US Envoy in Venezuela Tried to Dissuade Falcon from Presidential Bid

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The Trump administration on Monday banned all use by Americans of Venezuelan cryptocurrency, saying that its introduction is meant to skirt USA sanctions.

An executive order signed by Trump bans "all transactions related to, provision of financing for, and other dealings in" any digital currency issued by or for the Venezuelan government. The move was "in light of recent actions taken by the Maduro regime to attempt to circumvent USA sanctions by issuing a digital currency in a process that Venezuela's democratically elected National Assembly has denounced as unlawful", the White House said.

The new EO came on the same day that the administration implemented additional sanctions against the Venezuelan regime, this time targeting four former and current corrupt officials of that government.

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Venezuelan officials condemned the ban, its president suggesting charges of a "crime against humanity" could be pursued against the U.S.

Talking from the state housing complex, Mirador de Caiza in the state of Miranda, Venezuelan President Maduro says that with the February 20 launch of the Petro, which saw the sale of 82.5 million units and earned the country a reported US$735 million, Venezuela is "financially free" from the heightened USA economic sanctions against the country.

Backed by the country's oil reserves, Venezuela launched the Petro cryptocurrency last month, and has since seen US$5 billion in buying intentions, according to the government.

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Diosdado Cabello, the powerful vice president of the ruling socialist party, accused "Emperor Trump" of trying to extend the financial "blockade" of Venezuela.

Jorge Rodriguez, Venezuela's Minister of Communications and Information, said Sunday that the U.S. Charge d'Affairs in Venezuela was "knocking on the doors" of the opposition to convince Henry Ramos Allup, Manuel Rosales and Falcon of not running in the elections.

The Treasury had said in January that the petro appeared to be an extension of credit to Venezuela and warned that transactions in it may violate US sanctions.

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Now the Petro is propped up by Venezuela's extensive crude oil reserves. But with the Venezuelan minimum wage hovering around $3 a month, it's unlikely citizens will buy in large amounts.

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