(Bloomberg) — Venezuela sold about $400 million in gold despite a growing international push to freeze the country’s assets, according to two people with knowledge of the matter.
The amount, which would equal almost 9 tons, was reflected by a drop in the bank’s total reserves, which fell to $8.6 billion on April 12, according to data provided by the central bank. About $5.1 billion of that is gold.
A central bank press official didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on the sale Monday.
The sale could mean President Nicolas Maduro has found a way to skirt the economic blockade. Maduro has blown through reserves, selling gold to firms in the United Arab Emirates and Turkey, as sanctions increasingly cut off his authoritarian regime from the global financial system. While he maintains a stranglehold on power on the ground — including the military and government bureaucracy — opposition leader Juan Guaido is using support from dozens of countries to slowly seize Venezuela’s financial assets abroad.
The U.S., which recognizes Guaido as the nation’s rightful leader, sanctioned state gold producer Minerven last month. It said lucrative trading in the precious metal keeps the military loyal to Maduro.
The drop in total reserves could also mean the bank is writing off gold it can no longer access, including some of the $1.2 billion worth stored in the Bank of England. The bank has has denied the government’s requests to repatriate it.
Venezuela’s central bank, headed by Calixto Ortega, has been operating with what it calls an emergency team of only about 100 workers of about 2,000 since a power outage left its headquarters without running water. The group has been working from a library with the help of water tanks, focusing on vital tasks such as transactions between local banks and reserves.
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