Hugo Chavez Ships Mountains of Gold to Caracas as Panic Runs on Toilet Paper Begin

Keep New Times Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Miami and help keep the future of New Times free.

Hugo Chavez has a new plan to save Venezuela's teetering national economy and it's, uh, shipping giant mountains of gold into Venezuela amid a procession of tanks so he can end the "dictatorship of the U.S. dollar" and possibly "offer President Obama a loan."

So how did his grateful people react? Well, Caracas was riled all weekend with panicked runs on toilet paper, coffee, and other staples.

Chavez's plan is to "repatriate" all of Venezuela's gold held in foreign banks, a total of about 365 tons worth around $20 billion. At the same time, Chavez plans to nationalize the Venezuelan gold mining industry.

The first shipment, with more than 200 tons of gold, arrived in Caracas on Friday in a military procession, with soldiers sitting astride boxes filled with the precious metal.

Chavez says the move will give the Bolivarian Revolution better control of its currency, which has suffered wild spikes during his tenure.

But experts say there's only one reason for the gold grab.

"This is a political move," Jose Guerra, a Venezuelan economist, tells the Global Post this morning. "Chavez can say, 'The gold is now in Venezuela, so we've recovered our dignity ... and the reserves are now in the Central Bank.'"

The golden gamble may have re-upped Chavez's standings in poor neighborhoods, but it did little reassure most Venezuelans.

Coupled with a new set of price controls announced on more than 15,000 items, Venezuelan shoppers have been raiding supermarkets since last week to stockpile everything from toothpaste to soap.

"We heard rumors that there'd be shortages of toilet paper and toothpaste and all basic hygiene products," Jonathan Maestracci, a 24-year-old student, tells Bloomberg News. "Finding coffee now is practically impossible. It's better to buy in big quantities thinking about what could happen. If nothing happens, you just keep it."

Gold, though? They're good on gold, as Chavez gleefully reminded a cheering crowd.

"The Yankees are broke," Chavez said from his palace's balcony earlier this year, Global Post writes. "They have no money to pay their debt ... Shall we give Obama a loan?"

Actually, now that you mention it ...

Follow Miami New Times on Facebook and Twitter @MiamiNewTimes.

Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Miami.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Miami.