Venezuela Says Pre-Sale of Oil-Backed Petro Cryptocurrency Has Raised $735 Million

The private pre-sale of Venezuela’s oil-backed cryptocurrency, the petro, was scheduled for February 20 at 8:30 am (Venezuela time 04:00 UTC), according to the petro’s whitepaper. However, at midnight local time on February 20, the government announced that the petro pre-sale had started and published a buyer’s manual as well as an anti-money laundering (AML) compliance manual.

A total of 82.4 million petro tokens are offered for the pre-sale phase, the whitepaper details. The country’s vice president, Tareck El Aissami, confirmed from Miraflores Palace on Monday, “The petro cryptocurrency tokens can be purchased by Venezuelan nationals as well as other foreign nationals.”

The Superintendent of Cryptocurrencies, Carlos Vargas, was quoted by Telesur TV:

The presale and initial offer will be made in hard currencies and cryptocurrencies, but not bolivars…Our responsibility is to put (the petro) in the best hands and then a secondary market will appear.

Interested buyers can visit the Etherdelta platform to place private orders to the Ethereum address given by the Superintendent. However, at the time of this writing, no orders have been matched and no prices are displayed on the price chart. This could be due to technical glitches in the buying process such as a Javascript errorwhich prevents users from completing their purchases.

According to the Minister for University Education, Science and Technology, Hugbel Roa, the traffic to the petro website “quintupled with the global announcement of the pre-sale of the Venezuelan cryptocurrency,” shortly after midnight local time.

Despite technical challenges, Venezuela’s president, Nicolas Maduro, claimed:

Venezuela had received $735 million in the first day of a pre-sale of the country’s “petro.”

“The only thing needed for the petro is to open a digital petro wallet,” according to the petro’s website. “Once opened, your wallet will generate an email address that you can share with anyone who wants to transfer PTR to your wallet. You will be able to receive and deposit your PTRs in this email address.”

The buyer’s manual details a step-by-step process of how to register and gain access to a petro wallet, which requires prospective buyers to download a zipped, self-deleting installation file. “The data package for the creation of the digital wallet is configured to self-destruct once the installation is complete,” the instructions warn.

Alongside the steps to register and install the petro wallet, the manual goes over protecting users’ private keys but stopped short of asking users to generate a public key, which would be needed for any kind of cryptocurrency deposit. More curiously, however, was the vague announcement regarding the use of the NEM blockchain:

The Blockchain launched by the Venezuelan State has robust security mechanisms since its programming elements are related to a technological platform called: NEM blockchain.

The cryptocurrency NEM, which uses centralized servers running closed-source code, has recently been in the news frequently following the hack of one of the largest Japanese crypto exchanges, Coincheck, which lost 58 billion yen (~USD$539 million) worth of the cryptocurrency.

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