The government of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has begun repatriating gold reserves that had been held in European banks.
The gold bars were unloaded at Venezuela's Maiquetia airport Friday and later transferred to armored vehicles for shipping to the Central Bank in Caracas. Officials did not say how much gold was brought back in the shipment. They also did not say when future shipments would arrive.
Back in August, President Chavez said that $11 billion of gold reserves held in U.S. and European banks would be returned to Venezuela. He has been quoted as saying the gold never should have left the country. Chavez has said the decision to retrieve the gold is aimed at helping protect Venezuela from economic troubles in the United States and Europe. Most of Venezuela's gold held abroad is in Britain.
Some observers, however, believe that by repatriating the bullion, the Chavez government is reducing the risk of having its assets seized in arbitration cases, including those linked to nationalizations of private industries.
The president also has announced plans to move more than $6 billion in cash reserves to "friendly" banks in Brazil, China and Russia. The money is now held in European and U.S. banks.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.