After months of speculation regarding the status of Venezuela’s much-publicised Petro cryptocurrency project, the Venezuelan government has announced that the Petro is now available for sale and can be bought with bitcoin and litecoin.
A tweet from the official account of the Venezuelan Vice president of the Economy, Tareck El Aissami posted on October 29 reads:
“The Petro may be acquired by legal and natural persons from its web portal.”
It will be recalled that prior to this announcement, there had been a prolonged period of confusion regarding the status of the Petro, which was billed by president Nicolas Maduro to be the magic pill to end Venezuela’s ongoing economic turmoil. Based on Venezuela’s vast untapped oil reserves primarily in the remote Atapirire region, the digital currency was marketed by Venezuelan authorities as a means of circumventing debilitating U.S. economic sanctions by monetising the country’s primary export product to a vast global market of investors without needing the U.S. Dollar.
CCN reported in September however, that a visit to urban and remote areas of Venezuela showed no evidence of Petro-denominated economic activity, with most people in Venezuela just as confused about the whereabouts of the state-backed cryptocurrency as those outside.
In October, CCN also reported that in the Petro’s continued absence, bitcoin trading volumes in the country hit unprecedented highs as Venezuelans escape the worst effects of the country’s runaway hyperinflation by becoming the most prolific bitcoin traders on earth relative to their population. President Maduro’s government has tried to encourage use of the Petro through a number of means including ordering banks to use the cryptocurrency and charging fees for passports in Petro.
Initially scheduled for November 5, the announcement of the Petro’s availability comes as a mild surprise. Whether or not the latest announcement declaring the Petro available will actually turn out to be accurate however remains to be seen, as does the potential takeup and adoption by inflation-wary Venezuelans who already have very low levels of trust in government pronouncements and projects.
According to the official Petro website quoted in the tweet, Petros are now available for sale to buyers using bitcoin and litecoin.
The Petro’s block explorer also claimed to have 304 blocks with 41 connections at press time.
In the light of the controversy surrounding the ICO – which president Maduro claimed was a success with as much as $5 billion raised – it remains to be seen how the market will respond to the news from Venezuelan authorities.