Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro is getting into the festive mood by announcing that he is giving away some Petro tokens to retirees and pensioners as a “Christmas bonus”. A tweet from Venezuelan news site Venepress revealed the ‘gift’, which comes almost a year after Maduro forced all pensions to be converted into the cryptocurrency and has been met with a highly skeptical response.
— Venepress (@venepress) November 17, 2019
The Gift that Doesn’t Start Giving
Maduro’s move is, perhaps unsurprisingly, being viewed with suspicion, given that he has spent the best part of two years forcing the entire country to adopt the cryptocurrency without much success. Suggestions are therefore being made that this Christmas bonus is simply a kind of marketing ploy, forcing recipients to use the token as they will be unable to cash it out into bolivars, not that they would want to.
The Petro has been a disaster ever since its inception, with allegations that the token is not backed in any way by the country’s rich oil, gold, gas, and diamond reserves, and that the $735 million supposedly invested during the pre-sale ever changed hands. The token has been seen by most primarily as a way for the regime to avoid US sanctions, and reports from the country suggest that barely any citizens use it, preferring to use alternatives such as Bitcoin.
Maduro’s History Suggests Ulterior Motive
One of Maduro’s first moves after the cryptocurrency was launched was to block anyone from buying passports with anything other than Petros, two months before the pension conversion. Around the same time he also announced that oil payments could only be made in Petros, while this year the country was accused of avoiding sanctions by converting airport taxes into BTC before routing the money out of the country. Given Maduro’s history and his determination to push through adoption of his pet currency, it’s no surprise that this Christmas gift is being looked on with very wary eyes in the ravaged country.