Venepiramides has this very interesting article (Spanish) about the new parallel currency market in Venezuela. It used to be that people would buy Venezuelan bonds with their bolivars and sell them in dollars. The two prices would move up and down, with the ratio between them creating an effective exchange rate, which became known as the swap rate or, in Spanish, the permuta.
Now, the same thing is happening with gold. People can buy gold with bolivars and sell it in the exterior as a way of getting foreign currency. Venepiramides says Swiss banks are the main intermediaries.
This opens ever less traceable paths to capital flight and money laundering. It’s harder to track a gold bar than a bond.
It also creates ever more powerful incentives for illegal gold mining in Venezuela and nearby lands, as this market is bound to push the Venezuela gold price (in bolivars) well above the world price. When the bond swap market was shut down, a Venezuelan bond that sold in the States for $1,000 would sell in Venezuela for 8,300 or more bolivars, or about $1,930 at the official exchange rate. That same sort of ratio will apply to the gold price.
The Central Bank, which is supposed to buy a big chunk of all domestic gold production, pays world-market prices at the official exchange rate. That is to say, they pay the price of gold (around $1,200 an ounce) times the official exchange rate of 4.3 to the dollar. If a miner can go underground and sell for twice that, well, let’s just say it’s not good news for Venezuela’s plan to bring all its gold production into official channels.