President Nicolas Maduro says Venezuela has received $735 million in the first day of a pre-sale of the country's digital currency aimed at pulling the country out of an economic tailspin.

National superintendent of cryptocurrencies Carlos Vargas, Venezuela's Central Bank President Ramon Lobo and Minister for University Education, Science and Technology Hugbel Roa attend a news conference regarding the new cryptocurrency petro in Caracas, Venezuela. January 31, 2018.
National superintendent of cryptocurrencies Carlos Vargas, Venezuela's Central Bank President Ramon Lobo and Minister for University Education, Science and Technology Hugbel Roa attend a news conference regarding the new cryptocurrency petro in Caracas, Venezuela. January 31, 2018. (Reuters)

While some analysts are calling it an ingenious plan to counter US sanctions, others say it's a desperate move to secure cash in the midst of an economic meltdown. 

Venezuela on Tuesday was set to become the first country to launch its own version of bitcoin, a move it hopes will provide a much-needed boost to its credit-stricken economy.

President Nicolas Maduro said Tuesday that Venezuela had received $735 million on the first day of a pre-sale of the country's “petro” cryptocurrency, aimed at pulling the country out of an economic tailspin.

"Today, a cryptocurrency is being born that can take on Superman," said Maduro, using the comic character to refer to the United States, as he was flanked by mining rigs in a state television address.

Officials say the so-called petro is backed by Venezuela's crude oil reserves, the largest in the world, though it hasn't released any details on how this will be guaranteed.

Maduro is hoping the petro will allow the ailing OPEC member to skirt US sanctions as the bolivar currency plunges to record lows and it struggles with hyperinflation and a collapsing socialist economy.

The value of the entire petro issuance of 100 million tokens would be just over $6 billion, according to details given by President Nicolas Maduro in recent months.

The official website for the petro on Tuesday published a guide to setting up a virtual wallet to hold the cryptocurrency, but did not provide a link for actually doing so. 

TRT World's Juan Carlos Lamas explains.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies