Venezuela President Maduro Is Not Pro-Crypto, He Just Likes Petro

Last week, the president of Venezuela appeared on national television holding a Trezor wallet. Was it just a stunt?
Last week, the president of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro, appeared on national television approaching a Trezor-branded stall at a local technological fair. He seemed perplexed as to what exactly a hardware cryptocurrency wallet is supposed to do.Still, Maduro, device in hand, turned to the camera and proclaimed that cryptocurrencies — his country’s own digital currency, Petro, in particular — are important for Venezuela’s economic future. Trezor officials soon clarified that they had nothing to do with the stunt, and that the company had no official resellers in the country.The event seemed to accurately portray the precarious situation of cryptocurrencies in Venezuela. They are widely popular, given the hyperinflation and overall failing state of the local economy, but are mostly traded underground via peer-to-peer services. Meanwhile, Maduro’s government is mostly focused on Petro — the controversial, state-controlled cryptocurrency tasked with saving the Venezuelan economy. So, what has Maduro’s apparent obsession with cryptocurrencies resulted in so far besides an underdeveloped pet project? Maduro was not pro-crypto before announcing PetroMaduro was elected president in April 2013, following Hugo Chávez’s death, in a narrow win over opposition candidate Henrique Capriles. Maduro’s administration instantly faced a number of major economic problems left over from Chávez’s policies, namely high inflation rates and large shortages of basic necessities. The new president continued the policial course of his predecessor, who largely relied on oil-fueled welfare policies to maintain economic stability. However, the price of oil — which reportedly account for 99% of Venezuela’s export earnings — started to tumble under Maduro’s administration, bringing the country to the verge of a major humanitarian catastrophe. Thus, the inflation rate has been on the rise ever since Maduro was elected president. In 2018, it was at 1,698,488%. According to the International Monetary Fund, Venezuela’s hyperinflation rate increased to as much as 10,000,000% at some point this year.Needless to say, these numbers have real implications: In 2017, 87% of people in Venezuela were living in poverty, rising from 82% in 2016 and 48% in 2014, according to an academic study. Hunger is also a major problem, with Venezuelans losing about 24 lbs on average in 2017 due to nationwide food shortages.The president has blamed capitalism for the ongoing problems. For instance, Maduro argued that an imperialist “electromagnetic attack” caused the largest power outage in the country’s history, which occurred in March 2019. According to opposition leader Juan Guaidó, it was actually “the product of the inefficiency, the incapability, the corruption of a regime that doesn’t care about the lives of Venezuelans.”Related: Venezuelan Petro Against US Sanctions: History and Use of the CryptoIn December 2017, Maduro took to national TV to present a potential fix for the many economic difficulties — a state-run digital currency called Petro. The cryptocurrency would be backed by the country’s oil, gold and mineral reserves, the president said. Ironically, Maduro’s administration had been anti-crypto up until that point. Earlier in 2017, reports

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