Trump nominee for development bank hits out at critics
Donald Trump’s nominee to lead Latin America’s main development bank has accused Argentina’s leftist government of trying to “subvert” the selection process, as opposition to his candidature grew.
The presidency of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which will lend more than $20bn to the region this year, has always been held by a Latin American. In June the US took the region’s governments by surprise by putting forward Mauricio Claver-Carone, an official known for his hardline stance on Cuba and Venezuela.
“Today, the United States and our candidature has the public support of 17 countries in the region,” Mr Claver-Carone told reporters on Tuesday. “What we are seeing today is a minority effort led by the government of Argentina to block the election because they have not been able to, or have not wanted to, present a competitive vision.”
Argentina’s foreign minister, Felipe Sola, called on Monday for the election of the new IDB president — due to be held virtually in September — to be postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Mexico’s leftist government said last week the vote should wait until “conditions were right”. Chile, Costa Rica and Josep Borrell, EU foreign policy chief, have also backed a delay.
However, Brazil and Colombia, two of Washington’s closest allies in the region, have publicly come out in support of Mr Claver-Carone, a Florida lawyer of Cuban émigré parents who is currently Mr Trump’s top adviser on Latin America via his position on the National Security Council.
“He’s nervoush, as [former president Nestor] Kirchner would say,” said an official at Argentina’s foreign ministry, imitating the late leader’s lisp, in a phrase he was famous for uttering gleefully when an opponent appeared to be losing. “That is because we are right and Trump’s strategy is in real danger of failing.”
Mr Claver-Carone has laid out a vision for the bank to help reinvigorate Latin America’s battered economies as they struggle with some of the world’s worst outbreaks of coronavirus. He has promised to mobilise more private sector money to back projects and pledged a more “inclusive and transparent” approach at the IDB.
The US holds the biggest bloc of voting shares, 30 per cent, and together with its allies probably commands more than the simple majority required to win. But Mr Claver-Carone’s opponents could try to deny him the quorum of three-quarters of members required for the election to be deemed valid.
“If this was a football game, we would be winning . . . 17-4 and obviously in a football game if you are winning 17-4, you are doing well,” Mr Claver-Carone said of his support. “Unfortunately instead of wanting to finish the game . . . they want to steal the ball and run away from the pitch.”
Decrying what he termed “1960s rhetoric” against US imperialism in opposition to his candidature, he said a delayed vote on the IDB presidency risked paralysing the bank’s operations at a crucial time and would condemn Latin America to another lost decade.
A chorus of former Latin America presidents, finance ministers and foreign ministers have called on the US to reconsider Mr Claver-Carone’s candidature, saying it is important that the bank is run by a Latin American, and expressing concern at his divisive views.
The Washington-based lender has only had four presidents in its 60-year history. The well-regarded incumbent, Colombian diplomat Luis Alberto Moreno, has served three five-year terms.
Additional reporting by Benedict Mander