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Venezuela leadership issue still blocking IMF, World Bank aid

Venezuela leadership issue still blocking IMF, World Bank aid
FILE PHOTO: Maria Guitia washes her son Yeibe Medina at home near San Francisco de Yare, Venezuela, February 18, 2019. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins/File Photo   -   Copyright  Carlos Garcia Rawlins(Reuters)
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – International Monetary Fund and World Bank shareholders are still undecided on whether to recognise Venezuelan opposition chief Juan Guaido as the country’s leader, the institutions said on Thursday.

The heads of the 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 recognising 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 neighbours, have recognised Guaido, the head of the National Assembly, as the South American nation’s leader. Russia and others dismiss that claim and recognise socialist Nicolas Maduro as the legitimate president.

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

DEEPCONCERN

David Malpass, who started as the World Bank’s new head on Tuesday, 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 OPEC 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 Wednesday, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence called on the United Nations to revoke the U.N. credentials of Maduro’s government and recognise 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.

(Reporting by David Lawder and Leika Kihara; Additional reporting and writing by Rodrigo Campos; Editing by Andrea Ricci and Paul Simao)

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