CARACAS, Sept. 7 (Reuters) – Venezuela’s gold reserves fell 3 tonnes in the first half of 2021 to their lowest level in 50 years, central bank data showed on Tuesday as the government ran out of money. President Nicolas Maduro’s money continues to sell gold as a source of income.
Withdrawals in the first six months of the year brought total reserves to 83 tonnes. The once prosperous OPEC nation’s economy is mired in a multi-year collapse, depriving the government of funds. More recently, US sanctions to oust Maduro have targeted oil exports, further eroding state resources.
These reserves were evaluated at 4.9 billion dollars at the end of June, a decrease of 187 million dollars compared to the end of 2020. Last year, the gold reserves of the South American country fell by 19 tons. The central bank did not disclose the buyers of its gold. She and the state-owned gold mining company are also subject to US sanctions.
The Venezuelan opposition alleged that some of the gold bars were sent to Mali and the United Arab Emirates in exchange for hard currency.
The central bank’s gold reserves have exceeded 300 tonnes for decades. When Venezuela’s economic crisis started to worsen in 2015, the government started using gold as collateral for international bank loans, and it lost a few bars as a result of these exchanges. (Reporting by Mayela Armas in Caracas; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Peter Cooney)