On February 20, 2018, Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro announced that on the first day of the presale for the state's cryptocurrency, the petro, a total of around $735 million, was invested.
He also declared in a barrage of tweets that cryptocurrencies, including the petro, will be accepted by national tourism operators, gas stations, and for consular services. Maduro had previously approved the resources to set up mining farms throughout Venezuelan universities.
The head of state didn't offer any evidence of the sum nor details on where any of the reputed investments originated.
What's more, a last-minute change has apparently seen the petro transition away from the Ethereum platform, as was originally presented in the project's whitepaper, toward the NEM platform.
The switch from Ethereum to NEM was made public in a manual, published February 20, which describes how users can set up their petro wallets and accounts, but no reason is provided for the change. Further complicating matters, a Spanish edition of the whitepaper continues to refer to the Ethereum blockchain without mention of NEM, while the English version distinctly says the presale will take place on the NEM blockchain.
Maduro also claimed that agreements had been signed with officials from NEM and Zeus, a Singapore-based cryptocurrency exchange created by Russian and Ukrainian developers that purportedly helped with the launch.
Additionally, the presidential office proclaimed the minting of the petro to be "a giant step towards the new economy and the future" while touting meetings with NEM officials.
However, Alex Tinsman, NEM's global director of communications, refuted the claim, clarifying that those depicted in the photo were in fact "representatives of the Exchange Zeus.
NEM did at least confirm that Venezuela was looking at their open-source platform to launch the petro, and petro can be seen as an asset on NEM's blockchain by tracking this wallet address, but seems to otherwise be steering clear of involvement in politics.
The petro has been the subject of international contention, and US Treasury officials warned that the cryptocurrency could violate embargoes.
Maduro seems to have a pattern of attempting to evade opposing authority; turmoil erupted in the streets in August 2017 after a controversial effort to elect a Constituent Assembly solely composed of his supporters ahead of elections that could have possibly given opposition leaders mayoral and gubernatorial positions. Of note, the acting Venezuelan Congress opposed the issuance of the petro, saying it was "tailor made for corruption."
The complicated backdrop for the petro and the confusing change of the underlying platform made for a rocky beginning. Whether or not the petro can deliver on Maduro's promise remains to be seen.
Translations by Google