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LATIN AMERICA | 10-09-2020 18:35

Trump's candidate inches closer to victory in race to lead IDB

Mauricio Claver-Carone is inching closer to becoming head of the Inter-American Development Bank, after Mexico decided to pass up a potential boycott of Saturday’s vote.

US President Donald Trump’s candidate Mauricio Claver-Carone is inching closer to becoming head of the Inter-American Development Bank after Mexico decided to pass up a potential boycott of Saturday’s vote.

Mexico’s government – which together with Chile, Argentina, Costa Rica and the European Union had said last month the election should be postponed – plans to participate in the vote, according to a person familiar with the plan, who asked not to be named because talks are private. The move by a country with 7.3 percent of the voting power means that the bank probably has the 75 percent member participation needed to hold the election.

Mexico’s Finance Ministry, which is handling the country’s relationship with multilateral banks, declined to comment, as did the IDB, as the bank is known.

The Washington-based bank lends more than US$10 billion per year to fund social and infrastructure programmes in the region and is seen as key to finance Latin America’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. Luis Alberto Moreno, the current president and a former Colombian ambassador to the United States, is set to step down at the end of this month after 15 years at the helm.

Some nations had urged to delay the vote due to the global pandemic, but the subtext was uproar over Trump nominating adviser a Cuba and Venezuela hard-liner, to break six decades of tradition of the bank’s head coming from Latin America.

Trump put him forward after the region split on left-right lines and failed to agree on a candidate. Argentina also has sought the job for Gustavo Beliz, President Alberto Fernández's strategic affairs secretary, with Mexico’s support.

Moreno said on Thursday that the election result will reflect the wish of the Latin American countries, given that they control slightly more than half of the IDB’s voting power.

“If we do not join forces, we will have bad results and I think that’s a reflection for the future,” Moreno said when asked about the election in a webcast organised by The Economist.

Enough support

Claver-Carone needs a bare majority to win. Colombia and Brazil expressed support for his candidacy after it was announced in June, as did Ecuador, Paraguay, Honduras, El Salvador, Panama, Jamaica and Venezuela, represented by opposition leader Juan Guaidó.

Uruguay will also support Claver-Carone at this weekend’s election, Finance Minister Azucena Arbeleche, who is also one of the bank’s governors, said at the sidelines of a seminar in Montevideo on Wednesday. Together with the United States, those nations represent about 52 percent of the bank’s voting shares.

In an interview last month, Claver-Carone, a Cuban-US citizen, said he would build the bank into a financial heavyweight to counter China’s influence in the Americas.

To ease concern about his heading an organisation normally led by Latin Americans, Claver-Carone said he’s held talks with the Brazilians about the IDB’s number twoposition and added that he’ll appoint leaders from the Caribbean and Central America.

Electing Claver-Carone could leave the bank out of step with a potential Democratic administration in the United States, should Joe Biden defeat Trump in the November 3 presidential election.

Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the top Democrat on the Appropriations Committee that would need to approve a US capital increase for the bank, criticised the nomination of Claver-Carone, Trump’s senior director for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the National Security Council. Leahy said in June that his presidency could jeopardise US support for the bank and warned that Claver-Carone’s adversarial relationship with the governments of Venezuela and Cuba could polarise the IDB.

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by Eric Martin, Bloomberg

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