Venezuela Plans a Cryptocurrency, Maduro Says

Rafael Ramirez steps down as Venezuela's ambassador to the United Nations amid a feud with President Nicolas MaduroMore

Rafael Ramirez steps down as Venezuela's ambassador to the United Nations amid a feud with President Nicolas MaduroMore

Maduro, who took office in 2013 and has presided over the aggravation of the socio-economic crisis, said that the cryptocurrency would help the country overcome the financial "blockade", according to a statement published on the government's official website.

The leftist leader offered few specifics about the currency launch or how the struggling OPEC member would pull off such a feat, but he declared to cheers that "the 21st century has arrived!"

Maduro said the petro will be backed by Venezuela's gold, oil, gas and diamond reserves, which the government hopes will allow it to combat sanctions and high national inflation rates. Maduro added that the petro would support the nation to advance in areas of financial sovereignty, to move past financial obstructions and to make successful financial transactions.

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Opposition leaders outlined the bolivar, its real currency, is in freefall.

The announcement shows how sanctions enacted by U.S. President Donald Trump's administration this year hurt the country's ability to move money through the worldwide banking system.

Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro speaks during his weekly radio and TV broadcast on December 3, 2017. As of Tuesday, it took 103,000 Bolivars to buy a United States dollar. Hitherto cryptocurrencies have not been backed by any government or central bank. Ironically, Venezuela's currency controls in recent years have spurred a bitcoin fad among tech-savvy Venezuelans looking to bypass controls to obtain dollars or make internet purchases.

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Excessive money printing and state currency controls have contributed to a 57 percent depreciation of the bolivar against the American dollar in the last month in black markets, according to Reuters. This led the monthly minimum wage in the country down to a mere $4.3.

There is very little chance that Maduro's announcement will bring any sort of relief in the short run as several million Venezuelans are now struggling with poverty and can not even afford to eat three meals in a day.

Opposition leaders argue the country's shortages of food and medication are far more pressing and that the digital currency will not address this.

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