BANKING: WE'RE ALL GOING TO PAY

THE TOLL IN THE BANKING SCANDAL REACHES $7 BILLION, LEAVING EVERYONE ASKING, WHO STOLE VENEZUELA?

For crisis-hardened Venezuelans, the bland government announcement last month was a sure sign that something unpleasant was about to happen. ``At the moment, the government is not examining the nationalization of these institutions,'' declared Deputy Finance Minister Luis Xavier Grisanti, referring to three troubled banks that the authorities were trying to nurse back to health. Sure enough, two weeks ago, the banks--Banco Italo-Venezolano, Banco Profesional and Banco Principal--were declared insolvent, and the government took them over, assuming $330 million in bad debt.

The bank failures came seven weeks after the government seizure of another institution, Banco Progreso, with losses initially estimated...

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