Venezuela announced its intention to launch a new state-sponsored cryptocurrency the "Petro" earlier this month. The new cryptocurrency is now on the verge of being launched within the next few days according to statements from the Venezuelan government.
Venezuela has been mired in an economic crisis over the last few years, with vastly differing opinions to what has been the cause of it; Venezuelan president Nicholas Maduro has consistently blamed U.S. sanctions and other geopolitical levers for the crisis, and recently stated that Petro will allow his country to be able to sidestep any "financial blockades," hopefully bringing it out of the current economic situation. Much of this sentiment was matched by communications minister Jorge Rodriguez as he announced the imminent launch of the Petro.
The Petro, unlike the leading cryptocurrency Bitcoin, will be backed by Venezuelan natural resources such as diamonds and gold, but particularly, oil. For its launch, the Petro already has a whole section of the Venezuelan oil reserves, specifically the Ayacucho block which forms part of the southern Orinoco Belt, assigned to back the new currency. This reserve is worth $267 billion or 5.342 billion barrels of oil. Assumedly, being backed by a real-world commodity means that owners of a Petro would then also be entitled to claim a certain amount of oil or another commodity, giving the Petro at least some base value relative to the commodity backing it.
Many governments have been grappling with how to best deal with the rise of Bitcoin, however, both it and the Petro display how far cryptocurrencies have come. From being somewhat of a fringe concept, mined by a handful of people a decade ago, to something that will now receive over a quarter of a trillion dollars (US) worth of resources in backing today.