Venezuela launches own version of bitcoin for economic boost

Venezuela launched its own version of bitcoin on Tuesday, with the government hoping that it will provide a boost to its ailing economy.

According to officials in the socialist country, the “petro” cryptocurrency is backed by the country’s vast crude oil reserves. The plan is to eventually release 100 million digital tokens.

This is believed to be the first time a country has launched a digital currency.

The launch comes after President Nicolas said late last year he would create a digital currency to outmaneuver the U.S. sanctions blocking Venezuela from issuing new debt.

The U.S. Treasury Department warned U.S. citizens and companies who buy the petro that they could be violating sanctions.

Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world, but production of the commodity has collapsed as economic turmoil has almost halted the nation’s business activity.

Venezuela and the U.S. have recently exchanged words over a potential oil ban.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the U.S. was considering a ban on Venezuelan oil imports to pressure the Maduro regime to implement democratic reforms. In response, Maduro took to Twitter, saying that not only would an oil embargo be illegal, it would also be one of the biggest mistakes that the U.S. could commit in terms of international politics.

Meanwhile, bitcoin, the most popular cryptocurrency, was up 2.8% over the past 24 hours, at $11,472.69, according to CoinDesk.

The AP contributed to this report