Bolivia Banned Crypto but Advocates Are Pushing Back

Earlier this year, Bolivian blockchain engineer Mario Blacutt – previously known in crypto circles only as “Berzeck” –finally felt safe enough to reveal his name and come out as the creator of a new blockchain network.

Blacutt let down his guard after the left-wing government that had banned crypto fell in November 2019, and its leader, Evo Morales, fled to Mexico.

A year earlier, Blacutt had his bank accounts shut down and his credit card taken away. The banks cited a directive put out by Bolivia’s central bank (BCB) in 2014 prohibiting virtual currencies, and flagged funds received in Blacutt’s accounts via crypto exchanges Bitstamp and Bitinka. Blacutt was paid in cryptocurrency.

“They said it was to protect me. This is a funny thing,” Blacutt said.

Even as many governments around the world embrace or at least regulate cryptocurrency, Bolivia is one of the rare countries that tried to stamp it out entirely.

A 2014 central bank circular technically only prohibited the use of crypto by banks and in commercial transactions or payments. But in 2017, Bolivian authorities arrested 60 individuals who were allegedly “undergoing training related to the investment of money in cryptocurrencies,” according to a statement released by the country’s financial authority ASFI.

So when Morales fled, Blacutt felt more at ease. “After he was ousted, I was more free to use my identity because I was optimistic that things were finally changing,” he told CoinDesk.

But now, Morales is back.

In the balance

The right-wing regime that replaced the Morales regime has quickly become unpopular as Bolivia’s economy suffers during the coronavirus pandemic.

Luis Arce, former economic minister to Morales, won the presidency in a landslide, restoring the socialist government to power; last month, the exiled Morales made a triumphant return to Bolivia.

Now, many things hang in the balance, including crypto.

Alberto Bonadona, senior economist and emeritus professor…

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