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U.S. Bans 'Petro' Trade; Imposes Fresh Sanctions On Venezuela

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The U.S. Government has banned Americans from purchasing or dealing with any cryptocurrency issued by Venezuela, and imposed a fresh round of sanctions targeting Venezuelan government associates.

An executive order signed by President Donald Trump Monday makes it illegal for the U.S. citizens and entities to engage in financial transactions involving Petro, the national digital currency of Venezuela.

Simultaneously, the Treasury Department sanctioned 4 current or former Venezuelan officials associated with the economic mismanagement and corruption of the government headed by President Nicolas Maduro.

The Trump administration's crackdown on Venezuela comes in response to the Latin American government's attempt to bypass the U.S. economic sanctions by launching a national cryptocurrency.

In a statement announcing the financial sanctions, the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) said, "The Maduro regime's actions have rendered Venezuela's currency essentially worthless through hyperinflation, made food and medicine rare commodities through price controls, and triggered a humanitarian crisis that the Venezuelan government refuses to alleviate by changing policy or accepting international assistance."

Inflation in the socialist nation has spiraled, creating food shortages. The national currency bolivar has lost its value.

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It was in this context that the Maduro administration launched the pre-sale of Petro on February 20 to circumvent the U.S.-led sanctions.

The Government claimed its oil-backed cryptocurrency raised $5 billion, but the Opposition-controlled National Assembly declared the Petro as illegitimate.

Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin, who is currently attending G-20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting in Buenos Aires, was highly critical of Venezuela.

He alleged that President Maduro decimated the Venezuelan economy and spurred a humanitarian crisis. "Instead of correcting course to avoid further catastrophe, the Maduro regime is attempting to circumvent sanctions through the Petro digital currency."

The U.S. Government has frozen all assets of the following four Venezuelans in the country, and prohibited U.S. citizens from dealing with them.

Américo Alex Mata García, who, as the coordinator of Maduro's 2013 presidential campaign, received payments from Odebrecht, a Brazilian construction company mired in a worldwide corruption scandal; Willian Antonio Contreras, who is the Vice Minister of Internal Commerce, and the head of the agency responsible for imposing price controls in Venezuela; Nelson Reinaldo Lepaje Salazar, the Head of the National Treasury; and Carlos Alberto Rotondaro Cova, the former head of the government agency that provides patients with drugs for chronic conditions.

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