Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro is gifting healthcare workers with the national cryptocurrency for the holidays. Announced via Twitter, Maduro says recipients will be able to go out and buy whatever they need at over 27,000 businesses that accept the Petro.
However, various reports claim that the number of stores accepting the Petro is closer to 100.
The controversial Petro is centralized and controlled by the government, unlike Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies which are decentralized, run on public blockchains and are not controlled by any central authority.
The oil-backed, state-issued digital currency was launched last February to help Venezuela navigate US sanctions and to boost its troubled economy.
It was swiftly banned by US President Trump by an executive order prohibiting any transactions within the US involving any digital currency issued by, for, or on behalf of the Government of Venezuela.
The Petro gained support from Venezuela’s largest bank, Bank of Venezuela (BDV), in September.
In December all health workers will receive a half convertible Petro to go out and buy whatever they need at this Christmas season. There are more than 27.000 businesses that accept our cryptocurrencies. Measures of Protection and Love for our People! pic.twitter.com/baVG3gc2lC
— Nicolás Maduro (@maduro_en) November 20, 2019
In a state address on Wednesday, reports Reuters, Maduro announced that roughly 30 million barrels of oil are being held in storage tanks as collateral for the Petro.
The President’s assurance about the backing of the Petro is an apparent effort to stimulate its use amidst the country’s ongoing economic struggles, US sanctions and dwindling oil production.
“I will deliver these 30 million of barrels as a liquid, physical, material backing for the petro.
The inventories of crude and products in storage tanks are available for immediate commercialization … to sustain and back the operations of the sovereign Venezuelan crypto-asset, the petro.”
Opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who attempted to overthrow Maduro earlier this year amidst an eruption of civil unrest, rolling blackouts and nationwide protests, has failed to draw local supporters, despite backing from the United States and 50 other countries.