall that the last 3 packages we sent never made it out of customs. They were lost. Naturally, customs blamed FedEx… despite the fact that FedEx scanned the boxes into customs.

    • We are sending monthly boxes of food through an Orlando shipper. The boxes go maritime and avoid the customs as far as I know. Every box has gotten through taking four weeks or so in transit.

      • As with Taylortown01, we also send boxes to Venezuela and they get to their destination successfully. I decline to name the shipper but feel that other shippers can do the same.

        I am skeptical of crypto currency and will use it only if necessary.

  2. A fantastic idea, but I don’t understand why GiveCrypto.Org only accepts crypto donations. It seems to me their donation base would explode if donors could give automatically on a monthly schedule through, say, PayPal.

    You know. Like Caracas Chronicles does it.

  3. Maybe this is an interim solution but it’s potential for co-option must be addressed going forward. Paying restaurants in Vz to give out food does not increase the amount of food available in Vz.

    I support relieving the pain of Venezolanos today, while advocating sound public policies. Venezolanos need reliable sovereign currency, banking, food resources, transportation, health care, forex, productivity, energy, etc. Volatile cryptocurrencies controlled by others are no substitute for sound public policies.

    Follow the money: GiveCrypto.org offers little transparency and is run by crypto exchanges that make money on the transactions.

    • Exactly

      This crypto business is silly. It is making it more complex for complexities sake. I dare say, the people making a profit from such a scheme could well be writing this piece.

      Do I have the ability to go to someone in the United States (any capable entity) and give them my wealth (US dollars) and have that wealth transferred electronically to a trustworthy Venezuelan entity (NGO X, for the sake of argument) that will use that wealth to purchase food for the needy without Chavismo taking their cut? Yes? No?

      This crypto business is akin to a bunch of Leninists discussing how the tenets of Marxism can work if enough bureaucracy and force is brought to bear. Theory theory theory… it smacks of a group of millennials thinking up new ways to bring about a new currency paradigm when the answer is excruciatingly simple.

      Reinventing the wheel…

    • I agree, I actually mentioned something like that ina previous post https://www.caracaschronicles.com/2018/10/05/omichronicles-bringing-crypto-to-the-masses/

      Cryptocurrencies won’t ever replace an actually functioning government.

      About GiveCrypto.org, they are very open about the fact that they are doing this to kickstart a crypto economy. It’s actually one of the first thing you read on their webpage “We distribute your cryptocurrency to impact communities and help drive the real-world utility of crypto”. And that Brian Armstrong I quoted in the post is the CEO of Coinbase, one of the biggest cryptocurrency exchanges.

    • Davy Jones of the Deep Locker –

      Good coverage of complex issues, your post. Not to blur lines between emergency relief and a welfare state, but in theory there is some danger of creating dependency, even on something like oil money. Anything “free” is suspect. Open question to anyone: how to prevent intended emergency aid from creating an even bigger, permanent problem, even resentment, vindictiveness, and violence, when the emergency aid stops?

      I think John’s efforts to send seed through Mr. Rubio are much more on-point than sending crypto gift cards to restaurants.

      I caught a BBC documentary about Golfo de Paria and a smuggler on the Trinidad route who said – quote – he would steal and kill to get food for his daughter. Conchale, pues – sounds like an honest man, worthy of relieving some crypto-donor of their implied guilt, eh? Ha, ha. Apparently, according to the documentary (which obviously must have paid him for all the interview time), things there involve a lot of fighting for everything – even though they don’t have the oil-soaked nets and contaminated crabs the Lago fishermen have. The inhabitants around the Golfo de Paria have it sooo much better than the slums of the Philippines.

      Charities, like ANY WORK, must be run by people with knowledge of the real situation, and with ample experience in making the most of the money and goods and services donated. Even then, it’s risky. You can’t just pour money on a problem and expect it to go away.

      • May God bless ElGuapo, John, M.Rubio and all others* who give of themselves and take risks to relieve some suffering in Venezuela.

        All these non-productive convoluted transactions, waiting in line (for everything), anti-functional government and inefficiencies make Venezolanos poorer. That’s not hypothetical — the cost is real and we see it in plunging GDP, in addition to the theft.

        *Apologies to those I neglect to mention.

      • “Open question to anyone: how to prevent intended emergency aid from creating an even bigger, permanent problem, even resentment, vindictiveness, and violence, when the emergency aid stops?”

        A very real problem which we have seen play-out several times over the past seventy years. At least some of the relief agencies seem to grasp your question. My unqualified opinion is that in Vz there should be a little time before dependence becomes a danger. Time to give relief if it can be kept out of the hands of the perpetrators.

        But anything less than a comprehensive approach can easily make things worse. Rule-of-law and public policy reform simultaneously with civil & private property rights, agricultural independence, economic independence, energy independence, and some other stuff. (How preposterous is it that Venezuela is dependent on imported basic food stuffs?)

        • The situation in Venezuela does merit some emergency aid, and probably would be regarded as temporary (imho). Just saying what you’ve already said, really (you write well), that reform programs have to open up markets and guarantee private capital investment. That’s the real future.

          I’d place priority on opening up the agricultural sector and (unfortunately) policing it. To say “it’s complicated” is really just on a par with predicting the sun will rise tomorrow, because you run into the paradoxes of government subsidies to agricultural sectors even in existing free market economies. But Venezuela should be able to sustain 100% food independence, one of the richest geographies in the world. It once exported beef – to Cuba, of all places. The way you put it brings back images of the boat with cattle from Brazil that sank (“preposterous” is right).

          Anecdotally, there was an interesting article a few days ago https://www.oann.com/shopping-at-well-stocked-venezuelan-stores-better-take-dollars/ that describes the remaining comparatively 5%-10% – I guess – well off. Anyone in Venezuela probably knows that already. What got my attention was the remittances number they estimated at $1,100,000,000 (annually). Nicaragua has some $1,300,000,000 remittances (World Bank estimates), and it’s a substantial part (10%) of their GDP. In the more common sectors in Venezuela, food suppliers in Maracaibo rightly lament that without power for four hours, food spoils.

  4. There was a guy on r/bitcoin who claimed to be venezuelan, he got a full 1 bitcoin when the price was around 17k and stoled it entirely, this was not the 1st case, there has been like at least 5 other cases from different crypto subreddits where the tipical vivo criollo tries to scam

  5. Off-the-wall post #405,983: Design a perfect Venezuela. So much talk about what is wrong and must be changed, but not as much talk – in my perception – about what would replace “all that is wrong”.

    Form of government: [republic, democracy, communist?]
    Roles and functions of government: [congress, parliament, judicial, executive?]
    Economic form: [free market, socialist, communist?]

    Any takers on designing the future of Venezuela?

    Given what I understand of the realities today, as opposed to some future optimum, I think a transition period is necessary. Hopefully, it can be arranged within existing norms, without an all-out military coup and executions, but it might go from a far-right dictatorship, through an interim socialistic transition towards free markets, with increasing profit motivated competitive private sector and decreasing government in all areas except roads, police, courts, national defense and international relations, land management, preservation of national heritage, and similar functions which the private sector is “naturally excluded” from.

    • I am biased to a “weakish” Federal style of government, but that point is moot until a cultural change manifests itself in Venezuela.

      First and foremost, a Constitution that is ONE-THREE PAGES IN LENGTH must be agreed to, where the basic rights are enumerated. This is where the problem lies, as so many players in Venezuela (as in anywhere) want their cut.

      Again, this is problematic everywhere. Here in the States, about 50% of the people want to be treated like perpetual toddlers, who demand a benevolent nanny-state to give them their cookie every time they poop their britches. Some people just can’t handle ACTUAL responsibility for themselves.

      • Rights to private property …. The simplest thought just occurred to me, reading an article in the Pan Am Post, about who might come to the aid of Venezuela in the event of a military invasion. Communists basically want to steal everything they can. Their theft comes under the banner of expropriation or nationalization – stealing private property. Venezuela is a very rich country, a lot of stuff to steal. The thing about thieves is that you can’t stop them by sitting down over a cup of tea and negotiating. It’s the thing about virtue and vice, good karma and bad karma, Heaven and Hell, or as you precisely put it, responsibility and irresponsibility.

        On a population scale, people come to think along the lines of the seven deadly sins, and come to lose sight of the fact that if they work they will enjoy the fruits of their labors. “Government” becomes an easier alternative. It’s not illegal if it’s a government program, right? But of course if you have no private property, how can you enjoy it? Instead of living, it becomes mere existence and permanent scarcity, or equal poverty. Except for the big wheels, who are thieves to begin with.

        It’s been a long day for me. I was just struck by the thought “you rob banks because that’s where the money is”, applies to Venezuela.

  6. There is a dysfunctional economy and massive shortages in Vz because, a) the government, not the marketplace, sets prices, and then, b) floods the economy with bogus Bolivars.

    IMHO, a parallel economy, based on cryptocurrency and crypto-pricing, will fix problems a) and b), and can only be a good thing.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here