A rumor has started that Maduro may be preparing to send 20 tons (close to $1 billion) of gold to Russia:
Venezuelan lawmaker Jose Guerra dropped a bombshell on Twitter Tuesday: The Russian Boeing 777 that had landed in Caracas the day before was there to spirit away 20 tons of gold from the vaults of the country’s central bank.
The claim set off a welter of social media speculation and outrage. When asked how he knew this, Guerra provided no evidence.
Just another outlandish comment from a lawmaker trying to draw attention to the plight of crisis-torn Venezuela? Perhaps not. For one thing, Guerra is a former central bank economist who remains in touch with old colleagues there. For another, a person with direct knowledge of the matter told Bloomberg News Tuesday that 20 tons of gold have been set aside in the central bank for loading. Worth some $840 million, the gold represents about 20 percent of its holdings of the metal in Venezuela, the person said. He provided no further information on plans for those bars.
My take on this is that either Maduro is paying for their help and protection or else he is paying them to take him into exile. I do not believe the denials from either the Venezuelan government or from Russia.
With strongman President Nicolas Maduro losing control of the country’s already-scant finances and reserves thanks to U.S. sanctions, who can put his hands on the nation’s estimated 200 tons of gold at home and abroad has become a key question. The nation owes billions to its patrons Russia and China as well as bondholders, and also needs hard currency to buy food for its starving people.
U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton on Wednesday warned on Twitter against trading with the nation: “My advice to bankers, brokers, traders, facilitators, and other businesses: don’t deal in gold, oil, or other Venezuelan commodities being stolen from the Venezuelan people by the Maduro mafia.”’
On Monday, a plane belonging to Nordwind Airlines, a popular Russian charter operator based in Moscow, landed at the international airport near Caracas, according to flight tracking website FlightRadar24. A Nordwind spokesman declined to comment Wednesday on the purpose of the flight.
Finance Minister Simon Zerpa declined to comment on the nation’s gold and also said there was no Russian plane at Simon Bolivar International Airport.