In the isolated town of Alta Pereira in Northeastern Venezuela, the 1,300 residents barely have cellphone reception. And are only connected to the outside world by a two-lane road riddled with potholes. But President Nicolas Maduro says the area in and around Alta Pereira sits atop 5 billion barrels of oil.
And that oil has been pledged as backing for a new cryptocurrency called the petro. Reuters correspondent, Brian Ellsworth visited the region.>> People here really have no idea what it is, they've heard people talk a lot about it, they've heard presidential announcements about it, but no one's seen or bought a petro.
I spoke with a teacher who said that she had gotten instructions from the education ministry to teach her first grade class about the importance of the petro. But she says she doesn't have any information, she doesn't understand it herself.>> Since its launch in February, the petro has been the subject of intense debate, with Maduro's government recently linking it to a new currency, the sovereign bolivar.
>> So the government has put the petro at 65, $70 per barrel, but the investors that I talk to say that they probably wouldn't buy any at all. The petro is blocked by US sanctions, US citizens cannot purchase it.>>
> So far, Venezuela has offered nothing other than Maduro's word to substantiate any investments in the cryptocurrency.
And there is another looming problem, the petro is not backed by a commodity that is already being bought and sold but rather by oil still buried underground.>> We can see in different areas, some oil wells, small operations, many of them appear to be 20 or 30 years old, many of them are abandoned.
Most of what this area looks like is what you're seeing behind me, scrub grass and trees. There's no basic infrastructure that would be needed for the oil industry, that would include electricity, power, water, and natural gas.>> Experts say the energy infrastructure could take years to develop, making the petro a promise for the future than a reality of the present.
Yet another indicator of the breakdown of Venezuela's financial systems as the country deals with a massive economic crisis.