from the petros-per-gallon dept.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro looked to the world of digital currency to circumvent U.S.-led financial sanctions, announcing on Sunday the launch of the "petro" backed by oil reserves to shore up a collapsed economy. The leftist leader offered few specifics about the currency launch or how the struggling OPEC member would pull off such a feat, but he declared to cheers that "the 21st century has arrived!"
"Venezuela will create a cryptocurrency," backed by oil, gas, gold and diamond reserves, Maduro said in his regular Sunday televised broadcast, a five-hour showcase of Christmas songs and dancing. The petro, he said, would help Venezuela "advance in issues of monetary sovereignty, to make financial transactions and overcome the financial blockade."
Opposition leaders derided the announcement, which they said needed congressional approval, and some cast doubt on whether the digital currency would ever see the light of day in the midst of turmoil. The real currency, the bolivar, is in freefall, and the country is sorely lacking in basic needs like food and medicine.
President Donald Trump on Monday signed an executive order barring any U.S.-based financial transactions involving Venezuela's new petro cryptocurrency, as U.S. officials warned that it was a "scam" by President Nicolas Maduro's government to further undermine democracy in the OPEC country.
"The 'petro' is a desperate effort by a corrupt regime to defraud international investors," a senior U.S. administration official told reporters, strongly warning that any transactions in the petro digital currency would violate U.S. sanctions. "Investing in the 'petro' should be viewed as directly supporting this dictatorship and its attempts to undermine the democratic order in Venezuela," the official added.
Trump's order bars "all transactions related to, provision of financing for, and other dealings in, by a United States person or within the United States, any digital currency, digital coin, or digital token," issued by Venezuela's government since Jan. 9, the White House said in a statement.
Also at the New York Times.