Venezuela launches cryptocurrency
Venezuela last week launched a new digital currency, called the “petro” bitcoin, in its latest response to the country’s crippling economy. Venezuela is battling high inflation, food shortages, and overwhelming debt. The United States and Europe both placed sanctions that prevent the country from amassing more debt. President Nicolas Maduro said the digital currency, backed by Venezuela’s oil reserves, could be used to pay for consulate services, tourism, and some oil and gas sales. Maduro said the petro already earned $735 million worth of purchases.
Venezuelan opposition leaders cautioned that the currency sale constituted illegal borrowing by the government. The U.S. Treasury Department also warned U.S. citizens that any purchase of the currency would violate sanctions.
Jean Paul Leidenz, a senior economist at Venezuela-based EcoAnalitica, said a new currency alone wouldn’t resolve the country’s economic crisis. “You cannot stop hyperinflation by creating a new currency and doing nothing else,” he said. “The government has no plans of undertaking structural reform.” —O.O.
China’s Xi tightens hold on power
The Chinese ruling party on Sunday announced a plan to remove term limits from the country’s constitution, paving the way for President Xi Jinping to rule beyond his second five-year term. The Communist Party’s Central Committee proposed that the constitution revision exclude the stipulation that the president and vice president “shall serve no more than two consecutive terms.” The proposal is expected to pass next month at the annual parliamentary meeting. The term limit is the latest amendment that tightens Xi’s grip on power. The parliamentary meeting, beginning March 5, will also add Xi’s political thought to the constitution.
Xi’s government in recent months intensified its crackdown on religious and political dissent. Li Baiguang, an internationally renowned Christian lawyer, died Sunday at the army hospital in eastern China under suspicious circumstances. China Aid reported the hospital said he had liver problems and bled to death despite his clean health record. The 49-year-old lawyer in 2008 received the Democracy Award from the National Endowment for Democracy and met three times with former U.S. President George W. Bush during his time in office. —O.O.
Iceland proposes circumcision ban
Lawmakers in Iceland proposed a bill to ban nonmedical circumcision of boys, equating it to female genital mutilation. Religious leaders view the bill as a strike against religious freedom since circumcision is a traditional practice in Judaism and Islam. The bill considers circumcision a human rights violation “since boys are not able to give an informed consent on an irreversible physical intervention.” It proposes up to six years in prison for violators.
The Directorate of Health in Iceland said only 21 boys under the age of 18 have been circumcised since 2006. Meanwhile, Iceland continues to support the abortion of nearly 100 percent of babies whose prenatal tests show they have Down syndrome. Between 80 and 85 percent of women choose to undergo the tests, according to Landspitali University Hospital in Reykjavik. The country’s testing and abortion laws mean only an average of one or two babies are born each year with Down syndrome. —O.O.