The United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Homeland Security Investigations (HIS) recently offered a $5 million reward for the successful capture and conviction of Venezuela’s Joselit de la Trinidad Ramirez Camacho. Mr. Camacho is now one of the most wanted foreigners by the US for crimes against the US. He currently serves as Venezuela’s Superintendent of cryptocurrency.
The Crimes He is Accused of Committing
According to a recent press release by ICE, Camacho is accused of deep economic and political ties to former Venezuelan Vice President Tareck EI Aissami, a narcotics kingpin that is wanted by the US. Camacho was indicted for violating various federal acts and violation of sanctions imposed on Venezuela. The reward will be offered for any information that leads to the arrest and conviction of Ramirez Camacho.
According to US law enforcement, Camacho was working with a US citizen and they opened a shell company in Turkey. He is accused of working with the drug cartel headed by Tareck EI Aissami to evade US sanctions using the shell company. Through a bank based in Turkey and through the shell company, they tried to avoid US sanctions.
Venezuela’s Crypto Adoption
Camacho oversees all crypto operations in Venezuela, including how the nation’s Petro operates. The Petro cryptocurrency has been around for a while now but it has had difficulty gaining mass adoption. To boost adoption, Maduro, the country’s president has undertaken various measures such as ordering banks to offer the Petro. However, adoption has still been low.
For one, the Petro is not accepted anywhere outside Venezuela. It is unlikely to ever gain traction outside the US since the US banned all its citizens from using the Petro. With the US being an important player in the crypto space, that ban served a major blow to the success of the Petro outside the US. Additionally, there are fears that it could be used to spy on Venezuelans.
How Camacho is pushing for Crypto Adoption in Venezuela
Camacho oversees how the Petro runs in Venezuela. He is responsible for ensuring its adoption across the nation. He and a crypto firm based in the country published a blog post in which it is explained that acceptance of the Petro is mandatory at all gas stations.
In the blog post, it is explained that gas will sell for $0.02 per liter at all gas stations. It represents a massive spike compared to the prices before COVID19. Besides mandatory acceptance of the Petro, gas stations also have to ration fuel. In Venezuela, there is currently a major fuel shortage. Consequently, a citizen can only buy 120 liters a month if they own a car and 60 liters a month if they own a motorcycle.
The $5 million bounty is certainly enticing. However, capturing him, since he is such a major official in Venezuela will be difficult. The fact that he is the head of crypto might also be of significance. One of the ways that a country could evade US sanctions is the use of crypto and there is no doubt Camacho has been looking into ways it could be achieved.
For a while now, other countries have been looking at blockchain to penetrate U.S sanction resistance. Aside from Venezuela, there’s been talk around Russia, Iran, and China as well. According to a report by FDD Press in 2019, blockchain platforms are small in scale right now but are evolving quickly. The Central Bank of Iran has been motivated to create an alternative to SWIFT ever since the 2018 nuclear deal. In addition, Russia is also working on multiple blockchain platforms. A lot of these projects revolve around holding digital assets in “new depository platforms.” In the report, the FDD stated that:
“At the moment, blockchain platforms are experimental and small in scale compared to conventional financial system, but they are evolving quickly. Blockchain technology may be the innovation that enables U.S. adversaries for the first time to operate entire economies outside the U.S – led financial system. These governments, therefore, are prioritizing blockchain technology as a key component of their efforts to counter U.S. financial power.”
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