S5 E3: Javier Bastardo on Personal Security & Bitcoin in Venezuela
Javier Bastardo is a unique presence in the world of Bitcoin journalism. During the day he writes articles for the Spanish version of The Coin Telegraph, and after hours he organizes Bitcoin-centric events with Satoshi en Venezuela.
In this interview, the enthusiastic Javier talks about the challenges that he faces in Venezuela and some of the instances when he had to physically protect himself from the authorities. If governments of the world become hostile to Bitcoin, then Javier Bastardo’s stories can serve as inspiration for the average Bitcoin dissident who is still looking to hedge against the national (or even regional, continental, or global) financial system.
What if the secret services physically chase you and harass you? What if your free spirit and tendency to speak your mind gets you in trouble with the police? How do you organize educational Bitcoin events in a country that discourages them and may deem participants as criminals?
All of these questions seem hard to conceive for the average westerner who is protected by a series of basic human rights. Yet to Javier Bastardo this is part of everyday life. And his stories may one day serve as informal instruction manuals for those who still stand for economic freedom while being governed by authoritarian tyrants.
Venezuela is quite a peculiar country, with lots of natural resources and a history of prosperity. Yet the United States’ embargo has destroyed the national economy, spiked inflation rates, and took away the hopes of dreams of millions of people.
Even if it’s highly volatile in comparison with Wall Street assets, bitcoin is still more stable than the bolivar during times of crisis. And when the Venezuelan government launches its own shitcoin that is a clone of DASH, getting educated to understand how Bitcoin works becomes a skill that helps you survive the harsh economic conditions.
The paradox is that high-speed internet is still a luxury in Venezuela and most people have to deal with slow and unstable connections due to a lack of infrastructure. Yet local bitcoiners still find ways to mine BTC and transact money across borders without their government’s permission.
Javier Bastardo tells all of these stories and ultimately educates all of us on how we should strengthen ourselves in situations of financial and political crisis. He embodies good personal security and has some unusual ways of staying safe while organizing events for Satoshi en Venezuela: he uses open American networks such as Instagram and Twitter, as they are outside the Venezuelan government’s control. It’s a perfect example of understanding threat models and trade-offs, and it’s worth giving Javier a listen.
Time Stamps (as described by Javier himself):
2:09 – Living in a dystopia
3:18 – Struggling in a country of the 7th world vs. BTC education
5:07 – BTC versus the events in Venezuela
6:07 – The problem of being associated with the wealthy and enchufados
11:30 – Cryptocurrencies are associated with the Nomenklatura
15:00 – A story about the time when Javier got his first political militia (secret service) visit in a hotel room
19:40 – Political militia visiting a Bitcoin-only meetup
22:47 – “We need to resist”
24:30 – The Venezuelan op-sec
27:01 – Exercise the freedom of speech
30:40 – Does Javier want to leave Venezuela?
32:37 – Crisis and the Nietszchean way of living
34:00 – Who uses Bitcoin? How to store your coins as an average José de Venezuela
38:45 – Using a Samourai Wallet cold wallet with an old Samsung S4
41:58 – Venezuela needs Bitcoin, but it is difficult to use it in a secure way
44:58 – Why didn’t Javier choose to remain anonymous?
48:35 – Dollarization in Venezuela, its problems, and digital payments
51:00 – Digital and cashless Venezuelan problems
52:40 – Does Lightning fix this?
56:46 – Running a BTC and LN node
62:23 – Vlad talks in Spanish
64:50 – Bastardo is really Javier’s last name and how to donate to Satoshi en Venezuela.