A political cartoon that appeared in Mexico’s popular Precso magazine in 1995 typified the widespread confusion about the role of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the Mexican economy. It depicted President Ernesto Zedillo as an impoverished street person hawking IMF books on neoliberalism. By linking market reforms to IMF intervention the cartoon perpetuated the erroneous idea that the fund is in the vanguard of international capitalism, incessantly advancing economic liberalization.
It is ironic that the IMF, the World Bank: and other post-World War II international organizations-whose creators distrusted the ability of the unfettered market to promote global economic development-are so strongly associated with classical liberal policy changes in developing countries. However, the perception is understandable when these organizations’ officials never tire of professing that multilateral agencies are “critically” important to opening economies. During the annual World Bank-IMF meetings in October 1995, for example, Lawrence Summers, deputy secretary of the U.S. Treasury and former chief economist at the World Bank, claimed that the mission of the international financial institutions “over the past half-century has been to support the developing worlds evolution to a market economy.“