Reuters reported today that Venezuela has exported $779 million worth of gold to Turkey so far this year, citing official figures from Ankara. According to Turkey’s Statistical Institute, 20.15 tonnes of the precious metal arrived in the country from Venezuela between January and May of this year, “compared with none in 2017”.

According to Reuters, all of the gold from Venezuela has been registered as “non-standard unrefined gold”,

… which according to dealers represents unrefined gold that does not fulfill the purity criteria of 99.99 percent.

The revelation comes just a day after Minister of Mines Victor Cano said that the Banco Central de Venezuela (BCV) was no longer sending the metal to Switzerland and was instead diverting it to “allied countries” due to “sanctions”.

Cano then attempted to assuage fears that the gold was being moved in secret for nefarious purposes, and stressed that the gold would eventually return to Venezuela once it had been refined. Cano said:

There’s no contraband [gold] in Turkey. These are agreements that have been signed between the BCV and Turkey. This is gold that Venezuela is producing and has been certified by our origin registry, with all of our international controls for exporting and then importing that refined gold.

Cano explained that the gold that is being shipped to Turkey has been purchased directly from miners, and has a purity between 88-98%. In order for the gold bars to be certified as “monetary gold”–that is, gold that the BCV can hold in its reserves–it must be refined.

Asdrubal Oliveros, an economist and head of the Ecoanalitica firm, told reporters today that the move constituted an attempt by the Maduro regime to “hide those assets out of radar to have more control” over them. He also said that the regime is likely to liquidate its gold assets, in Turkey in elsewhere, given the country’s economic crisis.

Maduro Congratulates Ortega on Defeating “Terrorist” Protesters

Maduro posted a message on his Twitter account this morning congratulating the government of Nicaragua on the 39th anniversary of the victory of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) over the Somoza government.

In the message, Maduro also alluded to the ongoing anti-government protests in Nicaragua, and congratulated president Daniel Ortega for defeating his opponents.

Below, the message along with my translation:

We congratulate the heroic Nicaraguan people on the 39th anniversary of the triumph of the Sandinista Popular Revolution which brought an end to 40 years of dictatorship. Today, in the face of imperialist aggression, the Nicaraguan government has defeated the terrorist and coupist plans. We will be victorious!

As if taking a page from his Venezuelan homologue’s repression manual, Ortega has resorted to branding protesters as terrorists and enemies of the state. Just three days ago, Nicaragua’s National Assembly–which is under the control of Ortega’s party–passed a law containing broad anti-terror provisions that critics claim will be used to ban protests, even peaceful ones, in the country.

Since April of this year, the Ortega government has brutally repressed anti-government demonstrations, leaving at least 350 people dead. Sparked by popular rejection of social security reforms and government corruption, the Ortega government has resorted to unrestrained violence to quell the unrest as official state security forces and regime paramilitaries use live ammunition to disperse demonstrations.

U.S. Treasury Department Eases Sanctions on Venezuela Bonds

The United States Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued an update to its sanctions on Venezuelan bonds today, easing restrictions on some transactions involving bonds form the state-owned PDVSA oil firm.

According to the OFAC’s General License No. 5, which is dated today, investors will now be able to engage in transactions involving PDVSA 2020 8.5 Percent Bond.

Last August, the Trump administration placed sanctions on bonds issued by both the Venezuelan government and PDVSA in response to the country’s turn towards authoritarianism.

Questions/Comments? E-mail me; invenezuelablog@gmail.com

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