Despite widespread uncertainty over what form it might take, or if it would happen at all, Venezuela’s Petro cryptocurrency is finally with us. President Nicolas Maduro claimed yesterday that on the first day of its pre-sale the Petro had raised $735 million.

Today, a cryptocurrency is being born that can take on Superman,” Maduro said, referring to his belief that the Petro will be a way for Venezuela to circumvent the US-led international sanctions. Certifying 5,000 official Petro miners, he added, “together it is possible to build history, we are at the technological forefront of the world”.

Maduro has consistently sold the idea to his population as a way of modernising Venezuela’s economy. When the cryptocurrency was first announced he declared that “the 21st century has arrived”.

Though the primary goal of the Petro is to raise much needed foreign currency, the government has announced that it will be trying to integrate the Petro into the Venezuelan economy as much as possible, including throughout the public sector. The white paper says that the government guarantees the Petro as “a form of payment of national taxes, fees, contributions and public services.

Though the pre sale is not open to Venezuelan residents, the Petro will eventually be allowed “as a means of direct payment to businesses, restaurants, goods and services companies”.

The Venezuelan economy is desperately in need of something, suffering from hyperinflation and widespread poverty. Though Maduro is talking up the cryptocurrency as a way around “the financial blockade”, the US is watching closely. Last month the US Treasury Department warned its citizens against Petro investment, saying that as it would “expose U.S. persons to legal risk” as buying Petro “would appear to be an extension of credit to the Venezuelan government”.  

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