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Venezuela reportedly wants its central bank to hold bitcoin

Its state oil company would use this to dodge international scrutiny.
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FEDERICO PARRA/AFP/Getty Images

Venezuela may not just be using its own cryptocurrency to dodge the consequences of international sanctions. Bloomberg tipsters say the country's central bank is testing the possibility of holding on to cryptocurrencies in order to help the state-controlled oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA. The firm reportedly has troves of bitcoin and ethereum, and moving that money to the central bank might let it pay suppliers and avoid "potential blocks" from conventional channels that would come with either direct crypto payments or regular money.

The bank is likewise considering proposals to count cryptocurrencies toward international reserves that have plummeted in recent years.

It's not certain where Petroleos got the bitcoin and ethereum, let alone how much it has. There's also no guarantee that companies would accept such a move when crypto's relative anonymity and the potential for money laundering leads many other banks to hold off. That's not even including the potential for further trade restrictions. This is a Hail Mary effort to sustain Venezuela's economy (and thus the Maduro government), and it may ultimately amount to a risky experiment even if it goes ahead.

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