CARACAS -- Venezuela's foreign reserves fell below $10 billion for the first time since a nationwide strike against then-President Hugo Chavez in March of 2002.
Venezuela's Central Bank reports that its reserves fell to $9.986 billion on Thursday.
Of that $9.986 billion of reserves, Venezuela reported in May that $7.49 billion is held in gold. Caracas Capital estimates that the value of Venezuela's gold holdings have fallen to $7.45 billion as of June 30.
On March 20, 2002, Venezuela's reserves hit a 25 year low of $9.289 as Chavez sought to keep his government going in the face of a nationwide strike -- including by the oil industry which produces 95% of the country's income. Chavez later fired most of the 20,000 employees of state-owned oil company PDVSA that went on strike against him and replaced them with political loyalists who knew nothing about pumping oil.
In March of 2002, Venezuela's oil price was around $20 a barrel. Venezuela's oil basket this year has averaged more than twice that so far this year at $43.53.
The day Chavez took office on February 2, 1999, Venezuela had $14.11 billion dollars in reserves and the country was only getting $8.65 a barrel for its oil.
Venezuela's foreign reserves hit a high of $42.464 billion on January 7, 2009, but have been falling ever since.
Thursday, Venezuela said it paid a $70,312,500 semi-annual interest payment on its $1.5 billion Venezuela 9.375% of 1/13/2034, its only public dollar bond payment for this month and on Monday the 10th the country made $29.5 million payment to Gold Reserve for the expropriation of Gold Reserve's mining venture.
Next month, Venezuela and PDVSA will owe the first $725 million of a total of $4.908 billion due through December.