Leadership Question Stands in Way of World Bank, IMF Aid

April 12, 2019 Updated: April 12, 2019

WASHINGTON—International Monetary Fund and World Bank shareholders are still undecided on whether to recognize Venezuelan opposition chief Juan Guaido as the country’s leader, the institutions said April 11.

The heads of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank both said they are preparing to move quickly to help ease Venezuela’s worsening humanitarian crisis, but the leadership question is standing in the way.

“It is for our members to indicate which authority they are recognizing diplomatically so we can then follow through,” IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde said in a press conference at the start of the IMF and World Bank spring meetings in Washington.

“It is in progress as we speak, from quite a few members. As soon as that happens, we will follow up.”

More than 50 countries, including the United States and Venezuela’s largest neighbors, have recognized Guaido, the head of the National Assembly, as the South American nation’s leader. Russia and others dismiss that claim and recognize socialist Nicolas Maduro as the legitimate president.

The Inter-American Development Bank last month recognized Guaido appointee Ricardo Hausmann as Venezuela’s representative.

David Malpass, who started as the World Bank’s new head on April 9, told a press conference that Venezuela is “something of deep concern” to the World Bank.

“The World Bank will be deeply involved and we are preparing for that, but the situation is still troublesome on the ground,” Malpass said.

Venezuela is mired in a deep economic crisis marked by widespread food and medicine shortages and crippling inflation. An estimated 3 million Venezuelans have left the oil-rich country since 2015.

The United States is trying to isolate Maduro’s government on various fronts, including through the use of strict economic sanctions that have squeezed Venezuela’s finances.

On April 10, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence called on the United Nations to revoke the U.N. credentials of Maduro’s government and recognize Guaido as Venezuela’s leader.

The United States has by far the highest percentage of voting power both at the World Bank and the IMF for any single member. The process of a vote to decide who is accredited is not entirely clear and likely to require a consensus.

By Reuters