Mexico City

President Nicolas Maduro on Friday said Venezuela in the coming days will issue 100 million units of an oil-backed cryptocurrency known as the petro, which will be worth the price of one barrel in Venezuela’s oil basket.

Speaking at a meeting of his ministers broadcast on state television, Maduro said that the petro will be backed by 5 billion barrels in the Ayacucho block of the Orinoco Oil Belt. Based on the latest price of the country’s oil basket, the total issue would be worth about $5.9 billion.

“I have ordered the issuance of 100 million petros with the legal support of Venezuela’s oil wealth,” Maduro said. He said the cryptocurrency will help the South American country challenge the “tyranny of the dollar,” economic war and US-led financial persecution. Over the past year, the US Treasury Department has blacklisted numerous top-ranking officials, including Maduro and many of his ministers.

Years of government mismanagement have left Venezuela beset by quadruple-digit inflation, severe shortages of food and medicine as well as four straight years of recession, forcing the government to restructure or refinance its foreign debt. Home to the world’s largest crude reserves, Venezuelan oil output fell to a 14-year low last July.

Maduro didn’t comment on whether Venezuela bondholders would be paid with petros. He said yesterday that a commission to restructure or refinance foreign debt is “working very well.”

At the start, the petro will be obtained through auctions or direct allocation by the country’s Cryptocurrency Superintendent, Maduro said. Virtual cryptocurrency exchanges are still in a trial stage, he said.

The vice president and economy vice president will meet with the central bank Jan. 8 to relaunch the Dicom foreign exchange system, Maduro said. The renewed system will include “new mechanisms” and will seek to the capture “growing” remittances from Venezuelans abroad, he said.