Banco de Venezuela Must Accept Petro Cryptocurrency, Maduro Says

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has ordered Banco de Venezuela, the country’s largest bank, to begin accepting deposits of the Petro, the nation’s controversial cryptocurrency, in all of its branches. The news was originally reported in a Tweet by the country’s Finance Ministry on July 4.

More specifically, the tweet said that Maduro issued “[an] explicit order to open Petro desks in all the branches of the Bank of Venezuela” (translated quote) during the celebratory event for the tenth anniversary of Banco de Venezuela.

The order seems to be the latest move in an aggressive new set of policies that are promoting the use of the Petro throughout the country.

Several weeks ago, on June 19, Maduro announced that 924 million bolivars (roughly $92.5 million) had been granted to the Digital Bank of Youth and Students to open a million Petro wallet accounts for the country’s young people.

“It is a bold and correct decision to move forward towards a hybrid economy where the fiduciary currency of a country competes face to face with cryptocurrency,” said José Angel Alvarez, president of the country’s National Cryptocurrency Association, of the launch of the wallets.

Bitcoin Has Become Popular in Venezuela, but the Petro Still Hasn’t Caught On

Indeed, a growing number of Venezuelan residents have increasingly turned to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies as a safe haven for their savings as hyperinflation of the Bolivar has continued to spin out of control.

However, despite this national interest in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, the Petro has failed to catch on since it was launched in 2018. This may be partially due to serious questions about the project’s legitimacy.

Venezuela has also begun to place sanctions on the use of cryptocurrency to deter people from using it instead of the Bolivar. In February, the Venezuelan National Superintendency of Crypto Assets and Related Activities (Sunacrip) announced a monthly limit on cryptocurrency remittances and tariffs of up to 15 percent of the transaction amount.

Earlier in the same month, the Venezuelan Ministry of Popular Power for Communication and Information published the “Constituent Decree on the Integral System of Crypto Assets,” which obligated companies that work with crypto assets (i.e., miners and exchanges) to register with Sunacrip.

Before that, the country instituted a policy requiring its citizens to purchase passports with the Petro.

In a certain light, however, Venezuela could be several steps ahead of the rest of the world. Agustin Carstens, General Manager of the Bank for International Settlements, said in a recent interview with the Financial Times that “it might be that it is sooner than we think that there is a market and we have to create our own digital currencies.”

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