January 30, 2018 / 7:30 PM / 6 months ago

UPDATE 1-Venezuela says it will start selling 'petro' cryptocurrency on Feb. 20

(Adds quote from Maduro and background)

CARACAS, Jan 30 (Reuters) - A “pre-sale” of Venezuela’s new ‘petro’ cryptocurrency will begin on Feb. 20, President Nicolas Maduro said on Tuesday, a move that the government hopes will help pull the country out of a dire economic crisis.

Maduro has previously said that the government will issue 100 million tokens, each valued at - and backed by - the equivalent of one barrel of Venezuelan crude.

That would put the value of the entire petro issuance at just over $6 billion.

“All the cryptocurrencies of the world have been revalued after Venezuela’s announcements about the creation of the petro,” said Maduro in a speech broadcast on state television.

The OPEC nation is seeking to raise hard currency amid a crippling crisis.

Venezuela’s government has said that the petro issue will help the cash-strapped country make financial transactions and overcome U.S. sanctions against Maduro’s socialist government.

Critics have slammed the move as not only illegal but a simple debt issuance for a government overseeing quadruple-digit inflation and major shortages.

A document by advisers reviewed by Reuters two weeks ago recommended the government sell $2.3 billion in a private-offering, with up to 60 percent discount, in mid-February.

Reporting by Caracas newsroom, writing by Girish Gupta; editing by Cynthia Osterman and Rosalba O'Brien

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