Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro called for his country to become a leading “crypto-nation” on through his scam “Petro” cryptocurrency, declaring on Wednesday that it will help promote “growth and prosperity” in the crisis-stricken socialist state.
Addressing viewers in a broadcast from the Bank of Venezuela, Maduro called for expanding the Petro’s use and embracing the cryptocurrency as an integral part of the country’s economy.
“Venezuela must become a crypto-nation. Growth and prosperity are closely linked to the digital economy,” Maduro said. “The Petro is designed to protect what it has to protect, the family of Venezuela.”
“We are developing the mechanisms that will make the Petro accessible to families, workers, pensions, and students,” he continued. “We are the first country in the world with a cryptocurrency put at the service of the protection of the people.”
The socialist despot went on to urge government officials to promote the cryptocurrency and make it as accessible for people as public, revealing he had signed a decree that would allow people to use it as payment for various public services.
“I can already say that we have developed technological, economic and financial conditions to accelerate the path of Petro as a great cryptocurrency in the national economy of Venezuela and beyond the country,” he said. “We are all ready!”
Maduro launched the currency in late 2017, explaining its value would be backed by Venezuela’s extensive oil reserves. The idea was to help the country “advance in issues of monetary sovereignty” by bypassing other economic sanctions imposed by the Trump administration and other powers such as the European Union targeting the country’s collapsing oil industry.
Venezuela’s democratically elected National Assembly declared the cryptocurrency illegal and denounced the project as an attempt to mortgage the country’s natural resources to keep the socialist regime in power. In March last year, President Donald Trump prohibited all U.S. citizens from investing in the Petro, accusing Maduro of the “wholesale looting of the Venezuelan economy at the expense of the Venezuelan people.”
Many investors remain highly skeptical over the currency’s viability. Some speculate that the currency is effectively worthless, despite receiving investment from Russia’s Evrofinance Mosnarbank. Maduro has claimed the currency raised nearly a billion dollars in investment, although this figure is highly disputed by cryptoanalysts.