Venezuela is planning to pay the Christmas bonuses of retirees and pensioners using its own state-backed cryptocurrency, Petro.

According to local news organization Venepress, the news was announced by the Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro over the weekend.

Although issuing pensioner bonuses through a cryptocurrency may sound like an odd decision, this isn’t the first time that it’s happened in Venezuela.

Last year, the country’s government traded and converted pensioners’ monthly bonuses into Petro without their consent. According to politics blog Caracas Chronicles, the money was sent to the pensioners’ web fiat wallets before being withdrawn and changed into Petro.

They reportedly received the following messages:  “MOTHERLAND WALLET: CREDIT for an amount of Bs.S. 1,800.00 for the concept of Elderly Love Pensions (Third month Christmas bonus 2018) on 12/07/2018.

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“MOTHERLAND WALLET: DEBIT for an amount of Bs.S. 1,800.00 for the concept of Savings in Petro on 12/07/2018”

Whether the Venezuelan government will follow the same process this year is unknown, but what’s certain is that it continues to use Petro as a way to control national finances and bypass US sanctions.

In October, President Maduro announced that his government would create several Petro-backed government funds to encourage economic development across the country. 

He said during a broadcast: "I am assigning 1 million bimonthly petros as of November to all the states and the protectorates—through the corporations we are going to create—as an investment modality for their free use in the attention of their priorities.”

“In concrete terms, this means, my compatriots, that we are assigning between 1,354,000 euros and 3,249,600 euros to governors and protectorates.”

Launched in February 2018, Petro is thought to be largely financed by Venezuelan oil and mining reserves. It was set up by the country to reduce reliance on the US dollar and bypass sanctions.

The state-owned Bank of Venezuela has opened up crypto wallet registrations to drive uptake of the currency, which can reportedly be used to buy products in 100 stores across the country as of October this year.