* Opposition says government wants reserves for election
* Chavez says rivals are displaying their ignorance
By Daniel Wallis
CARACAS, Aug 19 Opposition lawmakers in
Venezuela accused the government of repatriating the country's
gold reserves from Western banks in a ploy to fill its coffers
ahead of President Hugo Chavez's re-election bid next year.
In a sign of mounting tensions ahead of the 2012 ballot,
when Chavez will seek a new six-year term despite recovering
from cancer, both sides denounced the others as traitors late
on Thursday in one of the fiercest parliament debates for
"They are greedy for money for the campaign and want to
bring the gold to Venezuela to turn it into cash ... please,
this is heresy," said opposition legislator Leomagno Flores.
"You will liquidate the gold and sell it because the only
thing you know is how to rob, to rob and to rob!" said another,
Miguel Angel Rodriguez, during an especially ill-tempered
exchange with Finance Minister Jorge Giordani.
Giordani, in turn, accused the opposition of failing to
comprehend the government's plans and of stoking public fears.
"Apparently their intelligence level is lower than the floor
... they are never going to govern the country!" he shouted at
one point above a din of opposition jeers.
Diosdado Cabello, a ruling Socialist Party stalwart and
leading Chavez ally, said he had a simple explanation for why
the opposition was against bringing home Venezuela's gold.
"I am convinced they are traitors," he said. "Sovereignty
is an out-of-fashion concept. For you it's globalization!"
Chavez said on Wednesday his government will repatriate
almost all of its $11 billion in gold reserves held abroad,
saying they will be safer in Venezuela than in countries with
mounting debt worries such as in Europe and the United States.
It is also moving up to $6.3 billion in liquid reserves
from Western banks to more politically aligned countries such
as China, Russia and Brazil. [ID:nN1E77H1CY]
Watching the debate on television, Chavez could not resist
commentating via his @chavezcandanga Twitter account.
"It's good that the ignorance of the opposition has been
demonstrated. They should go and study a bit!" the socialist
leader said. "The arguments of the Patriots are crushing! Once
again the opposition is left in ridicule."
He has mentioned the possibility of unfriendly states
seizing Venezuela's international reserves and has given the
example of Libya, where Western powers froze funds belonging to
his friend and ally Muammar Gaddafi.
Some analysts say Venezuela's government may also be
concerned about claims on its reserves relating to compensation
for a string of nationalizations in recent years.
(Editing by Eric Beech)