Trump vs Maduro: What Does Crypto Have to Do With It?


U.S. authorities have indicted Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro for involvement in drug trafficking. Allegedly, the drug cartel led by Maduro used cryptocurrencies for money laundering purposes.

What’s happening and what does it mean in the grand scheme of things? We have turned to Gordon Einstein, the founding partner at CryptoLaw Partners for insight.

The Alleged Crimes

According to the DoJ website, Nicolas Maduro and his Cartel de Los Soles drug cartel had planned for decades to “use cocaine as a weapon to “flood” the United States.” To this end, the Venezuelan leader and his accomplices allegedly conspired with the radical left extremist Colombian group FARC.

The prosecution said the Venezuelan president personally negotiated the supply of several tons of cocaine to other countries, as well as coordinated drug trafficking. At a later stage, cryptocurrencies were also involved in this activity.

The president of Venezuela now faces life imprisonment in the U.S. and Washington is offering $15 million for information that will help detain him.

This seems to be a purely political move on Trump’s part, but to what end?

“Any politicians doing anything right now are either taking advantage of people not looking or trying to get them to look elsewhere. It could just be what it looks like. It could be that we don’t like Venezuela and we’re trying to increase pressure on them. Maybe it’s an attempt to distract from coronavirus? But I don’t think anything is going to distract from coronavirus, barring a war,” says Gordon Einstein.

Diplomatic Reality

Nicolas Maduro served as Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Hugo Chavez government. In 2013, he was elected President of Venezuela. In 2019 he was re-elected for the second term. After the inauguration mass protests erupted, and opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself interim president of the country until the “democratic elections” are held. He was recognized in the United States and European countries. Nicolas Maduro is considered the legitimate leader of Venezuela by Russia, Mexico, Cuba, China, and several other states.

William Barr said that the United States will consider all options for the detention of Maduro and those who assisted him in the illicit drug trade.

Some journalists have already compared Maduro to Hussein and Assad. Is the U.S. going after another perceived tyrant?

“No. There may be an element of defying U.S. power. Since the U.S. can’t really take on Russia or China, it likes making example of smaller countries. But Venezuela is not that small. We’re not going to invade Venezuela like we did Panama. U.S. is not a part of the ICC (international criminal court), we can’t bring a case in ICC. I think it makes for seizing of assets, it makes for sanctions. It’s mostly to increase pressure. 

“Venezuela, or at least individuals involved with Venezuela, is on the OFAC list, meaning they can’t conduct business with U.S. banks. This may widen that net and make doing business with these people more of a criminal law danger than a regulatory danger,” suggests Gordon Einstein.

El Petro

Nicolas Maduro is also the “godfather” of Venezuelan national cryptocurrency El Petro. During the launch of El Petro in February 2018, Maduro announced that the coin was backed by 5.3 billion barrels of oil from the Ayacucho field. However, Reuters reporters found that the field does not have the infrastructure necessary for the production of this oil and no work is underway.

Is it perhaps about oil or El Petro cryptocurrency?

“Neither. The pressure on the U.S. to invade a country and take its oil, if that pressure ever existed, is gone because of fracking. We’re oil-independent. I’m seeing a broad pull-back from the Middle East. Maybe there’s an attempt to replace the Middle East with Venezuela. To hold on to it the way we couldn’t hold on to the Middle East. But the U.S. doesn’t have it. We’re not going to successfully invade it. I don’t think it’s full invasion time,” says Gordon Einstein. shall continue following the developing feud between Donald Trump and Nicolas Maduro.

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