Venezuela Blocks Opposition From Disbursing $18 Million To Health Workers via Bitcoin Exchange Airtm

Venezuela has blocked the main opposition from distributing $18 million worth of cash previously seized by the U.S. from the Nicolas Maduro government. The money is being dished out via peer-to-peer (P2P) crypto exchange Airtm to 62,000 healthcare workers starting Monday.


However, it is not yet clear whether the money at the center of the dispute will be disbursed in cash or bitcoin (BTC). Workers will reportedly be paid $300 each over three months in equal installments.

The U.S selected the Juan Guaido-led opposition party to facilitate the distribution. Guaido is recognized by several countries as Venezuela’s legitimate president due to his position as speaker of parliament. In a recent press announcement, Guaido acknowledged Airtm’s ongoing efforts to make the money available to the intended beneficiaries.


Matt Ahlborg, the creator of crypto analytics firm Useful Tulips, reported on Guaido’s plans to airdrop censorship-resistant digital dollars to the workers through Airtm in a thread on Twitter.

Airtm operates a P2P exchange from Mexico City where its primarily Venezuelan users have logged in to trade Bolivars and bitcoin “for digital US dollars for years”, according to Ahlborg. Venezuela accounts for 65% of Airtm users. He said:

As a result of this redistribution campaign, the Maduro government yesterday (Aug. 20) blocked access to Airtm from inside of Venezuela. However, just as quickly, Venezuelan activists were creating educational resources on how to access Airtm despite the block.

The U.S does not recognize Maduro’s government following a disputed 2018 election. Cryptocurrencies have a heavy role from both ends of the diplomatic stand-off, initially taking the form of Maduro’s sanction-busting Petro and now, the U.S.’ latest intervention through a bitcoin-aligned company.

Beating the System

According to Airtm, access to its website is restricted through internet service providers such Cantv, Movistar, Digitel, Supercable, and Movilnet. In a blog post, the Coinbase-funded exchange provided expected beneficiaries with a VPN primer. The post also details Airtm’s history of censorship under the Maduro government.

Last week, the country’s Superintendency of Institutions of the Banking Sector of Venezuela (Sudeban) said Airtm’s “unusual operations” fall outside regulations and would be related to money laundering and terrorist financing in terms of Venezuelan law.

In a joint statement with the Financial Intelligence Unit (Unif), Subedan urged banks to exhaustively monitor such operations and guarantee the transparency of transactions.

Unif called on banks to report intermediaries “who lend themselves to transactions with this type of platform” but did not spell out measures to be taken against them. Airtm relies on intermediaries to facilitate the exchange of funds.

Ahlborg noted that the developing story highlights “a new era of geopolitical brinkmanship as certain countries make available their own currencies and financial infrastructure to the citizens of other countries en masse.”

Britain recently seized $1 billion worth of Venezuelan gold and maintained sanctions on Maduro’s regime.

What do you think about the opposition in Venezuela using a bitcoin exchange to facilitate payments? Let us know in the comments section below.

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