Venezuela withdraws 8 tons of gold from the central bank
Venezuela withdrew eight tons of gold from central bank coffers last week, a government lawmaker and exporter said on Wednesday, and the Socialist government, which suffers from a liquidity crisis, is expected to sell the yellow metal as it seeks to manage hard currency in the face of US sanctions.
The sanctions imposed by Washington stifle the revenues of the National Oil Company (PDVSA), with the isolated administration of President Nicholas Maduro increasingly shifting Venezuela's large gold reserves to a single source of foreign currency.
The central bank's reserves have fallen 30 tonnes since the start of the year before US President Donald Trump tightened sanctions, leaving about 100 tonnes in the bank's coffers, worth more than $ 4 billion, the government source said.
With this rate of decline, the central bank's reserves will almost disappear by the end of the year, with the Maduro government facing difficulties in paying for imports of commodities.
Neither the central bank nor the Venezuelan Ministry of Information responded to requests for comment.
The Trump administration seeks to stop the cash flow of Maduro's government, encourage opposition within the armed forces and oust him from power in OPEC member Venezuela.
The United States and 50 other Western nations have recognized opposition leader Juan Guido as legitimate president of Venezuela.
In response to a request for comment on the new withdrawal of gold, a State Department spokesman said: "The United States condemns all Maduro and his supporters' attempts to steal resources from the Venezuelan people."
"We encourage companies, banks and other entities, both in the United States and other countries, not to participate in the unfair sale of the former Maduro system of Venezuela's resources."
"They took out the gold while the central bank was in an emergency," opposition MP Angel Alvarado said, adding gold bars would be sold abroad, though he did not know where.
A similar amount of gold was withdrawn from central bank coffers in February.
The United States has asked foreign gold buyers to stop working with the Venezuelan government. This resulted in Venezuela canceling a planned sale of 29 tonnes of gold to the United Arab Emirates.
But the government source said that in February and March, the central bank continued to allow the transfer of gold, adding that it aims to sell limited quantities.
Earlier this year, investment firm Noor Capital in Abu Dhabi said it had bought three tons of Venezuelan gold on Jan. 21, but would not buy more until the situation stabilized.
The State Department said states should take "appropriate legal measures" to prevent "corrupt" sale of Venezuelan assets.