Reporting from Lake Atitlan, Guatemala…
Interpol helicopters swam through the darkness outside my room. Scattered booms of M-80s cracked and whipped the rushing winds in celebration of Semana Santa. Dogs roared. Other strange animals, of which your editor is not yet accustomed to, howled, hooted and growled in vain efforts, it seemed, to beat back the chaos.
Saturday evening, as my driver, Ricardo, pulled into Panajachel (the “New York” of Lake Atitlan), so did a swarm of Interpol officers. They came to capture the fugitive ex-governor of Veracruz, Javier Duarte de Ochoa.
Coincidentally, those who conspired to help Duarte make his way to Lake Atitlan, according to authorities, did so from Mexico City… from where I just flew in. (For the record, I’ve never seen that man before in my life!)
Six months ago, Duarte resigned from his position as governor of Veracruz to, according to him, ‘fight the corruption charges’ made against him. (Racketeering, theft, money laundering, bribery… you know, the usual)
A few days later, he vanished without a trace.
In an effort to smoke him out, Mexican authorities froze more than 100 bank accounts and seized all property and businesses tied to his widespread crony corruption ring.
“In total,” El Universal reported back in January, “421 million pesos (19.2 million dollars) have been recovered as a joint effort by the Attorney General’s Office and Mexico’s Finance and Public Ministry (SCHP), and two businessmen who decided to return the money voluntarily.”
Mexican politicians placed a reward of 15 million pesos (a little over $700,000) for his capture.
Fast forward to Easter Eve, April 15, 2017, Duarte was arrested at 8PM in the lobby of the Riviera de Atitlán hotel, only a few blocks from where I would, a couple of hours later, rest my head.
Some say a rat spotted him at the hotel and called the fuzz. Others say his family was being tracked and their holiday travels created a trail of crumbs right to him.
Either way, there’s one thing I’m willing to bet on…
It was the bounty, more than anything, which landed Duarte in the Guatemalan slammer.
Money, after all, is an incredible motivator.
This angle of the story, as it played out, reminded me of a very interesting conversation I had recently…
The rise of cryptocurrency bounty markets
A few weeks back, while doing some research for a book I’m writing about the future of blockchain technology (yes, it’s finally happening), I had a (virtual) conversation with Pavol Luptak.
Pavol, if you’re not familiar, is a security consultant and CEO of Nethemba — an “ethical hacking company focused on web and mobile application security and, of course, digital privacy.”
We spoke mostly about how cryptomarkets could (and likely will) change the face of political corruption.
Imagine, if you will, an anonymous prediction market, such as what Augur is building, where anyone can anonymously make a bet about whether or not a specific happening will take place in the future.
As these anonymous prediction markets become more and more popular, and more and more money is on the line, it’s likely they’ll start to influence world events.
For better or worse, that is.
Now, think about the implications of this in terms of policymaking. Money, after all, again, is a great motivator.
With such prediction markets in place, said Luptak, “It will be possible to create a strong economic incentive for politicians to change the legislation, approve any new law or modify the existing one, and ‘win the bet.’”
The winner of such a bet, said Pavol, will be “paid in anonymous digital cash with no traces at all. Practically impossible to prove it.”
In other words, it could be one way for David and his ilk to convince Goliath’s cronies to wander off the reservation. (Crowdfunded reverse-cronyism, if you will.)
Again, for better or worse.
The potential impact of cryptomarkets on the world is an increasingly fascinating subject. We’ll get to that, though, in tomorrow’s episode.
For now, I’m off.
There’s a volcano across the lake that’s gurgling my name.
Managing editor, Laissez Faire Today
P.S. Have something to say? Say it! Chris@lfb.org.