Venezuela – has its ‘petro’ gone AWOL?

August 30, 2018
Chris Wheal

Reuters reported this morning that there is little sign of Venezuela’s new “petro”, the digital currency that supposedly backs up to 5 billion barrels of Venezuelan petroleuem. 

“Over a period of four months,” said the agency, “Reuters spoke with a dozen experts on cryptocurrencies and oil-field valuation, travelled to the site of the pledged oil reserves and scoured the coin’s digital transaction records in an effort to learn more.” 

However the hunt for the petro has turned dry. The only buyers of the petro were online and the news agency had extreme difficulty talking to any owner who would identify themselves. 

Maduro’s ‘petro’ is not sold on any crypto exchange – or anywhere, it seems; Wikimedia Commons

Rucksacks for cash

So far President Maduro has boasted that the petro is being used to pay for much-needed imports into the country. Venezuela is struggling with raging hyper-inflation – prices are doubling every month – and consequently has a severe migrant crisis on its hands. 

Hugbel Roa, a cabinet minister involved in the project, told Reuters that the petro is still being developed and “nobody has been able to make use of the petro … nor have any resources been received.”

Venezuela’s poverty is getting worse; Wikimedia Commons

Super-rich but super-poor too

While super-oil rich – it’s thought the country has the biggest oil reserves in the world – Venezuela haemorrhaged income as the oil price fell in 2014. Though oil prices have improved it was too late to stem the country’s raging inflation, not helped by the government’s regular attempts to print extra money and raising wages to curry favour with its poorest.

President Maduro originally declared that the state-owned oil giant Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) would deploy the digital token from Monday 20 August.

Post written by Chris Wheal
Chris Wheal is editor of OpenLedger's news and features service. An award-wining business journalists himself, he runs a team of freelance journalists from across the UK and north America.

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