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Credit Suisse's Venezuela trading ban and Marco Rubio


Citing Venezuela's tumultuous political climate, Credit Suisse banned certain bond trades with Venezuela on Thursday -- the sort of action encouraged for months by opponents of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, including Sen. Marco Rubio.

An internal memo detailed the bank's new policy, which will add a layer of screening to financial transactions involving the Venezuelan government.

The Swiss bank's decision comes after Maduro pushed through an all-powerful legislative body elected in a vote widely seen as fraudulent. The international community has condemned his government as a dictatorship; a prolonged economic collapse has resulted in food and medicine shortages and led to months of street unrest.

Financial giant Goldman Sachs faced heavy criticism for buying deeply discounted Venezuelan state-oil company bonds in May, weeks after Maduro's political opposition -- and Rubio -- had begun urging banks to avoid bailing out the oil-rich South American country. 

"I have the obligation to warn you that by supporting such a gold swap you would be taking actions favoring a government that's been recognized as dictatorial by the international community," Julio Borges, the opposition president of parliament, had written to major banks.

On May 5, Rubio wrote Urs Rohner, chairman of Credit Suisse's board, asking him to heed Borges' warning that banks agreeing to exchange the country's gold reserves for cash would circumvent parliament's authority and risk damaging their reputations by financing Maduro's cash-strapped government. 

"As you know, Venezuela is suffering a massive political meltdown, an economic depression, and a humanitarian crisis due to the Maduro regime's moves towards authoritarianism and other violations of democratic norms; to its rampant corruption, disregard
for the impartial rule of law, and fiscal mismanagement; and to its violent-and increasingly lethal--crackdown against the country's growing peaceful protest movements," wrote Rubio, who heads the Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere.

Rubio noted previous drug-trafficking sanctions imposed by the U.S. against Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami and said more penalties could come. The Trump administration has stepped up its sanctions against members of Maduro's governments in recent weeks, as punishment for electing and then inaugurating the new assembly.

On June 2, Rohner responded from Zurich that Credit Suisse "is committed to human rights and respects them as a key element of responsible business conduct."

"We will very carefully evaluate any new business involving the government of Venezuela, taking into account these factors as well as the concerns that you outlined in your letter," Rohner said.

Read Rubio's letter to Credit Suisse.

Read Credit Suisse's response.

Photo credit: Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images