Venezuela To Eventually Sell Oil Only In Petro ERC20 Tokens, Starting March 2019

Colin Muller

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has announced that all of its oil exports will eventually be sold only in Petros (PTR), the country’s state-backed Ethereum-powered cryptocurrency. The announcement was made on state television, after a meeting with Russian president Vladimir Putin last week.

It was subsequently reported by teleSUR (a media outlet backed by several Latin American countries’ governments, including Venezuela’s) that the sale of oil for PTR will begin in March of 2019.

Getting Around Sanctions

The full import of the move, and of the meeting with Putin, was to move away from US dollar-denominated exchange in the hydrocarbon market. “Russia is buying and selling oil and derivatives in [Chinese] yuan [...] We are progressively going to sell all our oil production in Petros,” teleSUR quoted Maduro as saying. Ethereum transactions, of course, cannot be blocked.

The decision to eventually sell only in Petros will be seen as somewhat provocative, because although the United States has applied many sanctions to the Venezuelan economy and key political figures in the past years, it has not done so for oil exports which are by far the most important for the Latin American country. The US has, however, banned US citizens from buying PTR tokens.

In any case, the rhetoric against Venezuela has gone full tilt as of late, with US national security advisor John Bolton (widely understood as one of the principal architects of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003) recently referring to Venezuela as one of the “Troika of Tyranny,” part of a “triangle of terror stretching from Havana to Caracas to Managua.”

It is notable in its own right that almost no English-speaking media outlets have picked up the story - indeed more crypto-news outlets have reported on it than traditional ones.

Venezuela also recently set a fixed price of $150 for one PTR token, each of which are purportedly backed by one barrel worth of crude oil - although this is well above the current going price of nearer $60. In the midst of economic hardship in the country, CryptoGlobe recently reported that Localbitcoins transaction volume in the country was “mooning.”

Outside the Circle of Trust

Venezuela joins Iran in launching a nationally-backed cryptocurrency, in an effort to sidestep international (mostly US-based) sanctions. A political rift between the US and EU recently arose, because of the US pressure applied on the SWIFT money transfer platform to exclude sections of the Iranian economy from transacting using the platform. Russia has also been considering a move in this direction of late.

CryptoGlobe reported on the troubles facing the Petro, including the fact that there sems to be no evidence of its use, and claims that its whitepaper was partially plagiarized.

U.S. Congressman McHenry Calls Bitcoin ‘An Unstoppable Force’ at Libra Hearing

As far as cryptocurrency fans are concerned, one U.S. Congressman, Patrick McHenry, was the star of the House Financial Services Committee hearing on Libra on Wednesday (July 17). 

Before we talk about what happened at this hearing, and more specifically, how Congressman McHenry managed to endear himself to all blockchain and cryptocurrency fans, it might be helpful to present a very brief biography of him here.

Patrick Timothy McHenry is the U.S. Representative for North Carolina's 10th congressional district. He is serving his eight term at the U.S. congress, where he is currently the Republican Leader of the House Financial Services Committee, "a committee he has served on since he was elected to Congress" (in 2004, when he was just 29 years old).

On Wednesday (July 17), a day after Facebook's David Marcus, who is a co-creator of Libra and the head of the Calibra project, faced tough questions at the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs (aka "Senate Banking Committee"), came the real grilling at a full hearing (titled "Examining Facebook’s Proposed Cryptocurrency and Its Impact on Consumers, Investors, and the American Financial System") of the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services.

Committee Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), who had previously implored Facebook to stop working on the Libra project until Congress could understand better the implications of what Facebook's proposed cryptocurrency, started the hearing by delivering a prepared statement, during which she, once again, expressed her "serious concerns with Facebook’s plans":

This venture is slated to be based in Switzerland, which has a history as a monetary haven for criminals and shady corporations. Facebook’s plans raise serious privacy, trading, national security, and monetary policy concerns, not only for Facebook’s over 2 billion users, who will have immediate access to these products, but also for consumers, investors and the global economy.

 Congressman McHenry's gave his opening remarks around 11:00 (Eastern Time). Here were the main highlights:

  • "Washington must go beyond the hype and ensure that it's not the place where innovation goes to die."
  • "Just because we may not fully understand a new technology proposal does not mean we should immediately call for its prohibition, especially when that proposal is just that — a proposal."
  • "The reality is whether Facebook is involved or not, change is here. Digital currencies exist. Blockchain technology is real. And Facebook's entry in this world is just confirmation, albeit at scale."
  •  "The world that Satoshi Nakamoto, author of the Bitcoin whitepaper, envisioned—and others are building—is an unstoppable force."
  • "We should not attempt to deter this innovation, and governments cannot stop this innovation. And those that have tried have already failed."
  • "Instead of a knee jerk reaction of banning something before it begins, my Replication colleagues and I want to first try an understanding. An in turn, based off what we learn, determine whether or not our current regulatory framework meets the demands of this new technology."  

Then, around 15:30 (ET), McHenry began his questioning of David Marcus about Libra; some of his most interesting questions are listed below.

McHenry: Is it a security?

Marcus: We don't believe it is, Congressman.

McHenry: Is it a commodity?

Marcus: Congressman, based on current U.S. law, it might be a commodity, but we see it as a payment tool.

McHenry: Is it an exchange traded fund?

Marcus: It is not, Congressman.

Congressman McHenry repeated his claim about Bitcoin being an unstoppable force during an interview with Andrew Ross Sorkin on CNBC's morning news and talk program "Squawk Box":

I think there is no capacity to kill Bitcoin. Even the Chinese with their firewall and their extreme intervention in their society could not kill Bitcoin.

Sorkin then told McHenry that although it might not be possible to technically "kill" Bitcoin, it was possible for governments to create legislation that made access to Bitcoin illegal for their citizens at fiat on/off ramps such as exchanges (e.g. Coinbase) and custodial wallets (e.g. Calibra), and that would "effectively make it very very difficult for the mainstream to use it." Sorkin then said that's why investors in Bitcoin were worried, which explained the recent drop in price.

McHenry replied:

Yes, so the price has come down to roughly $10,000... But you are talking about something that... people were giving away for free. It's now trading at $10,000... But the essence of Bitcoin is what Libra, Facebook, and corporates are trying to mimic.