As Venezuela struggles with hyperinflation and its currency reaches record lows, the country has reportedly sold $735 million of its “petro” cryptocurrency during day one of its presale. Yet Venezeula’s President, Nicolas Maduro, did not present evidence backing up that figure — or offer details about the currency’s early investors, according to news from Reuters.
Maduro did say “petro” could be used for tourism, gasoline or oil transactions, and he has been touting the cryptocurrency: “Today, a cryptocurrency is being born that can take on Superman,” he said in an announcement on state television.
But not all of Venezuela’s leaders or other governments support the launch. Opposition leaders have said the sale is an issuance of illegal debt that doesn’t go through the country’s majority-opposition legislature. In addition, the U.S. Treasury Department has said the crypto sale might violate sanctions.
While crypto experts have said the currency will not likely attract investors, Venezuelan Cryptocurrency Superintendent Carlos Vargas said the government was expecting investors from Qatar, Turkey, Europe and the U.S.
As of Wednesday (Feb. 21), the website for the cryptocurrency had instructions for setting up a virtual wallet to hold the cryptocurrency. It will reportedly become available to the general public next month.
While Venezuelan officials did not offer pricing details with the presale, Maduro has said the value of the 100 million tokens would top $6 billion.
In December, Maduro vowed to back Petro with the country’s natural resource reserves. According to RT, Maduro made the announcement on national television, showing a document “formalizing the provision of the certified Ayacucho oil field No.1 in the Orinoco Petroleum Belt for the support of El Petro cryptocurrency.” Maduro said the field’s reserves amount to 5 billion barrels of oil.
“Every single Petro will be backed by a barrel of oil,” Maduro said, promising to provide cryptocurrency mining throughout Venezuela. “We will set up a special team of cryptocurrency specialists so they will be engaged in mining in all states and municipalities of our country.”