Venezuela’s Maduro Vows to Revive Petro Coin in His Annual Address

Patricia Laya and Nicolle Yapur

(Bloomberg) -- President Nicolas Maduro pledged to revive Venezuela’s failed cryptocurrency for everything from oil sales to passport fees in his state of the union address to the Constituent Assembly on Tuesday.

Maduro said state-run Petroleos de Venezuela SA would begin “exploratory sales” of 50,000 barrels a day in Petros, after which it would weigh selling all of the nation’s production in the elusive cryptocurrency. Going forward, taxes and utility bills will also be paid for in Petros, he said.

“We’re opening a path to a new economy, to break old protocols and bureaucracies,” Maduro said. “The crisis forced us to strengthen our creative capacity, to find answers where we didn’t have them, to seek innovative strategies to overcome difficulties and adversities.”

Maduro’s remarks signal efforts to resurrect the state-issued cryptocurrency rolled out with great fanfare in early 2018 that’s yet to yield results. The Petro was introduced of as a way to navigate around wide-reaching U.S. sanctions that have cut the cash-strapped nation off from international capital markets. Shortly thereafter, the currency itself was sanctioned as well.

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While stores are obligated to print prices in Petros and its exchange rate to the Chinese yuan or the Russian ruble is published by Venezuela’s central bank on a daily basis, its remains largely symbolic. Banners with the Petro symbol adorn government buildings in downtown Caracas, yet most people have no idea how or where to buy one.

“Many people don’t want to move to the Petro because their business is in dollars. We will look at them closely. The Petro will cut the mafias’ hands off,” Maduro said.

Maduro’s remarks also mark a separation from the U.S. dollar, the currency that’s been largely adopted in the hyperinflation-wracked country, and which the president credited with an economic recovery and resurgence of production in a November interview.

In September, Venezuela’s central bank ran internal tests to determine whether it could hold cryptocurrencies in its reserves at the behest of PDVSA, which sought to send Bitcoin and Ethereum to the central bank and have the monetary authority pay the oil company’s suppliers with the tokens.

--With assistance from Alex Vasquez and Fabiola Zerpa.

To contact the reporters on this story: Patricia Laya in Caracas at playa2@bloomberg.net;Nicolle Yapur in Caracas Office at nyapur1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Daniel Cancel at dcancel@bloomberg.net, Robert Jameson

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