WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump today signed an executive order making it illegal for Americans to purchase any cryptocurrency issued by Venezuela.
The order prohibits US entities from engaging in any financial transactions involving the Venezuelan state digital currency, the Petro, on or after January 9, 2018, and builds upon the one that the President signed in August 2017, a senior administration official said, after Trump signed the executive order.
Specifically, this executive order prohibits transactions and dealings in the Petro and Petro gold, as well as any similar future efforts by the Maduro regime to issue a digital currency, digital coin, or digital token by US persons or within the US.
The Petro is a desperate effort by a corrupt regime to defraud international investors, the official said on condition of anonymity.
"At face value, the Petro is a scam ripe for exploitation by corrupt regime insiders seeking to defraud international investors and ordinary Venezuelans. Investing in the Petro should be viewed as directly supporting this dictatorship and its attempts to undermine democratic order in Venezuela," the official alleged.
Instead of launching or attempting to launch the Petro, the Maduro regime should reverse the crisis that it has caused and take concrete steps to alleviate the unnecessary human suffering in its country, the official said.
"The Maduro dictatorship continues to defraud the Venezuelan people of food and medicine, imprison the democratically elected opposition, and violently suppress freedom of speech. They've also exacerbated a humanitarian situation that has become the worst in the Western Hemisphere," the official added.
Concurrently, the Treasury Department announced individual targeted sanctions against four Venezuelan government officials involved in corruption and economic mismanagement.
These individuals include a Venezuelan state bank director, who allegedly took payments from Odebrecht in 2013; the head of the agency responsible for imposing price controls in Venezuela; the head of the Office of National Treasury; and the former president of the board of directors on the Venezuelan Social Security.
According to the official, the President has made very clear that all options are still on the table, in terms of US actions regarding Venezuela.
"We are continuing to research and look into the issue of oil sanctions, whether as a monolithic entity or in very specific, surgical applications," the official said.
Senator Marco Rubio welcomed the move.
"This move against corrupt officials in the Maduro regime targets their ability to use cryptocurrencies to circumvent US and international sanctions," Rubio said.
"I commend the President and his administration for continuing to take action against efforts by the illegitimate Maduro regime to exploit illicit financial lifelines, and encourage additional sanctions in the weeks to come," he said.