The President of Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, has said “Anyone who buys Petro before 31 December 2018 can convert it into any digital currency or international convertible currency”. This implicitly indicates that anyone who buys Petro after New Year’s Eve will not be able to exchange it, raising further doubts about the Petro’s existence.
All cryptocurrencies in existence can be traded for any other cryptocurrency or fiat currency if there is a willing buyer. Maduro is saying this will not be possible for people who buy the Petro ‘too late’. Further, if the Petro was a real cryptocurrency it would not be possible to stop people from trading it for other cryptocurrencies or fiat currencies. This announcement by Maduro is implicit proof that the Petro is not a cryptocurrency, while at the same time the announcement will make Venezuelan citizens who do not understand cryptocurrency rush to buy the Petro.
So far there is no evidence the Petro exists. The block explorer is non-functional and actually worse than non-functional since it seems to be producing fake data regarding the number of blocks. It says there are 626 blocks, much less than if the block time was really 1 minute like it says in the Petro whitepaper, and no block data or transaction data is viewable.
Beyond the faulty block explorer, people who bought Petro when the public sale started received paper certificates instead of actual cryptocurrency. This suggests the Petro is a fiat currency at this point, and that has been re-enforced by Maduro’s announcement that the Petro will not be exchangeable for citizens who wait until 2019 to buy. With a non-fungible fiat certificate, it is certainly possible to ban people from exchanging Petro if they buy past a certain date, but it is not possible to do that with a fungible cryptocurrency.
Ultimately, the purpose of the Petro was to halt Venezuela’s hyperinflation crisis, since Bolivars are supposedly backed by Petros. Inflation continues unabated, with 26% inflation in the week since Petro launched according to Bloomberg’s Café Con Leche Index, where someone buys the same cup of coffee at the same shop in Caracas regularly to gauge inflation. Annual inflation is at 150,000% per year.
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