Venezuela’s Bitcoin community has felt the pressure in recent weeks, as the nation’s law enforcement agencies have intensified their crackdown on Bitcoin mining. Raids, detentions, and public announcements have contributed to a general sense of unease for Venezuelans, as nearly a dozen people have been detained as authorities confiscated Bitcoin mining equipment from a number of different sites. Now, the largest Bitcoin exchange in the country, Surbitcoin, has announced that it has temporarily suspended its operations.
Some exchange users had anticipated the suspension after the exchange’s bank, Banesco, discontinued the company’s corporate accounts last week. Others, however, were surprised by the Surbitcoin announcement, and have criticized the exchange for the way in which customers received notification. Rather than notify them individually, the first news that most customers received was via a post on Facebook. That notice was posted twenty-four hours before customers received official notification on the exchange website.
Surbitcoin did advice its customers to begin using the Localbitcoins exchange for their digital currency transactions. Unfortunately, some of those customers will have to wait for Surbitcoin to locate another banking service provider before they can access their currency. The company estimates that it will need roughly two weeks to secure a new account provider.
Meanwhile, many ordinary Bitcoin users have been unsettled by the ongoing crackdown. The Venezuelan government has been targeting mining operations with greater frequency, and its latest success netted 11,000 mining systems that are reported to have come from Poland. Authorities have been focusing on charges ranging from computer crimes and electricity theft to accusations that the miners are members of a larger international criminal entity.
For Venezuelan citizens who have looked to Bitcoin as a way to order food and other necessities from the United States, the current hard-line government position on Bitcoin and Bitcoin mining couldn’t come at a worse time. The socialist nation continues to suffer from impoverishment and hyperinflation, and many of its people struggle to find the basic necessities they need to survive.