CARACAS - Amid wild celebrations, a first shipment of gold bars arrived home in Venezuela on Friday after President Hugo Chavez ordered almost all the country's foreign bullion reserves be repatriated from Western banks.
Excited crowds lined the roadside waving big Venezuelan flags and chanting "It's returned! It's returned!" as a convoy of soldiers and armored cars carried the ingots from Maiquetia airport to the central bank in Caracas.
Experts had cautioned that the operation, which will eventually transport more than 160 tonnes of gold bars worth more than $11 billion to the South American country, would be risky, slow and expensive.
Nelson Merentes, the president of the central bank, traveled into the city at the head of the convoy. He did not say how much gold was brought back in Friday's shipment but said the bullion came from several European countries.