According to recent reports, Venezuela wants to liquidate its national cryptocurrency, the Petro (PTR), which will cease to operate on Jan. 15.
— BFM Crypto (@BfmCrypto) January 12, 2024
The Venezuela Petro (PTR), one of the first state-backed cryptocurrency assets, would be facing an imminent liquidation after 6 years.
The information coincides with the liquidation of other crypto assets held by users in government-managed accounts, which will also be converted to Venezuelan bolivares on January 15.
The coin was created in 2018 to help the country evade United States sanctions but was never widely accepted at home or abroad and was crippled by scandal.
The state-run, oil-backed crypto was launched after the country’s fiat currency, the bolivar, declined sharply under pressure from United States sanctions and after Bitcoin had already gained a firm foothold in the country.
Issuance of the petro was ordered by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro but was opposed by the parliament.
The value of the Petro was established at $60, the price of a Venezuelan barrel of crude by January 2018.
The cryptocurrency was at the top of its popularity in 2019 when President Nicolas Maduro airdropped half a petro to the country’s citizens and paid pensioners Christmas bonuses with the cryptocurrency asset.
The coin achieved full functionality in 2020 but was never traded abroad, despite efforts by the Maduro government to promote it to the 10 member states of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America.
Attempts were made to encourage its use domestically, but it was never made legal tender, meaning its acceptance was not mandatory.
Not even the Banco de Venezuela, the largest bank in the country, would accept the petro without a presidential order forcing it to do so.
In June 2020, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement issued a $5 million bounty for the capture of Joselit Ramirez Camacho, who headed the National Superintendency of Crypto Assets, which oversaw the petro. He is accused of having ties to international narcotics trading.
Ramirez Camacho was arrested in Venezuela in March 2023 on accusations of financial improprieties within the national oil industry, and the agency he headed was closed for reorganization. Its closure was later extended through March 2024.
The investigation of the agency also resulted in the closure of crypto exchanges and mining operations in the country.
The petro was not a central bank digital currency. The Central Bank of Venezuela announced plans to create a CBDC in 2021, but those plans never came to fruition.
Petro’s shutdown was reportedly announced on the government-run website devoted to the coin, but that website was not accessible at the time of writing.
The administrative section of the Venezuelan Patria website — reportedly the only place where Petro crypto is traded — is only accessible by password.