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Venezuelans Flock to Stores in their Droves to Spend Petro Payouts

Tim Alper
Last updated: | 2 min read

Opinion in Venezuela is divided on the subject of the country’s state-run cryptocurrency, the Petro, as citizens continue to queue around the block for “up to seven hours” at crypto-friendly stores.

An associative picture. Source: iStock/piccaya

Per a report from AFP, via El Dia, some citizens have expressed their frustration with Caracas on the matter after “hundreds of thousands” of people in the country were gifted Petro tokens over the holiday season.

As previously reported, Venezuelans have been rushing out to spend their Christmas bonuses, with scores of people gifted with Petro 0.5 – which per Caracas’ reckoning is equivalent to around USD 30. In comparison, the minimum wage in the country increased to c. USD 8 in October. Pensioners, veterans and public servants were among those receiving Petro benefits over the Christmas period.

A number of Twitter accounts posted footage of what they say are lines of Venezuelans lining up to spend their Petro tokens.

The government has also pledged to deliver and install technological solutions for merchants around the country, which will allow them to accept crypto pay.

The AFP report quotes a 70-year-old Caracas resident who was queuing outside a supermarket in the capital as stating,

“It’s humiliating, particularly for the elderly. We don’t have the energy to stand in a line for five, six or seven hours.”

But a 66-year-old man, also waiting to spend his Petro in a Caracas store, told reporters,

“I think the Petro is good. I’d like to thank the president.”

President Nicolás Maduro has been the driving force of what he calls a crypto-economic drive that he is hoping will kickstart the Venezuelan economy.

The Petro has many critics, and as the AFP report points out, converting it into fiat can prove tricky. Theoretically, it can be traded at a number of Venezuelan exchanges for bolivars, but only via auction – meaning that if a Petro owner cannot find a buyer, they may be stuck with their tokens.

And it is thought that this concern is what is causing recent recipients of Petro handouts to rush out and spend their tokens as quickly as possible.

Maduro has been unrelenting in his support for the Petro. Late last week he pledged a sum of Petro 43,802 to a housing project that will see 2,818 new homes constructed.

He also took to Twitter over the weekend to state,

“The Petro is a […] miracle that is reaching our workers and pensioners, letting them make purchases. It is a unique and extraordinary new experience for the economy. We are setting an example to the rest of the world!”