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Where is Venezuela’s gold?

Venezuelan gold, which once represented one of the largest reserves in the world, has been deeply reduced in the last years, with a loss of up to 10 tonnes in 2022, according to financial statements of the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV), reviewed by Reuters.

With the fall of gold bars, the Caribbean country’s reserves stood at 69 tonnes at the beginning of this year, with an average price estimated at US$1,897.70 per troy ounce by the end of January.

Venezuela, administered by Chavista Nicolás Maduro, had not released records of domestic gold purchases since 2018, when a sale of 9.72 tonnes was made for a value of BS.F15,968,277 at the time.

Nicolás Maduro shows gold bullion during a press conference (Photo internet reproduction)

In a World Gold Council report, the South American nation’s reserves remained the second largest in the continent after the United States, with a figure of 161 tonnes.

However, the need to generate another source of income in the face of the fall of the oil industry and the economic sanctions imposed by Washington marked the decision to use monetary gold.

The Venezuelan opposition, which Juan Guaidó led until the end of last year, when the National Assembly (NA), which he also presided, agreed to the end of his interim government, had repeatedly denounced the outflow of some 30 tonnes in exchange for cash in the last two years.

This led to the protection of another 31 tonnes, valued at more than US$1 billion, and deposited in the vaults of the Bank of England, which Maduro’s government had tried to control and after an extensive trial in the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, a country that recognized Guaidó, made him fail in the process.

Already in 2021, from the Maduro administration, the evasion of sanctions had been achieved with the illegal sale of Venezuelan gold to Russia, Mali, and the United Arab Emirates, according to the denunciations of the opposition Julio Borges, former president of the Venezuelan Parliament elected in 2015 and later appointed commissioner of Foreign Affairs for Guaidó’s interim.

The transactions would have awarded over US$1 billion in 2020 to the Chavista administration, whose BCV did not report. In 2022, the value of gold reserves also fell concerning the previous year, going from US$4.560 billion to US$4.329 billion, which was also not detailed by the country’s highest financial entity.

“Large amounts of cash leave the UAE to Venezuela to be exchanged for Venezuelan gold (…) That money arrives in Venezuela without any control and is at the discretion of Nicolás Maduro,” said Borges in early 2021, during a trip to Washington to formalize the complaint that included the sale of some 300 tons of gold since 2014.

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