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Trump slaps sanctions on Venezuela's 'bitcoin'

© AFP | Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro is launching a new oil-backed cryptocurrency called "Petro," but Washington is blocking its use by US firms or citizens

WASHINGTON (AFP) - 

US President Donald Trump on Monday barred US firms and citizens from dealing in Venezuela's new cryptocurrency.

Trump issued an executive order proscribing "all transactions related to" the new currency, which is designed to make up for a massive government cash crisis.

The Latin American country -- which has the world's largest proven oil reserves -- said a pre-sale for 38.4 million "Petro" units out of a total 100 million would take place between February 20 and March 19.

Trump said the currency represented an "attempt to circumvent US sanctions."

Caracas has been keen to tie the currency to the country's oil reserves in a bid to convince investors to pitch in, but financial experts are unsure of the link.

Venezuela is struggling to restructure its external debt, estimated at around $150 billion.

The battle between Washington and Venezuela over the currency could have a profound impact on other nations' moves to adopt cryptocurrencies to avoid sanctions.

Russia is among those considering developing a digital currency.

Authorities from Japan to Britain have been struggling with how to regulate the new currencies, which makes doing business easier but could be open to abuse.

© 2018 AFP