President Hugo Chavez announced Monday he would formally pull Venezuela out of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, a largely symbolic move since the nation has already canceled its debts to the lending institutions.
The leftist leader, who has long railed against the Washington-based lenders, said "we will no longer have to go to Washington, neither to the IMF nor the World Bank, not to anyone."
Chavez said he wanted to formalize Venezuela's exit from the IMF and World Bank "tonight and ask them to return what they owe us."
"We have a few bucks there," he said, apparently referring to contributions that Venezuela and other members regularly pay to the World Bank and IMF.
Venezuela recently repaid its debts to the World Bank five years ahead of schedule. It paid off all its debts to the IMF shortly after Chavez first took office in 1999. The IMF closed its offices in Venezuela late last year.
Chavez made the announcement a day after telling a meeting of allied leaders that Latin America overall would be better off without the U.S.-backed World Bank or IMF.
Chavez intends to set up a new lender run by Latin American nations which he has called the "Bank of the South," and has pledged to support it with Venezuela's booming oil revenues. The regional lender would then dole out financing for state projects across Latin America.
Separately, Chavez also offered on Sunday to contribute US$250 million (euro183 million) to a new regional cooperation fund.
He has often blamed the lending policies of the World Bank and IMF for perpetuating poverty, and has criticized past Venezuelan governments for signing agreements with the IMF to restructure the economy - plans that were blamed for contributing to racing inflation.
Under former Carlos Andres Perez in 1989, violent protests broke out in Caracas in response to IMF austerity measures that brought a hike in subsidized gasoline prices and public transport fares.
Enraged people took over the streets in violence that killed at least 300 people - and possibly many more. The riots came to be known as the "Caracazo," and Chavez often refers to it as a rebellion against the status quo.
During Sunday's talks with leaders from Bolivia, Nicaragua, Cuba and Haiti, Chavez predicted that "sooner or later, those institutions will fall due to their own weight."
"They will wear away - the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and all those institutions," Chavez said.