The former president of Consecomercio, a Venezuelan business association, lashed out against the state-backed petro "cryptocurrency" last week, calling it a "scam" after thousands of retailers faced major delays in liquidity from the Bank of Venezuela, according to local news outlet Tal Cual.
Retailers have been struggling for weeks to receive bolivars, the national currency, from the Bank of Venezuela in exchange for the Petro payments retailers collected from consumers. Since their suppliers don’t accept Petro, retailers without bolivars can’t restock their shelves.
To make matters worse, Venezuela suffers from one of the worst inflation rates in the world, according to the IMF, so the delay in converting Petros to bolivars cause merchants to receive bolivars at a highly diminished value from when they first received payment.
"Petro is a scam for the merchant, because certainly what he could do with that money at the beginning of the year is not the same as what he can do now," former president of Consecomercio, Maria Carolina Uzcategui, told Tal Cual.
After a month of delays, the government finally paid merchants over the weekend.
Venezuelan government continues to roll out Petro despite dollarization
In the midst of an economic crisis, the US dollar has long since been the preferred method for Venezuelans to escape hyperinflation. Over 70% of transactions in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, are set to be conducted in dollars this year, Bloomberg reported last month.
Nevertheless, many Venezuelans are still paid in bolivars and can’t easily access dollars. Those who do continue to purchase goods in dollars will be subject to a sales tax of upwards of 25%, according to a new law approved by Venezuela’s Constituent Assembly last week.
The new law could help President Nicolas Maduro’s government continue to press forward with the Petro despite Venezuelans’ preference for US dollars. The president recently ordered his officials to impose the adoption of the Petro by retailers across the country, according to Tal Cual.
The government’s intention with the Petro is to continue to “control the economy,” an investigator for a property rights watchdog group with Cedice Libertad told local media.