Venezuela coup
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks during his weekly broadcast in Caracas Miraflores Palace/Reuters

Venezuela is to launch its own cryptocurrency to counter what it describes as Washington's "economic sabotage" in the shape of financial sanctions, the country's President Nicolas Maduro confirmed via a national broadcast.

In his regular Sunday (3 December) broadcast, Maduro said Venezuela will "create a cryptocurrency," backed by oil and natural gas reserves called the "petro" to shore up his country's collapsed economy.

He added that Venezuela was facing a financial "world war" after several nations, led by the US, imposed sanctions on his regime following its crackdown on dissidents and opposition party activists.

After details about the cryptocurrency first surfaced over the weekend, Maduro said the petro would help Venezuela "advance in issues of monetary sovereignty, to make financial transactions and overcome the financial blockade."

However, other than that the President offered very few details.

Opposition leaders criticised the announcement, which needs congressional approval in order to become government policy.

The move, if executed, would be highly unusual and in many ways a first. Hitherto cryptocurrencies have not been backed by any government or central bank.

Venezuela's real currency - the bolivar - is in freefall, with inflation running at 4,000% and the country running out of basic food and medicine.