Seized Venezuela bank’s clients line upArkansas Democrat-Gazette #Democrat_GazetteApril 17, 2019
A customer leaves a Banesco bank branch Friday as others wait in line in Caracas, Venezuela.
CARACAS, Venezuela — Depositors started lining up outside Banesco Banco Universal’s branches in eastern Caracas early Friday morning, hoping to get cash — and answers — after Venezuela’s government seized the nation’s largest privately held bank.
On Thursday, the government freezed about 1,000 accounts and claimed that the bank speculated on the exchange rate and smuggled paper money out of the country.
The government says it’s detained more than 130 criminal bankers and executives and now it controls one of the last independent financial institutions.
Now, Banesco’s 8 million clients wonder whether they can touch their scant remaining resources.
“I’m here to get as much cash out as I can, though I don’t expect much because we know there’s no cash to be found,” said Marcos Palmero, a 30-year-old power-company worker waiting outside a branch in El Rosal.
He also questioned the government’s motives as political and a distraction from plans to redenominate the bolivar in June by lopping off three zeros from all bills.
“There are no financial motives for this intervention.”
About 31 banks operate in Venezuela, according to their trade association.
“Logic should tell them not to intervene in the country’s largest private bank, with an economic crisis like Venezuela’s, foreign debt that puts it on the edge of default, collapsing oil production and hyperinflation,” said Alejandro Caribas, a banking consultant and former national superintendent.