Russian government officials and businessmen helped the Venezuelan government launch the world’s first state-backed cryptocurrency, Time Magazine reported Tuesday.
Citing anonymous officials familiar with the matter, the report states that billionaires Dennis Druzhkov and Fyodor Bogorodsky advised Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro in his efforts to build the petro. Further, Time reported that “senior advisers to the Kremlin” oversaw the petro’s development, with the support of Russian president Vladimir Putin.
The article further stated:
“Behind the scenes, the petro was in fact a collaboration—a half-hidden joint venture between Venezuelan and Russian officials and businessmen, whose aim was to erode the power of U.S. sanctions.”
The Russian government denied this account, with the Finance Ministry telling Time that “none of Russia’s financial authorities were involved in the petro’s creation,” while Venezuelan officials did not respond to the magazine’s request for comment.
Doubling Down on Sanctions
U.S. President Donald Trump officially sanctioned the petro Monday with an executive order barring American residents from purchasing the cryptocurrency.
Maduro said this was a sign that Trump was “scared” of the petro’s supposed power, and proof that the South American nation was “on the right track.”
Tiene miedo @realDonaldTrump Eso es señal de que Venezuela va por buen camino. La luz del Petro se colará por cada orificio de sus muros construidos de odio. Más temprano que tarde terminaremos con el bloqueo económico. Estamos construyendo prosperidad. https://t.co/grhF9sgWFb https://t.co/s7UzquRm55
— Nicolás Maduro (@NicolasMaduro) March 20, 2018
In an official statement, Maduro condemned the sanctions, saying they were in violation of the United Nations charter and international law, and that they were “an attack on [Venezuelan] people.”
Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, who has repeatedly called for action against the petro, said he welcomed the new sanctions, but added that the “international community must continue coordinated efforts to increase pressure on the Maduro regime.”
Venezuela's Dictator Nicolas Maduro created a cryptocurrency, the Petro, to avoid U.S. sanctions, and continue the money laundering & plundering of public resources that has ruined Venezuela's economy. I welcome the Trump Administration's new sanctions targeting the Petro. pic.twitter.com/Bk4ELoyV1N
— Senator Bob Menendez (@SenatorMenendez) March 19, 2018
Similarly, Florida representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said she, too, welcomed the sanctions, but urged “the [Trump] Administration to continue building on this momentum and and use all available tools to increase pressure on Maduro, but we must also find a way to support the people and their humanitarian needs.”
#Maduro has tried desperately 2 come up w new schemes, including #Petro digital currency, 2 avoid accountability and assert power. Admin must increase pressure on regime + support the people of #Venezuela https://t.co/hgf4psuPhY
— Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (@RosLehtinen) March 19, 2018
Vladimir Putin and Nicolas Maduro image via the Kremlin
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