Venezuela receives first gold shipment from Europe

AP News
Posted: Nov 25, 2011 10:41 PM
Venezuela receives first gold shipment from Europe

President Hugo Chavez's government began repatriating Venezuela's gold reserves from European banks Friday as the first shipment arrived on a flight from Paris.

Troops guarded the shipment in a caravan of at least five armored trucks that carried the gold to the Central Bank in Caracas.

A group of government supporters cheered and waved flags as the caravan passed, with soldiers holding their rifles at the ready. Two light tanks escorted the shipment.

Chavez announced in August that his government would retrieve more than 211 tons of gold held in U.S. and European banks.

Chavez announced earlier Friday that the first of the gold was on its way.

"It's coming to the place it never should have left. ... The vaults of the Central Bank of Venezuela, not the bank of London or the bank of the United States," Chavez said. "It's our gold."

He said that previously the gold was held in Britain. He didn't specify the bank nor say how much was in the shipment.

The leftist president has said his decision to repatriate the gold reserves is aimed at helping to protect the oil-producing country from economic troubles in the United States and Europe.

Economist Pedro Palma, who is a professor at the Institute of Higher Studies of Administration, said he saw no economic justification for moving the gold.

"From the economic point view, it is the same to have it here as in England. The reserves will not change because of this," Palma said. He said it seemed to be an attempt to show the public "heroic actions" on the part of the government.

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Chavez's opponents have called the plan costly and ill-advised.

Central Bank president Nelson Merentes said the gold has been held abroad since the late 1980s as backing for loans requested from the International Monetary Fund by prior governments.

With the gold in Venezuela, Merentes said, "it's a guarantee" for the country.

"If there's some problem in the international markets, here it's going to be safe," Merentes said.