Venezuela's national cryptocurrency is officially up for sale

Nicolas Maduro

Venezuelan journalist Francisco Toro told CNBC that Venezuela was turning to cryptocurrency out of "desperation" because of its economic isolation from the US.

There's a lot of debate about whether governments will eventually adopt the technology that underpins cryptocurrencies like bitcoin.

The U.S. government has said that any purchasing of the Petro may still be in violation of the economic sanctions placed on the country, as it represents "an extension of credit" to Venezuela.

Regardless of the cause of Caracas' crisis, Maduro is pressing forward with the sale of 82.4 million petro tokens via "pre-sale" today. The financial sanctions - the USA sanctions, the European sanctions - are not the main reason Venezuela can't raise financing. "It can only be acquired through the Unique Registry of Digital Mining" according to the website.

"We do not accept an invitation where the date was imposed, worldwide observers are not guaranteed, Venezuelans overseas can't participate and where blacking and threatening people is the norm", Congressman Julio Borges, head of Justice First wrote on Twitter Thursday.

"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".

If successful, the transaction could hypothetically raise $2 billion or more, according to some estimates.

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Venezuela's opposition-controlled congress said the cryptocurrency was illegal because the country's legislature has to approve any government borrowing. The government expects to circulate 100 million tokens in total, in a bid to generate over $6 billion.

Purchase in the Initial Offer open to the participation of the general public.

Other governments are also investigating the cryptographically secured architecture behind digital coins like bitcoin.

Still, the Maduro government is pressing ahead. Even though Venezuela is economically feeble, these ambitions are something Washington must pay attention to, he said.

Maduro announced in early December that Venezuela - which is under sanctions from the USA as well as the European Union - was creating the digital currency. The petro does not give investors any ownership stake in Venezuelan oil.

President Maduro has said that each coin will be backed by one barrel of the state's petroleum reserve. Granted, people are pouring money into cryptocurrencies that were explicitly designed as a joke, suggesting that Venezuela could somehow benefit from the mania. The MUD demanded the government set a date that provided ample time to appoint new electoral authorities and invite global observers, but as talks broke down the ruling socialists did exactly the opposite: Election Day was accelerated under current conditions.

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