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No panic as Venezuela audits state-controlled bank

Account holders lined up at branches of a state-owned bank Thursday as regulators began auditing the institution after it reported losing nearly $90 million in 19 months, but there appeared to be no rush to withdraw money.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Account holders lined up at branches of a state-owned bank Thursday as regulators began auditing the institution after it reported losing nearly $90 million in 19 months, but there appeared to be no rush to withdraw money.

Hermelinda Romero, a 52-year-old nurse, went to a Banco Industrial de Venezuela branch in Caracas to check on her savings account. She said the government should "take the right measures so the bank's clients are not affected" by the recent losses.

Economy Minister Ali Rodriguez announced Wednesday that the government had appointed a temporary board of directors to evaluate the bank following its report that it lost $88.6 million from 2007 into 2009. The government controls more than 76 percent of the bank's shares.

Jenny Figueredo Frias, the Economy Ministry's deputy minister for regulation and control, heads the board. Ruling party lawmaker Ricardo Sanguino said the panel would "apply the corrective measures that are necessary" to prevent additional loses.

The bank had roughly a million clients and deposits totaling $4 billion in March, according to the banking regulator's most recent report. The institution has 3,279 employees.

Luis Armando Lucena, an employee at the city registry waiting in one line, alluded to the government's expropriations in the oil, cement and steel industries the past two years, saying President Hugo Chavez "is trying to take control of the money that public workers have there."

"He's seized control of everything, and now he's going after the banks," Lucena said.