The Venezuelan gold route: the wild card of Maduro's government
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A mysterious agreement between Turkey and Venezuela opens a new trade route that helps maintain the economy of Maduro's regime
It was in January of last year when Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro visited his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Ankrara. Shortly after their meeting, just two months later, a company emerged under the name of Sardes, which immediately imported $41 million dollars in Venezuelan gold to Turkey.
Leer en español: La ruta del oro venezolano: el comodín del gobierno Maduro
In the commercial history that exists between the two countries, there is no record of any transaction of that size. In any case, this new commercial dynamic surprised the analysts.
This month, in which new information about the Venezuelan gold trade came to light, the reaction went from surprise to indignation, because between the opposition and all those who support it internationally, there are reasons to think that the transactions in gold between Venezuela and Turkey are illegal.
A complaint from the opposition
The deputy Carlos Paparoni, an ally of the opposition leader Juan Guaidó, was the one who denounced the facts before the press. Apparently, during 2018, the Venezuelan government sold a total of 73 tons of gold to Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, all without consulting the National Assembly.
According to Paparoni, since the proclamation of Guaidó as president all outgoing gold sales from Venezuela have been suspended.
"We are going to ask for the collaboration of the countries that have recognized President Guaidó to try to stop all the financial actions based on gold, preventing them from stealing the money is our priority," Paparoni said in an interview with Reuters.
In addition to the illegality of the outgoing transaction, there are also suspicions that the gold that Venezuela exported to Turkey would have ended in Iran, which would also be a violation of the sanctions imposed by the United States on the Persian nation, according to the BBC. This violation could provide the final incentive for the United States to intercede; according to the same media, in Ankara the arrival of possible sanctions was already noticed.
On Friday, February 1, US Senator Marco Rubio spoke out against the participation of Turkey and the United Arab Emirates in trade with Venezuela, and called them "accomplices of an outrageous crime."
Read also: United States: How do Venezuela's new sanctions work?
According to several sources, gold would be transported unofficially using private planes. The BBC also reports that during the months of January and February, several private jet flights from Turkey and Russia to the Venezuelan capital were identified. One of these would belong to the Turkish mining company Ciner, with close ties to President Erdogan.
What's more, opposition deputy José Guerra accused Russia of landing a commercial plane of the Norwind airline in Caracas with the aim of loading 20 tons of gold for export.
Sales with huge repercussions
Beyond the accusations of illegal trade to solve the regime, there are others related to other illegal processes. According to the BBC, the process used to extract gold in Venezuela does not meet environmental protection standards and could be causing irreversible damage to the ecosystems in which it occurs.
In addition, the opposition also denounces the use of criminal organizations by the regime to control the miners who extract gold, including resorting to violence to subdue them.
However, despite the huge income generated by the sale of gold to the Maduro regime, this financing strategy could represent a huge risk. Not only through the imposition of new sanctions, but also because it is depleting the country's monetary gold reserves.
According to the newspaper, government sources quoted in Reuters, during 2018 the Venezuelan regime exported all the unrefined gold produced in the country, and when it was exhausted, it resorted to selling the bullion that was lying in the international reserves. At the beginning of 2018, according to data from the Venezuelan central bank, Venezuela's monetary gold reserves totaled 150 tons, but it is not known how much remains after the massive export.
LatinAmerican Post | Pedro Bernal
Translated from "La ruta del oro venezolano: el comodín del gobierno Maduro"