The Venezuelan government hopes its oil-backed cryptocurrency will help right the nation's flailing economy, but a move by President Trump may complicate the bid to outmaneuver US sanctions. Trump on Monday issued an executive order immediately banning all use by Americans of Venezuela's "petro" currency. Per the AP, cash-strapped Venezuela in February became the first country to launch its own version of bitcoin, in a move that President Nicolas Maduro celebrated as putting his country on the world's technological forefront. Separately, the US Treasury Department announced Monday that four current and former senior Venezuelan officials accused of corruption and mismanagement would be slapped with individual sanctions that would freeze any holdings they have in US jurisdictions, Bloomberg reports.
The petro is backed by Venezuela's crude oil reserves, the largest in the world, yet it has arrived on the market as the socialist country sinks deeper into an economic crisis marked by soaring inflation and food shortages that put residents in lines for hours to buy common products. Bitcoin and other digital tokens are already widely used in Venezuela as a hedge against hyperinflation and an easy-to-use mechanism for paying for everything from doctor visits to honeymoons in a country where obtaining hard currency requires transactions in the illegal black market. The government has promised that Venezuelans will be able to use the $60 coins to pay taxes and for public services. But with the Venezuelan minimum wage hovering around $3 a month, it's unlikely citizens will buy in large amounts. (Read more cryptocurrency stories.)