91% of Salvadorans Approve the Reign of BTC-Loving President Bukele (Survey)

A survey carried out by one of the leading daily newspapers in El Salvador – La Prensa Grafica – determined that President Nayib Bukele has the support of 91% of the locals. 

The media outlet is known as an opposition to the ongoing political regime in the Central American country, prompting the leader to doubt that the figure might be even higher.

Bukele’s Record Approval Rate

El Salvador’s President, who took the helm in June 2019, enjoys one of the highest approval ratings globally. Previous data showed that approximately 85% of Salvadorans were satisfied with his rule, while the most recent study conducted by La Prensa Grafica estimated that the figure has surged to 91%. Less than 7% disapproved, while 2.1% did not respond to the question.

The people most satisfied with Bukele’s administration are mainly younger generations and individuals with middle economic status. 

According to the survey participants, some of his best achievements over the past years include handling the COVID-19 pandemic, improving the health sector, building the country’s highway infrastructure, and enforcing reforms in education.

Bukele shared the results on Twitter, suggesting the actual figures could be even higher since La Prensa Grafica has previously criticized his policies.

To broad society, the 41-year-old leader is known as a keen proponent of bitcoin, with the local government launching numerous initiatives focused on the primary cryptocurrency lately. The most eminent example was the adoption of BTC as a legal tender inside El Salvador’s borders, which became official in September 2021.

However, many Salvadorans seem to be against the strategy, describing it as one of the biggest failures of Bukele’s cabinet. The respondents stated that the price increase of goods and services and unemployment are other issues that the authorities need to fix. 

Salvadorans Should See the Other Side of the Coin

Despite being proclaimed as a fiasco by some Salvadorans, there are certain benefits that should be considered as well. 

For one, the small nation became highly popular and boosted its tourism industry. El Salvador’s Minister of Tourism – Morena Valdez – said last year that the sector had been up over 30% in the first months after the bitcoin adoption:

“We did a poll to check the activity according to the before and after of bitcoin. The tourism sector increased in November and December. This increased by more than 30%.”

President Bukele recently revealed that the country has become even more attractive to travelers, boosting tourism by 95%. He claimed that the multiple bitcoin forays introduced by El Salvador are one factor behind the surge.

Bukele also stated that opening arms towards BTC has fixed the nation’s legacy. Prior to that, it was notorious for being among the most violent countries in the world, reaching a peak of 103 killings per 100,000 residents a few years ago.

Subsequently, the President said El Salvador has received “a lot of private investments” since hopping on the bitcoin bandwagon. 

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Crypto Firms Are Retreating to Swiss Banks After Industry Meltdown

With the largest crypto-supportive banks in the U.S. crumbling at the seams, industry firms appear to be retreating to Switzerland for a financial lifeline. 

Crypto-focused banks in the region are reporting higher traffic after Silvergate, Signature Bank, and Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) all effectively failed over the past two weeks. 

Where to Crypto Firms Go?

SEBA Bank managing director Yves Longchamp told Reuters via email that the bank has experienced a “pronounced uptick” in traffic from the United States, according to a report published Monday. Representatives from the bank’s Singapore, Hong Kong, Abu Dhabi, and Switzerland offices also noted more interest from American clients.

“Crypto firms and other money managers have already started the onboarding process and many calls are scheduled next weeks,” wrote Longchamp.

Meanwhile, the country’s Arab Bank has seen increasing interest from crypto venture capital businesses since early March, when doubts around Silvergate’s finances began to circulate

Arab Bank’s head of treasury, Rani Jabban, said 80% of its prospective client increase came from former Silvergate customers. However, regulatory issues around onboarding U.S. clients ultimately restrict the bank to absorbing an estimated one or two more firms at most. 

“I don’t see any banks also offering the structure that Signature and Silvergate were offering with their internal blockchain 24/7 settlement,” Arab Bank’s Rani said.

Banks like Silvergate have been a central lifeline for U.S. crypto businesses including Coinbase, Bitstamp, CryptoCom, and the now-defunct FTX. Some firms pivoted to Signature following the former’s liquidation last week, only for regulators to seize upon the latter days later. 

Stablecoin issuer Circle’s January audit reported that the bank held part of its USDC reserves across Silvergate, Signature, and SVB. The firm has since transferred all assets to Bank of New York Melon. 

Attacking Crypto

Certain crypto industry leaders and policymakers alike suspect that the sudden dirth of major crypto banks in the country is not a coincidence, but a deliberate government attempt to drive the industry from its borders. 

Republican Congressman Tom Emmer wrote into the FDIC on Wednesday questioning if the agency had abused its authority to pressure banks not to serve crypto companies. Furthermore, Signature Bank board member and former House member, Barney Frank, claimed there was “no objective reason” to close down Signature besides sending a “strong anti-crypto message” to other banks. 

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MBLK Token Private Sale Exceeds Expectations, Sets Stage for IDO Success

[PRESS RELEASE – Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 17th March 2023]

ZOGI Labs, a multidivisional blockchain company and gaming studio established in May 2021, and the team behind the revolutionary MMORPG Legends of Bezogia, has announced the successful conclusion of its private token sale for its in-game currency, Magical Blocks ($MBLK). Led by web3-focused M3 Ventures Ltd (HK), the investors, partners, and collaborators of ZOGI Labs also include notable industry leaders like Polygon (MATIC), Cronos Chain (Crypto.com), BNB Chain, as well as multiple ecosystem partnerships with platforms, guilds, and communities. The private sale exceeded all expectations, closing the round with $1.8 Million of token sales and setting the stage for a highly anticipated public sale (IDO).

“I strongly believe the reason behind the confidence of our investors comes from Legends of Bezogia being a proprietary late stage product with a mature community and ecosystem which involves tens of thousands of gamers and many hundreds of beta testers that are experiencing Legends of Bezogia going into final release this year. This has established a strong demand for the $MBLK token already before its launch and release. Utility is what grows value for all stakeholders and our investors see that.” said CEO, Steve Murray, talking to industry leaders recently on the panel at AIBC conference in Dubai.

This milestone marks a major step forward for $MBLK, as it prepares for its highly anticipated initial DEX offering (IDO) in April of this year. With a unique blend of blockchain technology and cutting-edge gaming mechanics, $MBLK is exactly what the industry has needed to seamlessly bridge the gaming and blockchain industry. Designed and coded from scratch by the ZOGI team, $MBLK establishes a new standard in sustainability mechanics and logics of an open-world metaverse environment. Learn more about this in ZOGI Labs’ whitepaper.

The overwhelming demand for $MBLK is a testament to the innovative nature of the project and the full-stack team of more than 45 talented individuals who are fully committed to delivering this immersive and entertaining decentralized gaming experience. With the private sale now closed, ZOGI Labs is turning its attention to the upcoming IDO, where it plans to offer whitelisted investors a chance to buy early and gain access to the exciting world of Legends of Bezogia.

It’s clear that the gaming and blockchain communities recognize the enormous potential of $MBLK and, after 2 rigorous years of development, are excited to see Legends of Bezogia coming to every major gaming platform and operating system in 2023.

To stay informed about the IDO and Legends of Bezogia, sign up here and join our growing community today!

About ZOGI Labs

ZOGI Labs is a multidivisional blockchain company and gaming studio established in May 2021, and the team behind the revolutionary MMORPG Legends of Bezogia. At ZOGI Labs, our mission is to seamlessly blend blockchain technology and cutting-edge gaming mechanics to create a truly immersive digital realm – a place where gamers can escape into stunning otherworldly landscapes, live vicariously through their Bezogi avatars, and have a block-buster of a time in the lands of Bezogia.

ZOGI Labs is raising the bar for crypto-based games with breathtaking graphics, a rich storyline, quirky characters, and a level of fun that will keep you chained to your screen.

ZOGI Labs is the source of this content. This Press Release is for informational purposes only. The information does not constitute investment advice or an offer to invest.

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Got Bitcoin? Argentina’s Inflation Rate is Now Over 100%

Argentina’s annual inflation rate surpassed 100% in February, marking a 30-year high since the nation’s hyperinflationary period in 1991. 

Meanwhile, Bitcoin has appreciated against the Argentine Peso by 20% over the past year, despite posting a 34% drop against US dollars over the same period. 

  • Government data released on Tuesday showed a Consumer Price Index (CPI) increase of 6.6% across the month alone, alongside a 13.1% year-to-date rise.
  • The rapid debasement of the nation’s currency can be felt in real-time by its citizens. Irene Devita, 74, told the Guardian that her community is struggling to afford anything as they endure surging costs that rise weekly. 
  • “The other day I came and asked for three tangerines, two oranges, two bananas, and half a kilo of tomatoes. When he told me it cost 650 pesos [$3.22], I told him take everything out and leave just the tomatoes because I don’t have enough money,” Devita said.

  • Argentina had one of the top ten highest inflation rates in the world in 2022 – and has nearly doubled from last March’s rate of 55.1%.
  • The region also has a relatively high crypto adoption rate, ranking 13th in Chainalysis’s 2022 crypto adoption index, despite the nation’s central bank clamping down on crypto-related services. 
  • Nigeria and Turkey led Argentina in that same index – countries that also face troublesome inflation that only serves to boost crypto adoption. Due to its fixed supply, Bitcoin bulls often regard the asset as a long-term inflation hedge. 
  • On the contrary, central Banks overseeing relatively stable currencies, such as the Bank of Canada, argue Bitcoin is not an inflation hedge due to its relative volatility.
  • Bitcoin reacts strongly to central bank policy, however: the asset is up 30% this week after the Federal Reserve injected $300 billion in loans to qualified banks.  

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Crypto Twitter Betting on ‘Hyperinflation’ Catapulting BTC to $1 Million in 3 Months 

Balaji Srinivasan, a venture capitalist and former CTO of Coinbase, claimed that the US economy would enter a phase of hyperinflation in 90 days, catapulting BTC to $ 1 million. 

Balaji, whose crypto venture Earn.com was acquired by Coinbase in 2019, also offered to pay $1 million in BTC to the best 1,000 tweets that alert about stealth financial crisis.  

Balaji Bets BTC to be at $1 Million 

“… I am putting up the BitSignal. $1M in BTC to alert us to the stealth financial crisis. $1000 per tweet, for the best 1000… They hid their insolvency from you, the depositors. And they’re about to print $2T to hyperinflate the dollar… So buy Bitcoin *now* and get your coins off exchanges,” Balaji tweeted on March 16.

The next day, he went hammer and tongs. “THE BANKS ARE INSOLVENT We should have learned to distrust bankers after the 2008 crisis. Back then, they used complex language to hide the simple fact that the mortgages were bad. And today, they do it to hide the fact that the money is gone. Not in one bank, in all the banks. And they knew months ago…,” he said.  

In the final salvo, he said Signature and Silvergate were forced to close because they banked crypto. 

While Balaji’s tweets generated huge responses, including from the likes of Binance CEO Changpeng Zhao, who seemed to be much amused by the turn of events, famous cryptocurrency critic Molly White pointed to venture capitalist’s self-interest in painting a doom of traditional banking and finance. 

“it’s not like we can put the genie back in the bottle! ” – VC who stands to profit massively from the release of the genie, and who has worked tirelessly to release said genie,” she tweeted in reply to Balaji’s tweet and followed up with, “i am also pretty good at putting cats in bags, as it happens.”  

Buy the Pivot: Arthur Hayes

Asking investors to buy bitcoin, Arthur Hayes, co-founder of BitMEX crypto exchange, earlier said that US banks are having an unrealized loss of $620 billion. And the US government is planning to provide a $4.4 trillion bailout to the banking industry.

The huge bailout package will give a boost to the entire financial sector, including cryptocurrencies, especially bitcoin and other leading coins. During Covid-19, when the US government pumped $4.19 trillion into the economy, bitcoin had surged to $69k, he argued.  

Banking Crisis at Center Stage 

The regulatory heat brought on cryptocurrency companies in recent weeks has given way to a much larger issue – the banking crisis of 2023. In about a week, three US mainstream banks folded up operations, leaving behind a vast trail of institutional and individual depositors with no access to the funds in their bank accounts. This also triggered massive bank runs involving hundreds of regional banks. 

The liquidity crisis faced by the banks is said to have been caused by government bonds becoming cheaper after the Fed Reserve increased the interest rate in recent months in a bid to tame inflation, which at one point had hit a 40-year high. 

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Bitcoin Dominance Rises to 9-Month High as Altcoins Retrace (Weekend Watch)

Bitcoin’s dominance continues to increase as most of the alts have slumped today, while BTC maintains above $27,000.

ATOM, LDO, and APT are among the most substantial losers today, dropping by up to 7%.

Bitcoin Dominance Spikes to New Peaks

The US banking crisis, in which three banks were closed within days, and the subsequent bailout speculations as well as US Fed lending $300 billion to certain banking institutions, pushed BTC north this week.

The asset stood just inches above $20,000 last Sunday but started marching on as the working week began. After several consecutive massive rallies, the cryptocurrency found itself trading above $26,000 for the first time in months on Tuesday.

It retraced by a couple of grand in the next two days but went on the offensive once more on Thursday and Friday. This resulted in jumping above $27,000 and reaching a new 9-month high at almost $28,000.

Despite being unable to overcome that line yet and falling slightly, BTC still trades north of $27,000. Its market cap is above $520 billion, while its dominance over the altcoins has reached its highest levels since June 2022 at over 45% on CMC.

BTCUSD. Source: TradingView
BTCUSD. Source: TradingView

Altcoins Turn Red

The alternative coins experienced notable gains in the past few days as well, but most have retraced today. Ethereum went to a multi-month high of its own above $1,800, but a 2% daily drop has pushed it just under that level.

Binance Coin, Cardano, Solana, Tron, Shiba Inu, and Polkadot have declined by similar percentages. Dogecoin, Polygon, and Litecoin are down by even more in a day.

Nevertheless, the most significant losses come from ATOM, LDO, STX, FIL, and APT. All of these assets have plummeted by somewhere between 5% and 8%.

Naturally, the cumulative market cap of all crypto assets has seen a minor decline, with almost $20 billion evaporated.

Cryptocurrency Market Overview. Source: Quantify Crypto
Cryptocurrency Market Overview. Source: Quantify Crypto

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$2.5 Billion Stolen From US Victims via Crypto Investment Scams in 2022: FBI Report

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) revealed that Americans parted with over $10 billion last year due to online fraud.

Wrongdoers drained $2.57 billion of that amount via cryptocurrency investment schemes. 

Crypto Scams on the Rise

Despite the predominantly bearish year for the cryptocurrency industry, 2022 was fruitful for criminals. They stole nearly $2.6 billion from American consumers using investment schemes related to bitcoin and other digital assets. In contrast, such fraud resulted in “just” $907 million in 2021.

“Crypto investment scams saw unprecedented increases in the number of victims and the dollar losses to these investors. Many victims have assumed massive debt to cover losses from these fraudulent investments,” the FBI report reads.

The agency disclosed that the most targeted group is people aged 30 to 49. Previous studies have shown that such individuals are pretty active in the crypto field, while older investors have not yet embraced the asset class. 

The FBI outlined the most common ways in which crypto scammers attack victims. They often lure people into linking their wallets to a fraudulent liquidity mining application and thus steal their funds or hack their social media accounts.

Celebrity impersonation is also a popular method: wrongdoers stream a video of a dubious investment scheme and post the face of a well-known individual to make their project seem legit. Needless to say, the celebrities have not given their permission to appear in the ad, while victims who join the fraud often lose their money.

Subsequently, crypto fraudsters sometimes pretend to be real estate professionals or employers of a company that offers investment advice. Instead of giving valuable guidance, though, they try to steal as much from the targets as possible.

Romance Crypto Fraud Also Became Highly Popular

A Federal Trade Commission (FTC) research revealed that such scams affected thousands of Americans between January 2021 and March 2022, resulting in $185 million siphoned from them.

Wrongdoers often pick lonely individuals by pretending they are in love with them. Once gaining their trust, they urge them to invest in a mysterious cryptocurrency project, lying that the significant profits could fund a potential wedding or a romantic holiday. 

“Victims of romance scams learn that the heart is not so smart the hard way. Their search for love makes them easy pickings for conniving individuals that dupe them out of their money. They put on an elaborate con that has their victims swooning over them, and by the time the victim catches on, they’ll be several thousand dollars poor,” Bankless Times explained.

Such type of fraud seems to be quite popular in the United Kingdom. A British man whose name was not revealed lost $200,000 worth of bitcoin last year after chatting online with a woman called Jia. The latter advised him to allocate the assets in a suspicious app, assuring the proceeds would be great. Shortly after doing so, the man saw his balance “cleared” while the woman ceased contact with him.

A British pensioner living in Nottinghamshire parted with $207,000 this year after becoming a victim of a similar scam. She fell in love with a person who introduced himself as a US Army surgeon and who asked her to transfer money to a particular bitcoin wallet. Her bank and the local police restored more than half of the sum. 

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These Brazilian Soccer Players Became Victims of a Crypto Scam (Report)

The professional Brazilian soccer players – Gustavo Scarpa, Mayke Rocha de Oliveira, and Willian Bigode – have reportedly lost over $5 million due to investing in an alleged fraudulent cryptocurrency firm called Xland.

The company said it did not run a pyramid scheme and promised to reimburse the victims.

Athletes Have Fallen Victims

Scarpa – Brazilian soccer player who plays for Premier League club Nottingham Forest – and Mayke Rocha de Oliveira (better known as Mayke) – who competes at Brazil’s Serie A team Palmeiras – were supposedly urged to join Xland as investors by Willian Bigode. 

The platform promised returns of up to 5% a month, but it seems like it drained the players’ investment. Scarpa distributed 6.3 million reais (around $1.2 million), while Mayke parted with 4 million reais (approximately $757,000). Both players filed complaints with the police several months ago. Scarpa recently commented:

“I’ve always seen stupid people fall victim to pyramid schemes and scams. Finding myself in a situation like that is horrible.”

Bigode – a former teammate of the victims at Brazil’s reigning champion Palmeiras – denied persuading the players to invest in Xland. He said he is also a victim of the supposed scam, losing 17.5 million reais (over $3.3 million):

“I’m not a scammer, I didn’t take anyone’s money. I’m a victim, too, because I haven’t gotten my own money back to this day.”

Vinicius Salva – lead investigator on the case – stated there was “strong evidence” that Xland operated as a pyramid scheme. On the other hand, the firm rejected those claims, saying the investor losses resulted from the demise of the crypto exchange FTX in November 2022. Xland also vowed to restore the soccer players’ funds.

Some of Brazil’s Biggest Crypto Scams

The largest nation by landmass in South America has become a hotbed for cryptocurrency schemes over the past few years. 

The local authorities detained Claudio Oliveira, a.k.a. “The Bitcoin King,” in 2021 on suspicion of swiping 7,000 BTC from clients of his Bitcoin Banco Group. The investigators claimed that he transferred the stolen assets to his personal wallet. Upon his arrest, the police confiscated hard wallets belonging to Oliveira, alongside luxury cars and a huge amount of cash.

Brazil’s law enforcement agencies carried out a similar operation last year, halting the operations of a criminal organization led by the businessman Francisco Valdevino da Silva, better known as the “Bitcoin Sheikh.” Per the accusations, the gang’s members lured people to join their crypto platform, promising them up to 20% returns on their investment.

The investigation, named “Operation Poyais,” estimated that the wrongdoers stole a considerable amount of funds from victims throughout the years and laundered $766 million worth of digital currencies. 

Featured Image Courtesy of Nottingham Post

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Crypto Flourishes in Vietnam With 16.6 Million Holders (Report)

The “Vietnam Crypto Market Report 2022” revealed that 16.6 million Vietnamese own digital currencies, with bitcoin being the most popular asset.

Another research conducted by Chainalysis placed the Asian country as the world’s cryptocurrency adoption leader, with a score of 1.000.

Close to the Top

The study, reported by a local media outlet, estimated that 16.6 million Vietnamese had purchased cryptocurrencies (approximately 17% of the country’s population). 31% of those have invested in bitcoin, making it the most preferred digital asset.

The research determined that Thailand is the only country with more HODLers than Vietnam in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). 

Apart from having a considerable number of crypto investors, Vietnam is also home to multiple blockchain projects that primarily focus on GameFi (Game Finance), NFTs, or Web3. 

Vietnamese have founded seven of the top 200 blockchain organizations globally, with Axie Infinity, Coin98, and Kyber Network being some of the examples. Axie Infinity is among the most popular blockchain-based games, reaching a peak of nearly three million users at the beginning of 2022. The user base dropped below one million in the following months before spiking again at the start of 2023.

The game suffered a severe blowback in March last year after the North Korean hacking collective – the Lazarus Group – drained over $600 million worth of digital currencies from Ronin Network – an Ethereum-linked sidechain that powers Axie Infinity. The project improved its security policy and restarted operations three months later.

A Global Leader According to Chainalysis

“The 2022 Global Crypto Adoption Index,” a study carried out by Chainalysis, outlined Vietnam as the world’s cryptocurrency adoption leader, reaching a score of 1.000. The platform claimed that one reason behind that success could be the high interest in blockchain-based games in the region. It is worth noting that Vietnam ranked first in the 2021 research, too.

The Philippines – another country located in South East Asia – was second with a score of 0.753, while war-torn Ukraine was third with 0.694.

Most nations in the top 20 list included lower-middle-income economies, such as Nigeria and Indonesia, and upper-middle-income ones (Argentina, Brazil, Turkey).

Two of the world’s super economies – the United States of America and the United Kingdom – also found their place, ranking respectively 5th and 17th.

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CBDC Transactions to Surpass $210 Billion in Less Than a Decade (Study)

A recent study conducted by the analytics company Juniper Research estimated that payments via central bank digital currencies (CBDCs) could reach $213 billion by 2030. 

The firm believes governments across the globe will use the product to boost financial inclusion and improve the monetary condition of emerging economies.

A Possible Boom of CBDC Transactions

Juniper Research experts analyzing the fintech and payments market believe CBDC transactions could skyrocket from $100 million in 2023 to $213 billion by 2030 (a staggering 213,000% increase). 

The specialists said the financial product is still in its early days, adding that global centralized authorities will focus on it to improve digital settlements and enable additional monetary services. However, they might also use it to obtain control over the consumers’ finances and supervise their activities.

The research further determined that by 2030, 92% of the total value transacted via CBDCs will be paid locally. At a later stage, the tool could start settling cross-border settlements. Report author Nick Maynard commented:

“While cross-border payments currently have high costs and slow transaction speeds, this area is not the focus of CBDC development. As CBDC adoption will be very country-specific, it will be incumbent on cross-border payment networks to link schemes together, allowing the wider payments industry to benefit from CBDCs.”

The potential launch of CBDCs is usually supported by government officials and central bankers who believe they will be a better solution than bitcoin. Janet Yellen – Treasury Secretary of the United States – is a proponent of that thesis, arguing that a digital dollar could outcompete BTC, which has “high fees and slower processing times.”

Most crypto supporters, on the other hand, are against CBDCs, opining that centralized institutions will employ them to increase their control of people’s cash flows. Adam Back – CEO of Blockstream – said last year that these products are worse than bank accounts, while bitcoin is an “apolitical, bearer, unseizable money.” 

Who Has Joined the CBDC Race?

China is the country that pops up immediately when talking about CBDCs since its government has launched multiple initiatives to popularize its digital yuan over the past few years. 

It distributed $4.6 million worth of e-CNY to the residents of Chengdu and over $6 million to those of Beijing at the beginning of 2021. The authorities also spread the adoption to the citizens of Shenzhen in 2022, giving away $2.3 million in digital yuan to them.

China even allowed CBDC payments during the Beijing Winter Olympic Games last year. This triggered some controversy between US politicians and their Chinese colleagues. 

The American Senators – Marsha Blackburn, Roger Wicker, and Cynthia Lummis – urged the US athletes to stay away from the product, while the Foreign Ministry Spokesperson of China – Zhao Lijian – claimed the lawmakers should “abide by the spirit” of the Games and “stop making trouble” out of things they don’t understand.

BrazilJapan, and South Korea have also introduced CBDC testing programs to check how an upcoming digital version of their respective national currency could interact with the local financial network and whether it could utilize cross-border payments.

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