Venezuela's Cryptocurrency Is Here, But Who's Involved Isn't Clear

Several companies have been so far linked to Venezuela's petro cryptocurrency initiative in the wake of this week's launch.

AccessTimeIconFeb 21, 2018 at 10:45 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 13, 2021 at 7:36 a.m. UTC
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There's a flurry of information coming out of Venezuela this week about its new national cryptocurrency, the petro, though a full picture of the project has yet to emerge.

Indeed, despite the press conferences and Twitter campaigns, one of the notable questions to emerge about the first-of-its-kind cryptocurrency is exactly who is building it, which technologies are being used and which private companies are involved (if any).

Perhaps most notable among those named in the latter category is a relatively little-known consulting firm called Aerotrading, which describes itself as "the biggest blockchain consulting company" on its official website.

The social media push from the Venezuelan government highlighted the agreement with the consultancy, and has included photos of its representatives meeting with the country's president, Nicolas Maduro.

— Director de Conatel (@JorgeEMarquezM) February 20, 2018

linked to Aerotrading has several tweets posts, all from today, including one that reads: "We are pleased to welcome the #Petro cryptocurrency to the #blockchain ecosystem."

Yet questions remain, including what role exactly the firm will play in the launch and use of the petro. Emails sent to addresses associated with Aerotrading were not returned by press time.

As previously reported, Maduro unveiled the "petro" back in December, and on Tuesday the government launched a presale which it claims has raised a whopping $735 million on the first day. Still, the sale was reportedly marred by confusing messaging, and political figures in the country have decried the move as illegal.

NEM says no involvement

One group that has confirmed that it is not involved with the petro is the NEM Foundation, which oversees development of the open-source NEM protocol. The NEM Foundation was first linked to the story after documents published by the Venezuelan government indicated that the NEM network would be used as the platform on which tokens would be issued.

"The NEM technology is freely open to any individual or organization that wants to use it. The NEM Foundation abstains from political endorsements. We can confirm that the Venezuela Government is intending to use the NEM Blockchain," the group said in a statement posted to Twitter.

A representative for the Foundation told CoinDesk in an email that the group "is not involved with this project and we're not in a position to control any open source projects."

"The NEM Foundation has a clear purpose to introduce, educate, and promote the use of the NEM blockchain technology platform on an international scale to all industries and institutions," the rep added.

Confusion over the Foundation's involvement was sparked by a tweet from the Venezuelan government that inaccurately cited them as meeting with officials there. Chatter on social media suggests that the exchange in question is ZeusExchange, which is based in Russia.

When reached for comment, a representative for the exchange suggested that its code would be utilized in connection with the project.

"The part of Zeus Exchange code will be used for the future crypto exchange and as a part of NEM Blockchain Alliance to all Mercosur countries, Venezuela included," the rep said.

Other links uncertain

Information about other groups reportedly linked to the petro project is less clear at this time.

According to a source, the team behind Venezuela-based cryptocurrency exchange MonkeyCoin is among those rumored to be involved. MonkeyCoin was launched in June 2017, according to press statements at the time, and emails sent to the exchange were not returned by press time.

A December report from news service El Cooperante links an additional cryptocurrency project, the loan platform OnixCoin, to the petro initiative. As the site reported on Dec. 13, OnixCoin "is in charge of carrying out the generation of Venezuelan cryptocurrencies."

Additionally, as reported by Reason that same month, OnixCoin founder Angel Salazar is part of a group that is advising the Venezuelan government on cryptocurrency regulation.

Annaliese Milano and Nikhilesh De contributed reporting. 

Venezuela flag image via Shutterstock


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