Venezuela to Enact Massive Airdrop Program for Petro Digital Currency

By Landon Manning

The Venezuelan government is planning on giving a “Christmas bonus” to a large number of its citizens by conducting a massive airdrop of its state-run crypto asset, the petro.

This news was first covered in the Mexican newspaper El Universal on December 13, 2019, announcing that Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro would be enacting the mass airdrop at some point that month. Each recipient of this airdrop program is set to receive 0.5 petro, which would amount to a current market value of roughly $30. 

To provide a rough approximation of the relative value this might provide to Venezuelans, in late 2018, NBC produced a guide to what everyday goods cost in terms of the country’s highly inflated fiat currency, the bolívar. When converted to USD, an entire chicken purchased in the country would cost $2.22, a kilogram of tomatoes 76 cents and a roll of toilet paper 40 cents. So, for participants in this airdrop program, the sum being offered would be a significant windfall, especially considering that the monthly minimum wage as of October 2019 is $8.

But, in addition to the value it might bring Venezuelans, this airdrop is particularly noteworthy for its reported distribution size. El Universal reported that Maduro said “pensioners, retirees, public sector workers, military and civilians in general” are eligible to receive this airdrop. In other words, the only citizens eligible are those that, to one degree or another, receive their income from the government itself. Adding that this would constitute a “Christmas bonus” for government employees, this presents itself as a fascinating development in the world’s first completely state-run crypto asset.

The announcement was clear that citizens must register for the PetroApp platform to receive the airdrop, which can also be used to exchange the petro for other crypto assets such as dash, litecoin and bitcoin.

Although the petro has basically zero adoption outside of the borders of Venezuela, the past year has seen some of the larger national companies gradually come around to the idea of using it. Petro-affiliated Twitter accounts have also taken to explaining how beneficial this airdrop could be to its recipients, in terms of the goods that an individual can purchase with this amount of the asset. 

The question moving forward remains: How will this impact the practical usage of the petro in the future? If it’s currently being presented only to those with a direct material interest in the well-being of the government, it may not be as successful in terms of adoption as one that was offered to all Venezuelan citizens. 

As such, the airdrop plan as presented certainly raises questions about the relationship between the digital currency and the state. But, if the sheer tenacity of the Venezuelan government in getting citizens to adopt the petro holds out, the measures taken could very well write the playbook for state-run cryptos in the future. Considering that the powerhouses of China and India are both interested in making their own centralized digital assets, this news could shape similar efforts around the globe.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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