Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez is going for his gold.

The first shipment of more than 200 tons of Venezuelan gold reserves - 85% of the country’s bullion reserves - returned to Caracas last Friday, with Chavez supporters dancing in the streets as tanks rolled in with armed soldiers riding on top of pallets of ingots.

President Chavez has explained the move as an act of sovereignty that will protect Venezuela’s reserves from global economic turbulence.

"The gold is returning to where it was always meant to be: the vaults of the Central Bank of Venezuela," Mr Chavez said.

Central Bank chief Nelson Merentes said the return of the gold to Venezuela was an "act of historic, symbolic and financial value."

"The country’s finances will be backed by autonomous wealth, so we are not subject to pressure from anyone," he added.

Some critics have suggested that Mr Chavez is acting out of fears Venezuela’s overseas assets could one day be frozen by sanctions, as happened to his friend and ally, the late Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi.

Most of Venezuela’s foreign gold reserves are held in London. Venezuela plans to bring home around 160 tonnes of gold, worth more than $11bn (£7bn).