IMF still seeking member views on Venezuela leader recognition: spokesman

IMF logo is seen outside the headquarters building in Washington
FILE PHOTO: International Monetary Fund (IMF) logo is seen outside the headquarters building in Washington, U.S., as IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde meets with Argentine Treasury Minister Nicolas Dujovne September 4, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

March 21, 2019

By David Lawder

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The International Monetary Fund is still awaiting guidance from its members on whether to recognize Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country’s leader, IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said on Thursday, adding there is no schedule for an IMF board meeting to decide the issue.

Rice told an IMF news briefing there is still no clarity on Venezuela’s leadership situation and any shift in the Fund’s recognition of the government will be guided by its 189 member countries and the international community and “views are still being formed.”

Guaido invoked the constitution to assume the interim presidency in January, saying the re-election of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was not legitimate. Most Western countries have backed Guaido as head of state.

Another Washington-based multilateral institution, the Inter-American Development Bank, last week replaced the representative of Maduro with an economist backed by Guaido, a major setback for the Maduro government.

The stakes are higher for the IMF, as it would be called in quickly to provide loans for the new government to ease a humanitarian crisis and revive a collapsed economy. As Venezuela is an IMF member, Maduro’s government can also ask the Fund for help, but the IMF has had little engagement with Venezuela since 2004.

“We stand ready to help once the question of official recognition of the government there has been clarified,” Rice said.

He said clarity will come from guidance provided by the international community and the IMF’s members.

“At this point there is not yet clarity on that guidance, so in terms of next steps, we continue to monitor the situation very closely” Rice said. “Member countries are in the process of establishing their position. We are listening – carefully – and we will be guided by them on this issue.”

(Reporting by David Lawder in Washington; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Matthew Lewis)

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