CARACAS, Feb 20 (Reuters) - Venezuela is to launch its
"petro" cryptocurrency on Tuesday, a move aimed at pulling the
country out of an economic tailspin that blockchain experts have
warned is unlikely to attract significant investment.
President Nicolas Maduro is hoping the petro will allow the
ailing OPEC nation to skirt U.S. sanctions as the bolivar
currency plunges to record lows and it struggles with
hyperinflation and a collapsing socialist economy.
Opposition leaders have said the sale constitutes an illegal
debt issuance that circumvents Venezuela's majority-opposition
legislature, and the U.S. Treasury Department has warned it may
violate sanctions levied last year.
Maduro was due to make the official launch in an evening
The official website for the petro on Tuesday published a
guide to setting up a virtual wallet to hold the cryptocurrency,
but did not provide a link for actually doing so. There was also
no information on exchanges.
The first operations will be carried out through a private
sale, Maduro has said, without elaborating.
Venezuelan Cryptocurrency Superintendent Carlos Vargas last
week said the government was expecting to draw investment from
investors in Turkey, Qatar, the United States and Europe.
The value of the entire petro issuance of 100 million tokens
would be just over $6 billion, according to details given by
Maduro in recent months, though no new price information was
provided on Tuesday.
The tokens will each be valued at and backed by a barrel of
Venezuelan crude oil, Maduro has said.
Advisers working for the government have in the past
recommended that 38.4 percent of the petros should be sold in a
private auction at a discount of 60 percent.
Maduro says his government is the victim of an "economic
war" led by opposition politicians with the help of the
government of U.S. President Donald Trump.
Sanctions levied last year by Washington block U.S. banks
and investors from acquiring newly issued Venezuelan debt,
effectively preventing the nation from borrowing abroad to bring
in new hard currency or refinance existing debt.
According to the document published on Tuesday, the petro
will not be a token on the Ethereum network, as was previously
disclosed in a whitepaper provided by the government.
(Reporting by Girish Gupta; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)
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