Saturday, President Donald Trump’s adviser, Mauricio Claver-Carone, became the first U.S. citizen to be elected as president of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) despite the opposition of some countries that wished for a continuation of the tradition that the entity be led by a Latin American.
The senior White House adviser for Latin America was the only candidate presented during the virtual meeting of the 48 governors — a vote in which Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Peru and Trinidad and Tobago abstained, according to the Buenos Aires Foreign Ministry.
Claver-Carone received 30 votes from the governors and will succeed Colombian Luis Alberto Moreno for a period of five years starting October 1.
The United States’s decision to present a candidate, breaking the gentlemen’s agreement of Latin American leaders, generated irritation in Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica and Mexico, due to the precedent it sets.
These countries argued that the vote — postponed once due to the pandemic — should be postponed again as the context did not allow adequate debate.
A total of 16 countries representing 31.23% of the IDB’s voting power abstained.
In percentage weighted according to the shares by country, the United States — the main shareholder of the organization — received 66.8% of the total, reported a source in Washington.
To win, a candidate must have the support of at least 15 of the 28 American countries.
“I want to thank all of our partners in the region for maintaining the integrity of this electoral process and for sharing our common vision of a stronger IDB,” Claver-Carone said in a statement.
At the head of the organization, based in Washington, the senior US official will have to face the acute crisis in the region and an eventual reconstruction of Venezuela.
The head of US diplomacy, Mike Pompeo, congratulated Claver-Carone, calling him a “visionary leader in promoting the prosperity of the Western Hemisphere.”
Argentina, which was seeking to present its current representative in the Bank, Gustavo Béliz, as a candidate, did not present him and called for abstention.
‘Politicization of the hemisphere’
With the election, US diplomacy adds a victory less than two months before Trump seeks re-election against Democrat Joe Biden.
For Christopher Sabatini, a researcher on Latin America at the Chatham House Institute in London, getting the region to break with tradition to support a White House candidate is a victory for the Trump administration.
Sabatini notes this achievement comes “after the White House insulted and disrespected the citizens of those countries.”
“It is not just a diplomatic victory, it is a surprise and frankly one that is humiliating,” the expert told AFP, adding that “the politicization of the hemisphere contributed to the election of the candidate.”
Claver-Carone, a 45-year-old lawyer of Cuban origin, is known for his strong opposition to Havana and Venezuela.
The abrupt irruption of the US candidate generated surprise, since Trump’s foreign policy line has been contrary to multilateralism and its institutions, as evidenced by his intention to withdraw from the World Health Organization (WHO).
But the promise of Claver-Carone to be a counterweight to the aggressive inflow of loans from Beijing in the region was stronger.
However, the US official may face problems on the domestic front due to partisan divisions in the US Congress, which is charged with approving the funds destined for the bank.
For Benjamin Gedan, of the Latin American program of the Wilson Center in Washington, foreign policy always implies compromises, particularly in the negotiation with a superpower.
“But this decision was avoidable, it is significant and not so easy to reverse,” he told AFP.
The IDB’s role will be central in a region devastated by the pandemic for which the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts a 9.4% contraction of the economy.
Also, it will provide capital for an eventual reconstruction of Venezuela, in the event of a change of government.
The IDB was born in 1959 and has had four presidents: the Chilean Felipe Herrera, the Mexican Antonio Ortiz Mena, the Uruguayan Enrique Iglesias and the Colombian Moreno.