The Petro aims to be a crypto asset backed by oil assets and issued by the Venezuelan government, serving as a catalyst for the advancement of an independent, transparent, and inclusive digital economy that allows direct citizen participation.
Additionally, it seeks to foster a more equitable financial system, promoting development, autonomy, and trade among emerging economies.
Conceived as a tool for asset trading and resource capitalization, the cryptocurrency is backed by the country's reserves of oil and gold but faces challenges of credibility and corruption.
The demise of the Petro, Venezuela's state-backed cryptocurrency, which was intended to be backed by the country's oil and gold reserves, built on blockchain technology, and launched with extensive promotional campaigns by the government of Nicolás Maduro, is nearing.
Economic and financial sources consulted by El País project that the digital currency will gradually fade away until it completely disappears.
Since the end of May, as reported by users, the Petro blockchain has started to behave erratically, and the #PetroApp platform has been experiencing failures.
The PDVSA-Crypto corruption scheme, structured around a network of high-ranking officials linked to Tarek El Aissami, former president of Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) and vice president of the Economic Area of Maduro's government until February of this year, constitutes one of the fundamental reasons for this latest failed experiment of Chavista public policies.
The Petro cryptocurrency (PTR) was launched in 2017 with great publicity after the collapse of currency and price control policies.
Initially, it was conceived as a tool for asset trading and resource capitalization, assuming that its support was the country's large certified international oil reserves.
Many users within the Chavista social sphere, connected to the Patria system (a virtual platform created for the population to receive salaries and benefits), gradually started exchanging bolivars for Petros, encouraged by official propaganda, in order to accumulate assets. The same was done by businessmen and commercial chains.
Its implementation gradually solidified, incorporating its presence as a form of payment in some official digital transactions and becoming mandatory as a reference unit after Maduro's second currency conversion in fiscal and consular services.
Its birth was accompanied by an active campaign by the ruling party to promote its use and disseminate it among the population, and in 2018, cryptocurrencies landed massively in the country.
Tarek El Aissami convinced Maduro that cryptocurrencies were an excellent instrument to evade international sanctions, which were already in effect at the time, and to provide oxygen to a collapsing economy.
Joselit Ramírez, the president of the National Superintendency of Cryptoassets, who is personally and politically close to El Aissami, is currently in prison. Hugbel Roa, also a friend of El Aissami and also imprisoned, was the Minister of Science, Technology, and University Education responsible for presenting and taking charge of the Petro project in late 2017.
Maduro's purge in dismantling the extensive corruption network has swept away a significant part of the technical staff of the National Superintendency of Cryptoassets (Sunacrip).
A new leadership has now been appointed for this entity, with Anabel Pereira as its president.
The limited maneuverability to operate the Petro, based on its centralized nature, has undermined its functional utility from the beginning.
Additionally, the low credibility of its promoters' team has played a role.
"The Petro is not like Bitcoin, where you have to mine to validate transactions. It's an algorithm with a ceiling," explains Henkel García, a financial analyst. "For this process to have credibility, especially in a government with individuals who have so many credibility issues, there needed to be a form of exchange. The Petro has been more accepted in an arbitrage game, where it could be bought cheaper in a secondary market, but not by much."
The dollarization of the Venezuelan economy in 2018, García points out, diminished the specific weight of the Petro's strategic orientation as an international fundraising tool.
"The Petro was relaunched about six or seven times before what is happening today.
Cryptocurrencies ended up becoming a tool for a group of corrupt Chavista politicians to divert the little money that remained in Petróleos de Venezuela," said economist Omar Zambrano.
International sanctions against the Maduro government forced the Chavista hierarchy to engage in irregular oil sales, conducting commercial operations in the dark.
Transactions with cryptocurrencies facilitated the diversion of funds into the pockets of Tarek El Aissami's directorate.
A report published by the anti-corruption NGO Transparencia Venezuela asserts that, under El Aissami's command, Petróleos de Venezuela assigned the responsibility for the commercialization of Venezuelan oil to the Superintendency of Cryptoassets.
As it approaches its demise, the National Association of Cryptoassets has issued a statement expressing regret over the progressive decline of the Petro, stating that it sends "a very negative message to the national and international community."