The South American leader issued a state order yesterday instructing the Banco de Venezuela to accommodate the Petro at all 790 of its branches. Bizarrely, the 56-year-old socialist chose to make the order on Twitter before communicating with the troubled bank. The former bus driver and trade unionist tweeted: “I am giving the explicit order to open Petro transaction desks at all Banco de Venezuela agencies.” The bank was then privately issued with the instructions during a party to celebrate its 10th anniversary of nationalisation after being purchased from the Santander Group. The announcement was the latest move in an aggressive campaign being masterminded by Maduro to boost adoption of the Petro (PTR) throughout the beleaguered nation.
Soon after the tweet, PTR’s value rose by almost 25 percent on exchanges.
It follows a recent initiative to give away a million crypto wallets to young Venezuelans in tandem with a state-sponsored education programme about cryptocurrency.
The wallets, which have been criticised in many circles as ‘entirely unsustainable’, came loaded with a small amount of Petro.
Although receiving flak in some quarters, Maduro’s determined drive towards a digital economy has been praised by many of his countrymen.
Victor Flores Otero, a crypto analyst in Caracas, said his country had nothing to lose by trying to create a digital future.
“You have to remember that this country was on its knees and our money was worthless just a few short years ago,” he said.
“Under [former president Hugo] Chavez a once wealthy country with the world in its hands was absolutely destroyed by the ridiculous ideals of one man.
“We had some of the richest oil fields in the world and mountains of gold but our government failed us.
“Sure, Maduro is perhaps not the most popular leader but we have to try something, and if educating the young people of Venezuela about crypto and arming them with wallets and Petros means we can be big players in the future then the world will look back and see it as a success.”
Not everyone is convinced, however. Just a few short miles across the city, one of Victor Flores’ friends – economist and crypto investor Yangel Hernandez Baroja – thinks Maduro is setting Venezuela up for a fall. “Maduro is unpopular,” he begins.
“He is unpopular because he is simply the puppet of the man he succeeded – Hugo Chavez may as well still be alive… he lives and breathes through Maduro. And what does an unpopular president do to attempt to become popular? They come up with crazy ideas to make them glow in the eyes of their people.
“They give things away – like wallets full of worthless electronic money, and they invent a digital currency with nothing the to hang it on. The only good thing to come from this mess is the education of the young people about cryptocurrency.”
The widely-criticised Petro was created as an attempt to bypass the crippling economic sanctions being placed on Venezuela by the US government.
However, it has not been well received by financial leaders – particularly over a highly contentious move by the government to force citizens to accept pension payments in the crypto.