Exclusive: IADB cancels China meeting after Beijing bars Venezuela representative

March 22, 2019

By Lesley Wroughton and Roberta Rampton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Inter-American Development Bank on Friday canceled a meeting of its member countries due to be held in China next week after Beijing refused to allow a representative of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido to attend, two sources with knowledge of the decision said.

The sources said the decision was made by the board of the IADB, the region’s largest development lender, after China refused to change its position.

The sources said the board of member countries would vote within 30 days to reschedule the annual meeting for another date and location.

On Thursday, the United States threatened to derail the meeting unless Beijing granted a visa to Guaido’s representative, Harvard economist Ricardo Hausmann. The meeting, which is an annual gathering of the IADB’s 48-member countries, was meant to mark the bank’s 60th anniversary.

Guaido invoked the constitution to assume Venezuela’s interim presidency in January, saying the re-election of President Nicolas Maduro was not legitimate. Most Western countries have recognized Guaido as head of state, but Russia and China, among others, back Maduro.

The Washington-based IADB voted last week to replace Maduro’s board representative with Hausmann.

It would have been the first time the IADB held its annual meeting in China. The Asian country has become a major player in Latin America and has poured more than $50 billion into Venezuela over the past decade in oil-for-loan agreements.

With relations between Washington and Beijing marred by an acrimonious trade dispute, U.S. officials have expressed concern in recent months at China’s growing influence in Latin America – a region Washington has long regarded as its backyard.

(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton and Roberta Rampton; editing by Leslie Adler and Rosalba O’Brien)

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