The White House issued a ban today on transactions involving the Petro, the Maduro regime’s cryptocurrency. The ban prohibits U.S. citizens and corporations from purchasing or otherwise engaging in transactions with the cryptocurrency, which was launched in February 20 and is pegged to the price of oil.

According to Bloomsberg, today’s ban comes after the White House warned investors on January to “steer clear” of the Petro:

The Treasury Department warned investors in January to steer clear of the digital currency, calling it “another attempt to prop up the Maduro regime, while further looting the resources of the Venezuelan people.”

The website also cites Russ Dallen, an executive with Caracas Capital, calling the ban “a pretty big blow” to the Petro, and saying:

Since most cryptocurrencies are not actually backed by anything real, cryptocurrency speculation is based on the greater fool theory — I can buy this at $100 because there is someone who is a bigger idiot who is going to buy it at $200. When you take the U.S. out of that equation, you reduce the interest and potential for that speculation.

Treasury Department Sanctions Four More Regime Officials

The U.S. Treasury Department followed the news on the Petro transactions ban by announcing sanctions against four regime officials. The sanctioned officials are all connected to the regime’s economic branch.

The officials and their roles are listed below:

  • Americo Alex Mata Garcia: Alternate director of the National Bank of Housing and Habitat.
  • Willian Antonio Contreras: National Superintendent of the Superintendency for the Defense of Socioeconomic Rights (SUNDDE).
  • Nelson Reinaldo Lepaje Salazar: Head of the Office of the National Treasury in Venezuela.
  • Carlos Alberto Rotondarao Cova: Former president of the Board of Directors of the Institute of Social Security.

According to the Treasury Department, the individuals have been sanctioned due to their involvement in “economic mismanagement and endemic corruption”. The sanctions freeze all of the named individuals’ assets in the United States, and prohibit any U.S. entities from engaging in financial transactions with them.

In announcing the sanctions, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnunchin said:

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 – a ploy that Venezuela’s democratically-elected National Assembly has denounced and Treasury has cautioned U.S. persons to avoid.

Padrino Lopez Says U.S. Airplane Violated Venezuelan Air Space

Minister of Defense Vladimir Padrino Lopez announced today that an aircraft belonging to the United States violated Venezuelan airspace on Saturday.

According to Padrino Lopez, the offending aircraft was a Boeing C-17. The minister said that the airplane took off from the Coast Guard Air Base Hato, which is used as a Forward Operating Base by the U.S. Air Force.

It is not clear how long the incursion lasted, or which area of Venezuelan airspace it affected. Given Curacao’s proximity to Venezuela, it is likely that if the violation did take place, it affected the northern border of Falcon state.

The Boeing C-17 is a transport aircraft.

Guatemala To Require Visas from Venezuelans

The government of Guatemala announced today that itwould now require Venezuelans wishing to enter the country to first obtain a visa, in an apparent attempt to stem the tide of migrants flowing into the country as a result of the social and economic collapse in Venezuela.

Currently, Guatemala classifies Venezuelans as “Category A” migrants, which means that they do not require a visa to enter Guatemala. That is set to change in the immediate future, according to the Guatemalan Migration General Directorate, which announced today that a re-classification to “Class C” was imminent. Under that classification, Venezuelans would have to apply for a visa to enter the country, and could have their application denied.

According to EFE, there are currently at least 5,000 Venezuelans living in Guatemala.

Rodriguez Promises “Economic Prosperity”–If Maduro Wins Election

Minister of Communication Jorge Rodriguez said in a television interview that aired on the Venevision channel that the country would enter a period of “economic prosperity”, but only if Maduro is re-elected in the May 20 presidential election.

When asked about the country’s economic situation, Rodriguez said that the regime was working on undisclosed policies that would bring about “a situation of economic prosperity” in Venezuela “after the elections”.

Rodriguez also lauded the regime’s cryptocurrency–the Petro–as “a success”, and said that its existence had put an end to the black market for foreign currency, which he called “criminal”. The current black market rate for U.S. dollars is sitting at Bs. 226,317.63, which is just over six times higher than the official rate.

Rodriguez’s assessment of the Petro’s performance flies in the face of independent expert observations. Weiss Ratings, an agency that rates cryptocurrencies, called the Petro “worthless” in early March, and assured that not a single unit of the cryptocurrency had been sold since it launched on February 20.

Rodriguez: Chavismo is “Monolithically United”

During the same interview, Rodriguez attempted to dispel rumours that the regime was fracturing, as evidenced by the recent increase in the arrests of army officers, many of whom has been accused of treason. Rodriguez said:

The political panorama in Venezuela at this time suggests that chavismo is more monolithically united than ever.

Rodriguez took his assertions to even greater heights, saying:

The PSUV is the most powerful political party in the history of Latin America. We have more than six and a half million members.

Former PDVSA Head: Maduro Policies”Savage Capitalism”

Rafael Ramirez, the former head of the state-owned PDVSA oil company, published a piece critical of the Maduro regime on Aporrea, a pro-government website. In the piece, Ramirez lashes out against what he considers to be the incompetence of Maduro and his regime in running the country, the results of which have taken a disastrous toll on Venezuela.

Ramirez took particular aim in his lengthy piece at the Venezuelan economy under Maduro, which he argues is now so distorted that it is indistinguishable from a “savage” capitalist model. Prefacing his comment by reminding readers that Chavez hand-picked Maduro to succeed in, Ramirez said:

[Chavez did not do this] so that, through improvisation and [because of] the prevalence of the economic groups that maintain Madurismo, they could unleash the most savage mechanisms of capitalism: mega-inflation, mega-devaluation, the destruction of the productive apparatus, the annihilation of oil production.

Ramirez also said that Maduro and his cabal are so bent on remaining in power that they are “creating the political [and] spiritual conditions for the rise of fascism” in Venezuela”. Ramirez said:

[The PSUV] is sowing hatred, intolerance; the conduct of Madurismo is the only one responsible for this situation.

As a lifelong Chavez ally and one of his closest advisers, Ramirez also attempted to distance his former leader from Maduro by saying:

I want us to say this loudly: Commander Chavez is not responsible for this disaster.

Ramirez accused the Maduro regime of “dismantling” the social benefits that Chavez instituted during his presidency through incompetent “improvisation”.

Calling the Maduro regime an example of “unbridled authoritarianism”, Ramirez said that the regime’s absolute failure to govern is evidence that it “does not care about anything”. He summarized the regime’s style of governing in the following way:

… everything is a joke, an improvisation, a dance, a trick, one failed announcement after another…

Ramirez served as the president of PDVSA from 2004 and 2014, during which time at least $11 billion were allegedly siphoned out of the company due to corruption. In recent years, he has become an outspoken critic of the Maduro regime.

Questions/Comments? E-mail me: invenezuelablog@gmail.com


2 thoughts on “03.19.18: Everything is a Joke

  1. Pingback: 03.20.18: Shameful and Absurd | In Venezuela

  2. Pingback: 03.23.18: Fundamental Condition | In Venezuela

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