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Gov’t Policy Behind Venezuelan Bitcoin Exchange’s SMS Gateway Service

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One of Venezuela’s leading crypto exchanges says that government policy led it to develop a text message-powered payment system that will allow it to conduct transactions in a range of cryptoassets, including the nation’s own state-issued, oil-backed petro (PTR) token.

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The Criptolago platform wrote, in a tweet,

“As per the guidelines of President Nicolás Maduro, our new SMS payments function has created an opportunity for all Venezuelan citizens to conduct petro transactions in a very practical manner.”

The solution, says the exchange, will not only allow customers to conduct petro transactions via text message, but also send fiat bolivars, as well as bitcoin (BTC), litecoin (LTC), dash (DASH) and the native token of Venezuelan “cryptobank” Glufco.

Critics in the country have complained that, as many older people and poorer citizens still make use of “second-gen” mobiles and have limited or no smartphone or broadband internet access, they have struggled to access petro welfare payouts.

Although this solution will unlikely provide a quick fix for the thousands of senior citizens and public sector workers who claim they have still not been able to access year-end petro payouts issued in December 2019, there are signs that Maduro’s government could be looking to extend the scope of its petro project.

A recent tweet from a pro-crypto group with links to Caracas containing a long list of suggested petro-powered solutions to the country’s coronavirus-related economic slump was criticized by many critics for perceived accessibility-related flaws.

The proposals contained a number of solutions linked to the Patria crypto remittance platform, which critics say is out of the reach of some 30% of the country. Almost a third of Venezuelans are believed to have very limited or no internet access.

Should other crypto exchanges look to follow suit, it could be a further indication that Criptolago’s move is linked to a much wider, Caracas-led initiative.

Criptolago will not be the first platform to offer crypto exchange services via text message. Trading platforms such as CoinText have been offering SMS-powered crypto services since 2019, while a platform named NanoSMS claimed in March this year that its own gateway provides wallet access “to anyone with a 2G mobile phone.”