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22 February 2018, 12:58 | Vera Richards
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during the event launching the new Venezuelan cryptocurrency Petro in Caracas Thomson Reuters
Investors have purchased some $735 million worth of Venezuela's oil-backed cryptocurrency on the very first day of pre-sale, according to President Nicolas Maduro, who praised it as means of breaching the United States financial blockade.
"Together it is possible to build history, we are at the technological forefront of the world", the president said after ordering the certification of more than five thousand miners who will exploit the cryptocurrency in the country.
The petro is different from almost all other cryptocurrencies in that it has the enthusiastic support of the state; Russian Federation reportedly also has considered creating its own cryptocurrency to skirt global sanctions.
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The US also warned that buying the petro could violate sanctions against Venezuela, which prohibit the purchase of newly issued Venezuelan debt. The short answer is: "It simply can't". On the other hand, the opposition leaders of Venezuela have also snubbed this move by saying "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 past year", reports Reuters.
Cryptocurrency experts are looking at Venezuela's foray into digital currencies with a mix of intrigue and suspicion, excited by the prospect of a government willing to accept cryptocurrency for payments like taxes but also concerned about the potential lack of oversight.
Maduro has also touted the petro as the fulfilment of the late Hugo Chavez's dream of upending global capitalism away from the dominance of the US dollar and Wall Street. They will create 100 million virtual currencies without extra emissions. And Venezuela's inflation rises faster in a day than that in stable countries does in a year, he said, adding that dreaming up a new currency alone isn't the answer.
While polls show the majority of Venezuelans plan to head to the polls, they overwhelming indicate they are apathetic about the current opposition field, which is lead by former governor Henri Falcon.
"With the Venezuelan bolivar suffering from hyperinflation and the type of volatility usually reserved for the crypto markets, the petro appears to be an attempt to raise much-needed foreign capital".
Last month, U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) urged U.S. Treasury Department Secretary Steven Mnuchin "to outline the department's enforcement mechanisms and efforts to combat the Maduro regime's plans to use cryptocurrencies to evade U.S. sanctions".
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Though the Petro's value is tied to crude oil, it doesn't actually translate to ownership of any concrete assets. One document highlights the use of Ethereum network while another document which is now being referred to as the buyer's guide shows the use of NEM blockchain system.
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