Venezuela blocks exchanges Coinbase and Mercadolar

The two crypto exchange platforms have been inaccessible since September 8 in the South American country

Image of Venezuela flag with bitcoins in foreground
Political tensions appear to have affected the operation of select crypto exchanges as well

According to Venezuela Inteligente, a digital rights advocacy group based in Venezuela, the national government has blocked user access to two currency exchange platforms.

Inteligente stated that this was discovered late on Tuesday evening, and while no clear objective or outcome behind the action has been provided, internet service providers (ISPs) have participated in the move to block access.

The two currency exchange platforms in question are the US crypto exchange Coinbase and the fiat remittance platform MercaDolar.

Andres E Azpurua, the Director of Venezuela Inteligente, has revealed that this has happened in the past.

“Venezuela has a history of blocking exchange platforms. Especially those used to exchange local currency for foreign currency,” he explained.

“Until recently, all of them were lifted,” Azpurua added.

The director remarked that the government’s move to block access to Coinbase “particularly bothers” him, since there are multiple crypto exchanges that are currently accessible to Venezuelan citizens. It is currently unclear why Coinbase in particular is being singled out.

Prior to this incident, Venezuelan ISPs blocked access to two major virtual private networks (VPN), Tunnelbear and Psiphon, on August 28. However, this did not have a significant impact on their functionality.

The country is currently experiencing significant political tension following the self-proclaimed interim President Juan Guaido’s announcement on a “unitary pact”. A coalition of parties support its implementation and is demanding increased international pressure against Maduro ahead of a congressional election in December.

Azpurua pointed out that the attempt to control who receives funding in such a politically charged climate could be one possible reason among many for these ISP blocks.

Venezuelan residents have turned to Bitcoin (BTC) as a haven in the wake of hyperinflation. According to a report by Chainalysis, most engage in peer to peer (P2P) exchanges such as Paxful and LocalBitcoins. However, government-approved exchanges are not as widely used.

It was also reported last month that the Bolivarian Council of Mayors signed Venezuela’s National Tax Harmonisation Agreement on Sunday. This places the cryptocurrency petro as the unit of account for the payment of taxes and fines in 305 municipalities.

Vice President Delcy Rodriguez called the agreement “historic”.

“This tax harmonization agreement, which we have reached after a great debate among the 305 Bolivarian mayors, is an unprecedented event in our country,” Mayor Erika Farias said.

Venezuela is composed of 335 municipalities that have been incorporated into 23 states and the capital district.

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