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, referring to Venezuela's recent repayments of debts to the World Bank five years ahead of schedule, which saved the country US$8 million.

Venezuela 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.