Venezuela launches PETRO oil cryptocurrency

Officials in the troubled South American country hope the latest initiative will boost international investment.

Mike Richardson
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Venezuela launched the presale of its own cryptocurrency, “the petro”, today in an attempt to bypass tough economic sanctions imposed by the US government.. There are currently 82 million tokens available, which the government plans to follow with an initial coin offering (ICO) launch in a month. It’s the world’s first sovereign cryptocurrency, built on the Ethereum blockchain and intended in part to save the country from wild inflation. The bolivar has reached quadruple-figure inflation recently, and one bolivar is currently worth 0.00004 USD.

Critics say the move is a desperate attempt by Caracas to raise cash at a time when Venezuela lacks the ability to repay its $150bn of foreign debt.

But President Nicolas Maduro says the Petro will be backed by the nation's oil reserves, a claim that has led critics to label it a form of national debt more than a currency and seen it declared illegal by Venezuela's Congress, while the US Treasury Department warned it may violate sanctions imposed last year.

The government says the currency aims to circumvent US sanctions on the economy.

President Nicolas Maduro has said each tokens will be backed by a barrel of Venezuelan crude. The Latin American country has the world's largest proven oil reserves.

A total of 100 million Petros will be sold, with an initial value set at $60, based on the price of a barrel of Venezuelan crude in mid-January.

The petro is also supposedly backed by storehouses of gold and diamonds, Maduro has said, according to Bloomberg. But there remains no way to exchange petro for those physical assets it’s allegedly backed by nor for the Venezuelan bolivar. 

The official website published a guide to setting up a virtual wallet in which to hold the cryptocurrency, but did not provide a link for actually doing so on Tuesday.

There was also no information on exchanges.

Venezuela's economic crisis has largely been triggered by a slide in oil prices and production, which accounts for 96% of exports.

Website: http://www.elpetro.gob.ve Type: Pre-ICO Category: Governance Goal of Funding: 2.088.000.000 Tokens for Sale: 100.000.000 PTR< Token price: 1 PTR = 60 USD Platform: Ethereum Currencies: ETH Location: Venezuela