Photo: Código Espagueti, retrieved.

It all started on January 31st when the official exchange rate rose above the black market rate for the first time in the 16-year history of the present currency control in this country.

Soon, people living in Venezuela with bank accounts abroad started to realize that they didn’t have to resort to selling dollars on WhatsApp anymore: they could just use their international debit cards in any point of sale terminal in Venezuela and get a better rate. The regime was effectively buying dollars from them with a premium. Lines started to form at conventional exchanges like Italcambio or Zoom Remesas, as they now offered a usable rate. People didn’t have to use a shady intermediary to exchange their money, they could just use the regular one. This was unthinkable the week before.

Then, on March 1st, the regime announced a new system that would allow you to send bolivars to your family using cryptocurrencies.

After managing to destroy their most important source of income, PDVSA, and getting slammed with sanctions, the state is running out of ways to finance itself. Now, taking a page out of the Cuban playbook, the Maduro regime wants to profit from the migrants who have fled communism and are trying to send money to the ones still trapped in the nightmare chavismo created.

I sacrificed three dollars worth of bitcoin to test their system, for science (if I had sent any less, the fixed fee they charge would eat up too big a chunk of the money I sent). They asked me for the recipient’s ID number and date of birth, and gave me a BTC address to send the money to. I sent the money, and after half an hour, the recipient got a text saying that the remittances were received.

The following step forces the recipient to go on the Patria webpage and redeem the money to a bank account in bolivars.

The process is super shady. Patria.org.ve offers higher bonuses than the monthly salaries of many Venezuelans, making the result of their work meaningless in comparison. And the system doesn’t quite work yet. In fact, none of the official ways of sending money work well to actually compete with the black market. We redeemed the money in the Patria webpage, but it’s been a week and the recipient hasn’t received the bolivars. With 3.5% daily inflation, that’s a deal-breaker. Also, the rate isn’t even that good anymore.

But what happens if it eventually works? The regime seems to have found another way to get real currency: desperate Venezuelans trying to send money home. Once the dictatorship gets a minimally functional product, we’ll see what fun ways they come up with to force us into using it. Everyone from janitors to university professors have been rendered dependent on a system the regime fully controls. Now it’s adding remittances to the mix

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