Bitcoin in Argentina — A ‘ground level’ perspective
This year has been a good year for Bitcoin Argentina who have had plenty to talk about; their involvement in LaBITconf, the troubled Argentine Peso and their government’s change of heart on Bitcoin. We caught up with the charity’s c0-founder Franco Daniel Amati to get an insiders perspective on the changes afoot.
Q, Argentina has had a lot of media attention this year. In your opinion, as someone operating at a ground level, what has adoption really been like, and what have been successful use-cases for the people of Argentina?
A, People in Argentina are used to managing different currencies because of
the inflation of the Argentinian peso. I believe that makes the market
more Bitcoin friendly than other countries. This year we had many local companies starting up and the Bitcoin liquidity got far better. Argentina has capital controls, so having liquidity in other country won’t help, because we can’t do wire transfers or use international payment methods.
I believe most people using Bitcoin at the moment are doing so to escape the inflation of the peso (freely buying other currencies like US dollars is illegal) Freelance workers are also using it as an alternative to Paypal or Skrill, when making international payments or transfers (both ways).
Q, Government attitudes towards cryptocurrencies have become more relaxed in 2014, did Bitcoin Argentina have a role to play in influencing government opinion or regulation?
A, Yes. We had meetings with government officers to explain the technology and how important is it. All went fine, and the government released a report stating that it is a new technology with many risks and that they have no responsibility for it (which is basically the idea of Bitcoin, right?) Thus, Bitcoin remains completely legal in Argentina.
Q, It has not all been easy for you this year though — for example: Unisend, Argentina’s first exchange, lost their banking in August. What are the current hurdles that you need to overcome to ensure a future for Bitcoin in Argentina?
A, Many banks were not accepting Bitcoin exchanges as clients due to the fear of money laundering problems. Strange enough, Unisend workaround this by using a State bank, enforcing its KYC policies with a government API. Having functional bank accounts is still difficult for Bitcoin companies, but we will get there, progress in being made on this topic.
Q, Bitcoin Argentina were of course jointly responsible for organising the laBITconf in Brazil last month. Are you hoping to lead the way for the whole of Latin America? How did the conference go in terms of Bitcoin Argentina’s mission?
A, LaBITconf started in Argentina in 2013 but we always planned it to be
a Latin American event, moving to a new location each year. We plan to continue doing that with the help of local communities. This year’s event was a collaboration between Bitcoin Argentina ONG and Fundação Bitcoin Brasil and we felt it was a great success.
It created many business opportunities for local entrepreneurs and made it possible for Argentinian developers to meet people behind many of the most important Bitcoin companies. That in turn made it possible for many projects to be done here, for example BitPay’s BitCore and Copay.
Q, What do you think needs to happen in 2015 for bitcoin to thrive in Argentina?
A, If inflation and enforcing of capital controls continues it will only make Bitcoin more successful as an alternative to financial oppression.
Q, What is next on your to do list?
A, We have lots more work to do. Between other things in 2015, we plan to help in developing the Buenos Aires’ Bitcoin Center.
Argentina Bitcoin Foundation are a charitable organisation entirely funded by donations, meetups, teaching activities, and conferences. Their mission is to expand the use of Bitcoin throughout Latin America to promote financial equality. Interviewed here by Coinapult, Bitcoin liquidity and service providers.