Venezuela — which yesterday opened pre-sales for its oil-backed cryptocurrency the petro — has claimed the digital tokens have already raised $735m.

The South American country is battling against hyper inflation and US sanctions and hoped to bypass both problems with the petro.

The cryptocurrency goes public next month, for now it is available only to institutional investors.

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro made the claim directly from his official Twitter account, however he offered no evidence to back up the claim.

The petro is backed by Venezuela’s crude oil reserves, the largest in the world, though much of the oil remains underground. The tokens will each be valued at and backed by a barrel of oil.

In a state television address Maduro was quoted by Reuters say:

Today, a cryptocurrency is being born that can take on Superman.

We have taken a giant step into the 21st Century. We are on the world’s technological vanguard.

Maduro add the petro is the “kryptonite” Venezuela needs to take on Superman — meaning the US.

Maduro claims that about 100m petro tokens worth some $6bn will be issued and last week the country’s cryptocurrency regulator said it expects investors in the petro from countries including Turkey, Qatar, the US, and Europe.

However, the US Treasury Department has warned US citizens and companies that buying the petro would mean violating sanctions, putting another damper on the release.

Those sanctions block US banks and investors from acquiring newly issued Venezuelan debt, effectively preventing the nation from borrowing abroad to bring in new hard currency or refinance existing debt.

Venezuela has taken to printing money to pay down its debts and tackle fiscal deficits and people are grappling with widespread food shortages, and the collapse of the traditional currency, the bolívar.

Meanwhile, the outlook for the country’s economy is not good. The IMF expects the Venezuelan economy to contract 15 percent this year, leading to a cumulative GDP decline of nearly 50 percent since 2013.

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