Venezuela said it had generated US$735 million from the pre-sale of its cryptocurrency backed by crude oil. President Nicolas Maduro saw cryptocurrency sales as a way around Venezuela’s severe cash shortage resulting from U.S. sanctions and dropping crude oil production and prices.
The government has issued a buyer’s manual for El Petro, confirming those willing to buy some of the oil-backed cryptocurrency can use either hard currency or other cryptocurrencies. Both Venezuelan nationals and foreigners are welcome to buy Petros. Bitcoin.com, however, notes that no prices were displayed on the Etherdelta platform that Caracas is using for order placements and no orders have been matched. This, the website points out, could be the result of a technical glitch.
The pre-sale offering involved 82.4 million Petro tokens, and according to Venezuela’s Minister for University Education, Science, and Technology, traffic to the website where the tokens are sold jumped fivefold shortly after midnight Venezuelan time.
In early December, Maduro shocked analysts who follow both the country’s flirtations with default and the cryptocurrency community by announcing that Venezuela would launch the Petro cryptocurrency, backed by oil, diamonds, and gold reserves, to help the country to “advance in issues of monetary sovereignty, to make financial transactions and overcome the financial blockade.” Related: 5 Record Breaking Gemstones Even Billionaires Can’t Buy
Last month, Maduro said that the 5 billion barrels of oil reserves at the Ayacucho block 1 in Venezuela’s Orinoco Belt would back the cryptocurrency. The Petro, which Venezuela touts as the first cryptocurrency issued by a country, is promoted as a means to “boost monetary sovereignty”, while many analysts think it is just a desperate attempt to skirt U.S. financial sanctions.
Analysts also think that the Petro won’t bring real benefits either to Venezuela’s ravaged economy or to its people who suffer from shortages of basic necessities amid a hyperinflation expected at 13,000 percent this year by the IMF.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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