CARACAS, Feb 11 (Reuters) - The Venezuelan central bank’s gold reserves dropped by about 12 tonnes in the last six months to a new 50-year low, according to its 2020 financial statements.
Facing a collapse in oil production and the effects of U.S. sanctions, President Nicolas Maduro’s government has continued to use the sale of monetary gold as a source of income.
Over the course of 2020, reserves from the central bank’s vaults in Caracas fell by 19 tonnes. Withdrawals accelerated in the second half of the year, when 12 tonnes were removed.
Reserves have dropped to 86 tonnes, their lowest in 50 years, according to the notes on the bank’s financial statements.
Authorities have not provided details on the destination of the gold.
The value of central bank gold reserves stood near $5.1 billion in December, an increase of $60 million from June 2020 that was the result of rising gold prices.
In December 2019, the central bank had 105 tonnes, according to official data.
Due to quarantine fewer personnel are showing up to work at the bank, local sources say, but given the government’s financial urgency, areas of the building have maintained activities to remove the bullion.
For decades, the central bank’s gold exceeded 300 tonnes. Starting in 2015, the bank began using gold as collateral for foreign loans from international banks. (Reporting by Mayela Armas y Corina Pons; Writing by Sarah Kinosian; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)
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