EspañolSome might have thought him crazy when Roger Ver renounced his US citizenship on ethical grounds. But, for the bitcoin investor and evangelist, borders are imaginary lines, and people should be able to move to another country without having to answer to anyone.
The former CEO of MemoryDealers.com, the first mainstream company to accept bitcoin as payment, was one of the early champions of bitcoin back in 2011, when it was worth only US$1. Tokyo-based Ver put his money where his mouth was, subsequently investing in the Bitcoin Foundation, Coinlab, Ripple, and Panama’s Coinapult.
Last December 30, denied entry to the United States on a nonimmigrant visa, he still managed to attend a bitcoin giveaway in New York’s financial district organized by the start up Coinspace. Ver circumvented the minor obstacle of not actually being in the country with the help of the Double, a robot which can be operated from any part of the world with a WiFi connection.
Yet his latest visa application to attend the forthcoming bitcoin conference in Miami was similarly rejected by US authorities. The PanAm Post sat down with Ver to find out what happened.
US visa restrictions are notoriously difficult to overcome. Why did you decide to renounce to your US citizenship at the first place?
Philosophically I am opposed to the very idea of citizenship. I think we are all human beings, and all have an equal right to travel the planet as we please. From a practical standpoint, I haven’t lived in the USA for about 9 years, and I am sure I will never live there again so it made sense to break one of the remaining ties. Mostly I’m opposed to the USA’s wars, and murdering of innocent children around the world with no remorse.
As an Argentinean citizen, I’ve been denied the US nonimmigrant visa myself three times. What’s your message to the US Embassy officials that rejected your visa?
They actually wouldn’t let me say much of anything in person. The part that is the most shocking to me is that they denied my visa claiming that I hadn’t proved strong ties outside of the USA, while at the very same time, they were refusing to read any of the proof that I had brought. In fact, they refused to even allow me to slide my proof through the slot in the interview window! How can I prove something if they refuse to even look at the proof?!
If they are listening now, I would like them to think about the job they are doing, and the fact that they are being paid with stolen money to enslave their fellow man. Human beings shouldn’t require permission from other human beings to traverse across the planet. Just because they wear fancy clothes and work in a fancy building, doesn’t make it right.
What were you going to talk about at the Miami Conference? Is there any way you can still virtually attend?
I plan to talk about how bitcoin is a tool which allows each individual to have complete control over their money, despite what petty tyrants in governments decide. Bitcoin is the tool to economically liberate everyone on the planet.
I still plan to attend the conference via one of these robots.
— Roger Ver (@rogerkver) December 30, 2014
Why do you think the price of bitcoin has fallen, and what will happen as a result?
Bitcoin still works the same at $1 as it does at $1,000, so I try not to focus on the price. It’s clear that the fundamentals are stronger than ever before, so I don’t think it will be long until we see brand new highs.
What’s it like running several bitcoin businesses from Tokyo and the Caribbean?
I do most of my work online, so geographical location in the world isn’t very important to me as long as I have the internet.
Do you think that the application of US regulatory frameworks to bitcoin will kill the currency?
Nearly all government regulations are damaging to business. Bitcoin itself is just a protocol though, and no words written on a piece of paper by politicians can alter the way the protocol works.
Why do you believe that bitcoin is the world’s most important invention after the internet?
The internet largely separated media and communications from the direct control of the state and as we all know, this has been an amazingly positive tool for all humankind. Bitcoin will largely separate commerce and finance from the control of the state. This will cause a huge increase in economic growth and individual freedom around the world, effecting everyones lives for the better.
What’s bitcoin’s biggest weakness?
Bitcoin’s biggest problem is that it seems too good to be true. Firstly, the supply is mathematically limited and can’t be changed. Secondly, anyone can use it anywhere in the world without permission. And finally, it can’t be shut down or censored by anyone, including governments.
Once people understand those points, they almost always see how amazingly beneficial this will be for the world.
Why do you think the bitcoin community and the adoption of the currency has grown enormously in countries like my own?
The dumber the economic policies of the politicians in a country are, the more useful bitcoin is in that country. Argentina is a great example of this!
Edited by Laurie Blair.
EspañolAlthough a new year is usually accompanied by delays in supply for local businesses in Venezuela, this year residents are experiencing new heights of scarcity. The reaction from angered residents has been heard around world, as they have taken to social media to post pictures of empty grocery-store shelves under the hashtag #AnaquelesVaciosEnVenezuela (empty shelves in Venezuela). The online protest has swelled in recent days, despite a ban in place against photographing the empty shelves at various supermarket and pharmacy chains, both public and private. https://twitter.com/OliverLaufer/status/551114416436314113 "@Excelsior_Gama employee: 'If you take another picture, I'll send you to jail.' I placed the complaint. Censorship is the new rule." Support for the protest within Venezuela has even come from those typically Chavista sectors. On Sunday, digital media outlet Aporrea critized President Nicolás Maduro over the "scandalous shortage" at the state-run supermarket in Caracas. The Gran Abasto Bicentenario de Plaza Venezuela itself even published photos of the empty shelves, despite the ban. "The Bicentenario is empty today: no meat, no chicken, no nothing. President Maduro, we, the people, need to see things to support you; if not, we cannot do anything," a customer told Aporrea. Initially, Vice President for Food Security and Sovereignty Carlos Osorio said empty shelves at the beginning of the year are "normal." Once word of the protests spread, however, the national government announced it would shut down its Abasto Bicentenario network of stores until January 10, to "check inventory." Regular customers of the Bicentenario, like Ana Acosta, were surprised to hear the news of the market's closing: "No wonder there was no line to get in." But Vicente Pérez, a farmer and executive director of the Confederation of Agricultural Producers in Venezuela (Fedeagro), confirmed with the PanAm Post that a number of variables coincided for a "bit of an extreme" situation. He said the sales channel of any type of food product tends to be emptied in January, but in the past there was sufficient planning for the most basic items. Regular customers … were surprised to hear the news of the market's closing: "No wonder there was no line to get in." Pérez points to logistics problems, with few transport units available. They have been held up by a shortage of lubricants, auto parts, and spare parts. He also says there is a lack of inputs for agriculture, including chemicals, fertilizers, and seeds. There may be enough maize and rice, he says, but agribusinesses have to wrestle a lack of packaging, industrial inputs, and many raw materials needed to bring the final product to retail outlets. Nonetheless, on Tuesday, January 6, the Venezuelan government reacted to these events and resumed talks with companies in the household and personal-hygiene sectors. The meeting, with representatives of private companies such as Procter & Gamble and Colgate Palmolive, took place to promote the "Plan for Integral Economic Recovery," announced by Nicolás Maduro on December 30. In addition, they met with executives of the Excelsior Gama Supermarkets network to evaluate the installation of a Biometric System — fingerprint machines. Food Minister Yván Bello announced that the measure would reduce the high number of people who purchase daily in the store. Since October, the incremental installation of fingerprint readers has begun in supermarkets throughout the country. They are there to stop what officials view as excessive consumption, and to prevent buyers from reselling on the black market. Apparently, however, these initiatives have failed. Queues, shortages, and fights to acquire basic necessities continue. Customers of the Makro wholesale store located in Los Teques, Miranda, brawled with each other to buy washing powder and diapers. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9E6yugt5Jc&feature=youtu.be The PanAm Post published a feature article on the role that queues play in the life of Venezuelans in December 2014. https://twitter.com/alfredomeza/status/552849652757053440 "A lady carrying four bags of powdered milk was run down by the mob. Once on the ground, they snatched what she had purchased." Malnutrition Rears Its Ugly Head Oscar Meza, director of the research division of the Venezuelan Teachers Federation (CENDAS-FVM), decries not only social unrest, but dissatisfaction with the crisis measures taken by Maduro's administration. Meza said to the PanAm Post that the situation means serious damage to the daily diet of an average Venezuelan citizen: "We are talking about essential items, those that supply protein, minerals, and energy necessary for people to have a healthy life." The CENDAS director argues that of 58 basic and essential food items, at least 33 percent of these were absent from the shelves in 2014. That includes powdered milk, chicken, beef, margarine, sugar, corn oil, cheese, wheat and corn flour, coffee, mayonnaise, and yellow cheese. To Meza, Venezuelans have just had to accept patience as part of their daily lives: "people queue and go out to hunt for food; adaptation has been the dominant theme." In a special report carried out by El Nacional, Maritza Landaeta-Jiménez, a member of the Bengoa Foundation, said that the Venezuelan diet now depends on what "they can get." "If they get cornmeal one week, they will eat arepas three times. If they have chicken, they divide it so that it bears more. Venezuelans are eating pasta with just the smell of chicken, and the nutrients that come in it are not enough." Nixa Martinez, president of the Venezuelan Dietetics Association, also told the local newspaper that healthy-food options are limited. She argues that nutritional deficiencies have increased infections in vulnerable populations such as children and the elderly. No Light on the Horizon Fedeagro representative Pérez says fertilizer prices, in particular, will continue to drive up prices: "A bag of urea, for example, basic fertilizer for agriculture, can be purchased at 90 Bs. [but] possibly it will be soon be 250 Bs. plus freight." In previous years, he says, seed contracts had already been signed by this time, but there has yet to be progress this year. He points to the dollar shortage and restricted access to foreign currency as the underlying barrier to crucial imports. Then there is insecurity. Pérez says this complicates the transfer of goods to their final destination. The union must overcome roadblocks, extortion from police officers, and "pay vaccines" to protect the products they are selling. The "vaccine" is the illegal bribe in kind, bolívares, or even in dollars to receive protection from criminal groups. Those who do not pay must face the consequences and lose the "immunity." When Available, Beyond Reach CENDAS director Meza notes that according to his latest report, released in November, the basic food basket stood at 15,809 Bs.per month (US$90) — equivalent to four minimum wages for a family of five. Unfortunately, he foresees a price increase of up to 150 percent in 2015, and for context he says one should keep in mind that approximately 50 percent of the labor force do not have formal employment: "The crisis is getting to Venezuelans' 'pit of the stomach.' We'll see how far hunger, malnutrition, and need can continue with the submission and adaptation of citizens." Translated by Rebeca Morla. Edited by Fergus Hodgson.