Latin America

US Mulls Banning Visa, Mastercard From Processing In Venezuela

The U.S. might prohibit Visa, Mastercard and other financial institutions (FIs), such as SWIFT, from processing transactions in Venezuela.

Citing a senior Trump administration official, Reuters reported that if the move is finalized, it would target the elite and groups loyal to President Nicolás Maduro, including members of the military, armed gangs and Cubans operating in Venezuela. The sanctions would not have an impact on ordinary citizens, who would still be allowed to use the payment methods to buy food and medicine.

“The purpose of these sanctions is to continue to deprive the illegitimate Maduro regime of access to funds, and deny their ability to continue stealing from the Venezuelan people,” the official said.

The U.S. has imposed numerous sanctions on Maduro’s government, his political allies and the country’s state-owned oil company, PDVSA, since recognizing opposition leader Juan Guaido as the interim president. More than 50 other countries have also recognized Guaido as Venezuela’s current leader.

The sanctions would broadly ban state-owned FIs’ access to the international financial system. Firms that are considered complicit in helping Maduro or the country’s financial sector could be hit with sanctions as well.

In fact, earlier this week, the U.S. Department of the Treasury announced sanctions against a Moscow-based bank because it helped finance Venezuela’s petro cryptocurrency.

“The illegitimate Maduro regime has profited off of the suffering of the Venezuelan people,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin in a press release. “This action demonstrates that the United States will take action against foreign financial institutions that sustain the illegitimate Maduro regime, and contribute to the economic collapse and humanitarian crisis plaguing the people of Venezuela.”

As a result, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has added Evrofinance Mosnarbank — which is jointly owned by Russian and Venezuelan state-owned firms — to the Specially Designated Nationals List.

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