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Venezuela Touts New Cryptocurrency


Council on Foreign Relations Newsletter If you are unable to see the message below, click here to view. February 21, 2018 Daily News Brief   TOP OF THE AGENDA Venezuela Touts New Cryptocurrency President Nicolas Maduro said that Venezuela raised $735 million in early sales of its new "petro" cryptocurrency, launched amid deepening financial and political crises in the country. Maduro said that tax payments, tourist activities, and some oil and gas transactions can be made with petro (Reuters) and that the value of the cryptocurrency, the first ever created by a state, will be tied to oil prices (NYT). Caracas says the nearly forty million petro coins being sold in the presale, which follows a sharp devaluation of the Venezuelan bolivar, will sell for $60 each. Venezuela's economy has shrunk by a third over the past five years, and the International Monetary Fund predicts an inflation rate of 13,000 percent (FT) for this year. ANALYSIS "Even a new administration would have significant problems stabilizing the economy. The feasibility of a stabilization program essentially depends on the credibility of a government's promise to keep spending in check," Francisco Rodriguez writes for Americas Quarterly. "The government increasingly needs to choose between using its hard currency to pay external debt obligations and feeding its population," writes CFR's Shannon K. O'Neil. "If you'd bought a million dollars' worth of bolivars fifteen years ago, it would now be worth just seven dollars. Imagine what that means for the money in people's pockets," Girish Gupta said in an interview with WLRN. This CFR Backgrounder looks at the national security challenges cryptocurrencies present. PACIFIC RIM North Korea Pulled Out of Meeting With U.S. U.S. administration officials said that North Korean officials, including the sister of leader Kim Jong-un, backed out of a meeting (WSJ) with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence during the Winter Olympics the day it would have taken place. CFR's Colonel Daniel S. Morgan says the best path forward with North Korea is diplomacy aimed at denuclearization. PHILIPPINES: The United Kingdom sold $209,000 worth of surveillance gear to the Philippines, an apparent breach of British law that prohibits the sale of such equipment to states (Guardian) that could use it for internal repression. SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA Pakistan, Russia Form Counterterrorism Commission Russia's foreign minister said a new joint Russian-Pakistani military commission will boost Pakistan's counterterrorism capacity (Tass). His Pakistani counterpart said he is concerned about the growth of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (AFP/Dawn) in neighboring Afghanistan. Shuja Nawaz writes in Foreign Affairs that President Trump's Pakistan policy is flawed. AFGHANISTAN: Human Rights Watch called for an investigation into the deaths of twenty civilians who were allegedly shot by Afghan special forces as they fled U.S. air strikes in Kandahar (RFE/RL) last month. MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA Palestinian Leader Calls for Peace Conference Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. envoy to the United Nations Nikki Haley, at the UN Security Council, traded accusations of obstructing peace talks (WaPo) on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Abbas called for an international peace summit to be held by mid-2018 (BBC). SYRIA: The Syrian government sent forces to support Kurdish militias (Al Jazeera) under attack by Turkey in the northern district of Afrin. Turkish forces carried out air strikes (FT) shortly afterward. SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA AU to Assist Zimbabwean Election The African Union is offering technical and financial assistance (VOA) to help ensure Zimbabwe carries out a credible election, which could happen as early as mid-2018, following the ouster of longtime President Robert Mugabe in November.  SOUTH AFRICA: Five police officers were killed by armed assailants (SA News) in the eastern city of Umtata. The motive of the attackers, who fled the scene, was unclear. EUROPE Russia Acknowledges Citizen Deaths in Syria Clash Russia's foreign ministry said that dozens of its citizens who were not regular armed forces (BBC) were killed in a "recent armed clash" in Syria, noting that some Russian citizens are in the country of their "own free will." FRANCE: President Emmanuel Macron is expected to propose stricter rules on asylum seekers (Reuters), including doubling the time they can be detained to ninety days and making illegal border crossings punishable by one year in jail. AMERICAS Central American States Sign Free Trade Deals With South Korea South Korea made deals with Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama to lower tariffs on nearly all goods they trade (Korea Times). Seoul said the agreements will give it a new route into the North American market amid rising concerns over U.S. protectionism. UNITED STATES Lawyer Pleads Guilty in Russia Probe A Dutch lawyer who is the son-in-law of a prominent Russian businessman admitted he lied to U.S. federal prosecutors (DW) about his interactions with a former campaign official for U.S. President Donald J. Trump. Julia Ioffe discusses Russian President Vladimir Putin's goals in this episode of the President's Inbox. The chief executive of Qatar Airways called on President Trump to leverage "huge" U.S. military and financial interests (Bloomberg) in the Middle East to end a blockade of Qatar by several Gulf nations.         Council on Foreign Relations — 58 East 68th Street — New York, NY 10065 CFR does not share email addresses with third parties. Forward This Email | Subscribe to CFR Newsletters | Unsubscribe - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -  


Date: February 21, 2018 at 11:03PM