Venezuela to withdraw from IMF


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is to withdraw Venezuela from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) after paying off its debts five years ahead of schedule.

"We will no longer have to go to Washington nor to the IMF nor to the World Bank, not to anyone," said the leftist leader, who has long railed against the Washington-based lending institutions.

Venezuela, one of the world's top oil exporters, recently repaid its debts to the World Bank five years ahead of schedule, saving $8 million. It paid off all its debts to the IMF shortly after Mr Chavez first took office in 1999. The IMF closed its offices in Venezuela late last year.

Mr Chavez, who says he wants to steer Venezuela toward socialism, made the announcement a day after saying Latin America would be better off without the US-backed World Bank or IMF. He has often blamed their lending policies for perpetuating poverty.

He wants to set up a new lending institution run by Latin American nations and has pledged to support it with Venezuela's booming oil revenues. The regional lender, which he has called "Bank of the South," would dole out financing for state projects across Latin America.

Mr Chavez has criticised past Venezuelan governments for signing agreements with the IMF to restructure the economy - plans blamed for contributing to racing inflation.

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said recently that he hopes to "get out of that prison" of IMF debt and that "we are negotiating with the fund to leave the fund".

Ecuador's leftist president, Rafael Correa, recently asked the World Bank's representative there to leave and said the country paid off its debt to the IMF. Argentina also has paid back billions of dollars to the IMF.