Venezuela’s unlucky petro coin to shut down Jan. 15 after six years: Report

The Venezuelan petro national cryptocurrency will cease to operate on Jan. 15, according to press reports. The coin was created in 2018 to help the country evade United States sanctions, but was never widely used.

The shutdown of the Petro (PTR) 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 portion of the Venezuelan Patria website, reportedly the only place where the Petro traded, is accessible only by password.

The state-run, oil-backed crypto was launched after the fiat bolivar declined sharply under pressure from United States sanctions and after Bitcoin had already gained a firm foothold in the country. The issuance of the petro was ordered by the strongman president Nicolas Maduro, but opposed by the parliament.

The coin achieved full functionality in 2020, but was never traded abroad, despite efforts by the Maduro government to promote it to the ten member states of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA).

Attempts were made to encourage its use domestically as well, but it was never made legal tender, meaning that 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.

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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 was accused of having tie 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 country.

The petro was not a central bank digital currency (CBDC). The Central Bank of Venezuela announced plans to create a CBDC in 2021, but those plans never came to fruition.

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