Since last Monday, numerous media outlets have been reporting that the Venezuelan government was taking steps to supposedly prohibit the use of Visa and MasterCard cards in Venezuela. The rumor ran hastily, causing many people to forget who is behind the attempts to block this and other financial systems to further complicate the lives of Venezuelans.
The Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV) clarified on Tuesday that the decision to design a technological platform for the operation of the means of payment, will operate in a complementary manner to those already in place at the current national level, “preserving as much as possible, the traditional payment mechanisms”.
Through a note published on the agency’s website , the BCV commented that the communique issued jointly with the Superintendency of Banking Sector Institutions (Sudeban) does not intend to cease operations of international debit and credit card franchises, such as Visa and MasterCard, but “promote the incorporation of an alternative transaction processing mechanism with debit and credit cards at the national level”.
It notes in part:
“It is important to note that this jointly issued circular does not intend to declare the cessation of operations with international debit and credit card franchises. Rather, it is the mood of the regulators that the country’s financial infrastructures remain fully integrated into the international payment channels, without implying that the country’s right to insure, develop and extend the alternatives available is ignored to serve our citizens for the completion of their payments”.
“All citizens will be informed by Sudeban and the BCV, as well as by the banking entities of which they are clients, regarding the progress that is being made in these areas and how to operate on the new platforms at the time it is deemed convenient, so that they are adopted with all the security and versatility required”.
Who intends to eliminate the use of Visa and MasterCard in Venezuela?
It is important to remember that on March 14, Reuters reported that the US government is considering imposing “financial sanctions” on Venezuela, which could prohibit Visa, MasterCard and other institutions from processing transactions in the country. The agency cited as a source a senior official of the Donald Trump government; it did not want to reveal his/her identity.
At that time Sudeban Superintendent, Antonio Morales, established a maximum period of 10 days for representatives of the national bank to prepare a technical plan that allows all operators and payment systems are interconnected and the routing of payments idone in our country. Morales reported that he was studying the implementation of new methods of payment through email type ZELLE, digital buttons for credit and debit cards, cryptocurrencies, mobile wallet and QR code.
On April 11, the Venezuelan Minister of Communication, Jorge Rodríguez, announced that Venezuelan intelligence agencies discovered a plan called “Cocoon 2.0”, in which different Venezuelan opposition leaders planned, together with US authorities, to carry out actions to destabilize the economy of the country, including the blocking of Visa and Mastercard payment systems and cyber sabotage to the Patria platform.
The plan was exposed in the conversations found on the cell phone of Roberto Marrero, assistant to Juan Guaidó, arrested on March 21 for being involved in insurrectionary plans.
Below you can see easily how the Venezuelan newspapers, most of them in hands of the anti-Chavistas, headlined this issue in recent days: “Bank system should stop operation with Visa and Mastercard before January 2020”, “Jose Guerra reject the BCV order to replace Visa and Mastercard”, among others.
The resolution, in effect, calls on the national financial system to develop a domestic transaction processing network that is independent or parallel to those of Visa and Mastercard and the Maestro system.
However, the resolution at no time ordered the banks to stop using such networks .
And it is understandable, because it is not Venezuela who wishes to stop using Visa and MasterCard; It is the US government that wants to do so, as a way to increase discontent in the Venezuelan population as a form of attack against the government of Nicolás Maduro, seeking his overthrow.
The measure taken by Venezuela is only seeking to implement measures so that the country continues to function normally in case the US blockade against Visa and MasterCard materializes.
The resolution, published on May 16, states verbatim :
“… must be created in an integrated manner with debit and credit card operators and any other institution authorized for this purpose, the system to process operations with debit and credit cards regardless of the Visa, Mastercard and Maestro brands in the national scope, establishing two phases for its implementation, the first for the operation of the system to process operations with debit cards, which must be done before November 30, 2019; and, the second phase for the implementation of the system to process operations with credit cards, which must occur before January 30, 2020”.
This is the statement published this May 21 on the BCV page :
Between the Superintendency of Institutions of the Banking Sector (Sudeban) and the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV) a circular was issued with the purpose of establishing a schedule, previously discussed in working groups with the bank, for the adaptation of banking institutions, for the purpose of designing a technological platform for the operation of the means of payment, which will operate in a manner complementary to those already in place at the current national level, preserving, as far as possible, the traditional payment mechanisms.
It is important to note that this jointly issued circular does not intend to declare the cessation of operations with international debit and credit card franchises. Rather, it is the mood of the regulators that the country’s financial infrastructures remain fully integrated into the international payment channels, without implying that the country’s right to insure, develop and extend the alternatives available to them is ignored to serve our citizens for the completion of their payments.
Hence, the objective is to promote the incorporation of an alternative mechanism for processing operations with debit and credit cards at the national level; extend the use of biometrics for authentication and authorization of payments in all banking institutions; and, continue to strengthen the use of interbank mobile payment services between people and businesses, in its different modalities.
All citizens will be informed by Sudeban and the BCV, as well as by the banking entities of which they are clients, regarding the progress that is being made in these areas and how to operate on the new platforms at the time deemed convenient, so that they are adopted with all the security and versatility required.
Translated by: JRE\EF