Argentines hot on Bitcoin and tether despite “crypto winter”, report finds

The country’s savers purchase stablecoins tied to the US dollar as an alternative to keeping greenbacks under the mattress, but also buy more volatile crypto assets like Bitcoin.


Argentines are increasingly looking to stablecoins as a way of saving in the face of government exchange restrictions, a report by Americas Market Intelligence (AMI) revealed. 

Cryptocurrencies allow users to save without hoarding stacks of the greenback under their mattresses – but experts warn that many of these digital currencies are less stable than their proponents claim.

According to the AMI report, 53% of Argentine crypto holders said they had purchased stablecoins (cryptocurrencies whose value is supposedly pegged to a reference asset, like the US dollar), compared with 32% regionally. Some 46% of Argentinians said they had bought crypto to protect themselves against inflation – double the regional average of 23%. “Investment” remains the main reason in the region.

Of the six countries in the survey, Argentina has the highest level of crypto use: 17% of respondents said they bought cryptocurrencies, compared with a regional average of 15%. The researchers did not include El Salvador, where Bitcoin was adopted as an official currency in 2021.

The research, which focused on the 1,808 respondents who answered that they hold cryptocurrency, aimed “to put data to what is commonly called  ‘market sentiment”, according to Ignacio Carballo, AMI’s crypto and alternative finance head. 

Carballo was not surprised to find that Argentines are looking to stablecoins “to access foreign currency”: he said the crypto sector “was born” in Argentina in 2019, after Mauricio Macri’s government established exchange restrictions permitting citizens to buy up to US$200 a month. These restrictions remain in force.

Many Argentines prefer to save in US dollars, sometimes keeping stacks of bills in safes or “under the mattress”. They hold some US$246 billion of foreign currency outside the financial system, according to official data.

One popular stablecoin is tether (USDT), a popular asset-backed cryptocurrency designed to be worth US$1, which is usually called the “crypto dollar” or “digital dollar”. 

Germán Guismondi, founder of cryptomining farm CriptoLab, told the Herald: “the utility of stablecoins in Argentina is, among other things, replacing the cash dollar as a saving method.” In his opinion, if USDT didn’t exist, “bills would be more scarce in the country and the price of the informal dollar would be higher.” 

Ernesto C., a 32-year-old food industry worker from Córdoba who has bought USDT, said it allowed him to bypass the government’s restrictions, which he considers a “scam”. 

“This way, you also avoid going to cuevas [illegal exchange houses],” he said.

Stablecoins are not the only type of cryptocurrency bought by Argentines. Bitcoin has lost nearly two thirds of its value since its November 2021 peak of US$64,400 amid the so-called “crypto winter”. However, in a country where inflation reached a three-decade high of 94.8% last year, it remains a favorite among investors. A separate report released last year by Chainalysis found that Bitcoin was the most popular cryptocurrency in Argentina. 

This goes in line with a poll conducted last June by Washington-based data firm Morning Consult, which revealed that 60% of Argentinians trust cryptocurrencies while only a third of them trust the peso. 

The steady reduction in returns paid for finding new Bitcoins reduces supply of the coins, a factor which Guisamondi said could push prices up over the next year and a half.

However, the inherent volatility of the crypto market makes it impossible to predict the value of the assets even in the short term, and even some so-called stablecoins have plummeted to zero. 

Crypto scams

Fear of missing out, or “FOMO”, can make Argentines more vulnerable to scams or investing “without information”, Carballo said, pointing to a lack of regulation, vague communications and irresponsible behavior from companies as potential risks. Terra stablecoin promised to be a “digital dollar” but collapsed in May 2022, he added. 

Argentine fake cryptocurrency ZOE Cash, which collapsed in April 2022, and Bahamas-based crypto exchange FTX , which was the third-largest in the world when it went bankrupt in November 2022, are other crypto-related companies whose leaders have been arrested on fraud charges.

Information on some of the other major market operators is often scarce or misleading. In May 2021, the creators of tether conceded that, far from their marketing claims, only 2.9% of their currency was actually dollar-backed. 

Carballo is among those who wrote a bill for financial education for high schools, which Congress passed in 2018, but has yet to be broadly implemented. He believes the government could pass further legislation to develop communication campaigns and regulate crypto players’ advertisements.

He also recommends users invest no more than 5% of their capital, and “getting informed, getting informed and getting informed,” he said. 

“There is no other way.”


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