Venezuelan authorities launched 11,000 troops to storm the Tocorón prison in Aragua state as part of a daring operation to demolish one of Venezuela’s most prominent organized criminal groups. The mission was successful in locating a stash of weaponry, but it also turned up a surprise find: Bitcoin mining equipment. Remigio Ceballos, minister of the interior and justice, praised it as a “successful operation that allowed us to strike a blow against criminal groups.”
The Tocorón prison, long under the control of criminals, resembled a twisted luxury resort, boasting amenities such as a swimming pool and even a mini zoo. This shocking revelation sheds light on the dire state of Venezuelan prisons, known for their overcrowding and danger.
What sets this operation apart is that it marked the first time Venezuelan authorities targeted the feared Tren de Aragua, a criminal organization implicated in drug and human trafficking, as well as extortion within Venezuela and across the region.
Bitcoin mining machines, an unlikely find in a prison bust, serve a crucial role in minting new coins and securing the Bitcoin blockchain. This unexpected twist underscores the pervasive nature of cryptocurrency even in the most unlikely places.
But this is not the only news concerning cryptocurrency in Venezuela. In April 2023, reports emerged of a government crackdown on crypto entities, urging miners and exchanges to halt operations amid a multi-billion-dollar corruption investigation. The missing funds, estimated between $3 billion and $20 billion, are linked to Petróleos de Venezuela, a state-owned oil and gas company.
What’s even more concerning is the alleged involvement of leaders from President Maduro’s political movement, Chavismo, in this nefarious scheme. This revelation has sent shockwaves through the country, casting a shadow over the future of cryptocurrency in Venezuela.
As of July 2024, the once-promising Petro coin, pegged to Venezuela’s oil reserves, appeared to be on the verge of collapse. Launched in 2018 as the world’s first state-backed crypto asset, it was intended to facilitate remittances and trade. However, a major crackdown on corruption in March led to the disbandment of the state crypto agency responsible for the Petro.
Henkel García, a financial analyst, explained, “The Petro is not like Bitcoin, which computers have to mine to validate transactions. It is an algorithm with a ceiling.” This setback raises questions about the viability of Venezuela’s crypto dreams.
In a country grappling with a complex mix of criminality, corruption, and cryptocurrency, the seizure of Bitcoin mining machines in the Tocorón prison raid serves as a stark reminder that the digital world’s influence knows no bounds, even within prison walls.