Venezuela says launch of 'petro' cryptocurrency raised US$735 million

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro | AP

The tokens will each be valued at and backed by a barrel of Venezuelan crude oil, Maduro has said.

Socialist President Nicolas Maduro late a year ago announced he was creating the digital currency to outmaneuver USA sanctions preventing cash-strapped Venezuela from issuing new debt.

The presale was launched Tuesday and is planned to last into next month.

As reported by Reuters, the President also mocked the U.S by referring it to the comic character of Superman and said: "Today, a cryptocurrency is being born that can take on Superman". The Venezuelan leader, however, provided no details about the first investors in the "petro", which is backed by the country's oil, gas, gold and diamond reserves.

Initially, the petro will be sold in hard currency and other cryptocurrencies, not in the local bolivar currency.

President Maduro has said the total offering will be now worth $6 billion, making it by far the world's biggest digital currency launch of its kind, although initial sales are expected to be at a heavy discount in order to attract interest.

Vargas said that each petro could be exchanged through the virtual exchange houses, "but in addition to that, there will be many merchants providing goods and services where you can go with your Petro or any crypto currency to exchange it for a service".

In its first hours on the market, the so-called "petro" racked in $735 million worth in purchases, Mr.

Maduro has repeatedly said that his country is the victim of an "economic war" - prompted by financial sanctions imposed by the United States - and that the sale of the new digital currency will help the country circumvent this problem.

VENEZUELA formally launched its new oil-backed cryptocurrency yesterday, in an unconventional bid to haul itself out of a deepening economic crisis.

Venezuelan journalist, political scientist, and blogger Francisco Toro told CNBC in a recent interview that Venezuela had turned to the Petro cryptocurrency out of "desperation" because of the sanctions.

"We do not accept an invitation where the date was imposed, global 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.

Cabello, cited in state TV tweets, said a new National Assembly vote was needed "in the national interest" because the opposition-run body was idle.

The Petro, which Venezuela touts as the first cryptocurrency issued by a country, is now launching in pre-sale as a means to "boost monetary sovereignty", while many analysts think it is just a desperate attempt to skirt USA financial sanctions.

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