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In Maduro's Venezuela, even counting gold bars is a challenge

Section: Daily Dispatches

By Laura Millan Lombrana
Bloomberg News
Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Venezuela is home to rich gold deposits and holds billions of dollars of foreign reserves in gold bars in the central bank's vaults. The question is: How much is there?

The answer has taken on added significance as beleaguered President Nicolas Maduro faces increasing pressure to resign. Last week countries including the U.S. and U.K. recognized the leader of the National Assembly, Juan Guaido, as the Venezuela's legitimate leader, amid mass protests. On Monday, the Trump administration issued new sanctions that effectively block crude exports to the U.S., where Venezuela gets the bulk of its cash.

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While crude is by far Venezuela's largest export, refined oil and then gold both make up significant sources of revenue, according to data compiled by the Observatory of Economic Complexity of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But both the nation's gold reserves and mining production have dropped in recent years as Maduro's regime used the yellow metal to generate hard currency in international transactions -- and even to exchange it for food and medicine. ...

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