The Inter-American Development Bank said on Friday its annual meeting would exit China after the United States led objections to Beijing’s refusal to grant a visa to the Venezuelan representative backed by Washington.
The bank, which provides development funding for Latin America and in which Washington holds 30 percent of voting power, said it would no longer gather in the southwestern city of Chengdu from March 28 to 31 in what would have been its first annual meeting in China.
The Washington-based institution said its board would decide within 30 days where to hold the meeting instead.
The decision marks a two-front victory for the United States which is trying to oust Venezuela’s leftist President Nicolas Maduro and to reduce Chinese influence in Latin America.
A State Department official said that the United States objected to China holding the meeting so long as it did not issue a visa to Ricardo Hausmann, who is considered the Venezuelan representative to the bank by Juan Guaido, the self-declared interim president recognized by Washington and major Latin American and European states.
US allies backed the US position, with more than 80 percent of IDB shareholders voting on Friday to move the meeting out of China, the official said.
“Allowing a country to prevent the seating of a legitimate delegation of a multilateral organization would have set a precedent contrary to a century of established diplomatic norms," the official said on condition of anonymity.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang in a statement on Saturday said China believes that the annual IDB meeting "should focus on financial cooperation rather than ... discussing sensitive political issues."
Geng said China had made lengthy preparations as the host country, but the venue is being changed as "some parties were manipulating the Venezuelan issue, and forcibly allowing representatives of Guaido to attend the IDB meeting."
Vice President Mike Pence who raised the issue in an opinion piece in The Miami Herald, accused China of "propping up a corrupt dictator."
It would mark "the first time in the bank’s history that a host nation has refused to seat a member," he wrote.
China is the main creditor of Venezuela, granting more than $60 billion over the past decade to Maduro’s cash-strapped government, which pays back in oil.
The Inter-American Development Bank’s president, Colombian Luis Alberto Moreno, has voiced willingness to work with Guaido.
Hausmann was the IDB’s chief economist from 1994 to 2000 and served as minister of planning under Venezuelan president Carlos Andres Perez, implementing a package of economic reforms.
Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chavez led a coup against Perez in 1992, citing the reforms. Chavez was later elected president and has branded himself as a champion of the poor.
Venezuela, which helped found the IDB in 1959, in May was declared in default of the bank which said it would not grant any further loans.