IDB bank calls off annual meeting next week in China

The Inter-American Development Bank is calling off its general assembly next week in China amid a dispute over the participation of a Venezuelan representative opposed by Beijing.

The IDB did not say in a press release the reason for canceling the meeting, planned for March 28-31 in Chengdu.

However, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence wrote Friday in The Miami Herald that China refused to grant an official visa to Ricardo Hausmann, the Venezuelan representative designated by opposition leader Juan Guaido.

The IDB last week became the first international financial organization to recognize Guaido as the legitimate president of the South American country, a stand taken by the U.S. and about 50 other nations that say Nicolas Maduro's re-election last year was rigged.

China, which is seeking to make inroads into what has traditionally been regarded as the United States' backyard, disagrees and remains one of Maduro's main allies.

In a statement to The Associated Press on Saturday, China's foreign ministry said, "A handful of countries ignored the aim of the annual meeting, ignored China's stance and concern and disregarded the host country's sincere efforts."

Those counties, which the ministry did not identify, "insisted on manipulating the Venezuela issue and forcibly having Guaido's representative attend the meeting. Therefore the annual meeting cannot be held smoothly as scheduled, this is what all parties are unwilling to see."

"The responsibility does not rest with China," the statement added, saying Guaido's representative lacked legitimacy because Guaido himself was "not a president elected through legal procedure.

Maduro has cited the continued support of China and especially Russia in keeping his regime afloat through loans and diplomatic support.

Over the last decade, China has given Venezuela $65 billion in loans, cash and investment. Venezuela owes more than $20 billion. China's only hope of being repaid appears to lie in Venezuela ramping up oil production, although low petroleum prices and the country's crashing economy appear to bode poorly for such an outcome.