Venezuelan Cryptocurrency “Petro” Probably Doesn’t Exist

It has been about a month since the president of Venezuela, Nicholas Maduro, first announced the creation of the Petro. Although many were skeptical, it was in fact supposed to be the first state-backed cryptocurrency that had ever been released. With the country grappling with runaway inflation that has seen the entire economy slump to lows never seen before, the creation of the Petro was aimed at minimizing this hyperinflation. After all, it was supposed to be tied to oil reserves, Venezuela’s most lucrative resource and industry.

An artist’s interpretation of Venezuela’s proprietary cryptocurrency, the Petro.

However, now doubts are being cast on the troubled nation’s claims regarding the Petro. It appears that the only place the Petro seems to exist is in the media.  

It was said that the Petro was supposed to be tied to the oil-rich region of Atapirire which was said to be a “gold mine” verified by “independent certification agencies.” Specifically, one of its oilfields, Ayachucho I, was supposed to back the Petro. The price was set at $66 per barrel as a general barometer for a fair price and used to stabilize the price of the cryptocurrency.

Of course, the official line from the state was simple and easy-to-understand: soon, investors and contractors from all over the world would come to Atapirire and create ample jobs. A new beginning was to happen, or so it was said.

Yet, it seems that nobody has actually been able to get any Petro either inside or outside the country. 

Reuters recently did an investigation into the mysterious cryptocurrency and found something that likely won’t surprise you. No shops in Venezuela currently accept the currency. And the only ones that seem to be buzzing about it are anonymous posters online, particularly on forums like BitcoinTalk.

The Venezuelan government has said that the Petro ICO somehow raised $5 billion but that it is “still being developed” according to cabinet minister Hugbel Roa. Adding to all this madness is the fact that the newly-created post in Venezuela’s government, the Superintendence of Cryptoassets, is nowhere to be found. This government agency is supposed to oversee the Petro, but has seemingly no physical presence, its website is not active, and its president does not respond to any questions on social media or elsewhere.  

As of now, it seems certain that the Petro is nowhere near a currency and perhaps might not ever be. The recent Reuters report seems to validate the criticism that truly, the Petro is missing in a nation that crowned itself as crypto currency’s first real state-backed asset.The Washington Post economic reporter Matt O’Brien has said that “the petro is about creating something useless – that’s why only foreigners can buy them, but only Venezuelans can spend them.” It seems that, however, not even Venezuelans can spend them.

As of the now, the petro is in limbo and its idea seems more and more like a grandiose publicity stunt rather than any real crypto experiment in a country that has struggled so desperately with its hyperinflation in the past few years.