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LATIN AMERICA | 18-08-2020 23:29

Siding with Trump, 17 nations reject delay to vote on IDB chief

Seventeen nations – including Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Bolivia – release letter rejecting attempts to delay vote on next chief of Inter-American Development Bank, complicating Argentina's hopes for their own candidate.

US President Donald Trump’s bid to install a close ally to lead one of Latin America’s most important lenders received a boost on Tuesday, when 17 nations with most voting power at the bank opposed postponing its September election.

The countries – including Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia and others – signed a letter rejecting a growing drive to push back the Inter-American Development Bank’s (IDB) upcoming vote and the likely election of Mauricio Claver-Carone, Trump’s senior adviser for Latin American issues.

The vote is “of the utmost importance for our region and for leading the bank through the greatest challenge in modern times,” they said in the letter, released by Colombia’s Foreign Ministry. “Our peoples need solutions, which cannot be delayed.”

As well as the United States and the aforementioned countries, the text was also signed by the Bahamas, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Panama, Paraguay, the Dominican Republic, Suriname, and Venezuela, which at the IDB is represented by opposition leader Juan Guaidó.

The move complicates the Argentine government's hopes of installing Strategic Affairs Secretary Gustavo Beliz at the helm of the IDB.

Tensions have flared across the region when the US president bucked a non-written tradition at the Washington-based bank and launched in June the candidacy of Claver-Carone, a Cuban-US citizen. The institution’s previous chiefs have all hailed from Latin American nations, and Trump’s move could mean an attempt to extend his influence over a traditionally apolitical institution.

Earlier this month, Mexico joined the European Union (EU) and Chile in calling for more time to analyse the role of the bank and its president amid the pandemic. Nations opposing the vote could still refuse to participate in the process and deny the 75 percent quorum needed to hold the election.

Argentina, Mexico, Chile, Costa Rica and the EU, who have all come out in favour of delayed elections, represent 31 percent of the vote. But denying quorum isn’t a sure thing because the EU won’t necessarily vote as a bloc, and its members all have separate representation on the lender’s board. Some significant shareholders, including Japan and Canada, haven’t yet made their views public.

The IDB's current chief is Colombian Luis Alberto Moreno. His replacement, at present, must be voted on in a virtual meeting scheduled for September 12 and 13.  A vote was originally due to be held in March, though it was pushed back due to the pandemic.

The lender, set up in 1959 within the remit of the Organisation of American States (OAS) has had only four presidents: the Chilean Felipe Herrera (1960-1970), Mexico's Antonio Ortiz Mena (1970-1988), Uruguayan economist Enrique Iglesias (1988-2005), and Moreno.

Claver-Carone last week accused President Alberto Fernández's government of "obstruction," a comment which Chile described as "aggressive." seeking to "obstruct" the vote, in statements considered "aggressive" by Chile. 

Costa Rica, meanwhile, is promoting its own candidate, former president Laura Chinchilla.

– TIMES/BLOOMBERG/AFP

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