President Donald Trump’s pick to run Latin America’s top development bank was elected Saturday to lead the institution, solidifying his administration’s influence on the region regardless of whether he wins or loses the U.S. election in November.
Mauricio Claver-Carone, the current senior director for Western Hemisphere affairs at the National Security Council, was elected by governors of the Inter-American Development Bank. The vote draws to a close weeks of tensions in the region over whether to support Trump’s pick, boycott the election or somehow delay it to avoid having to vote for Claver-Carone without knowing the U.S. election results.
And while Claver-Carone landed the job with support from more than half of the bank’s 28 regional member countries, it remains to be seen if the Trump official as bank president will be able to work with a possible Biden administration or potentially a Democrat-majority Senate. Prior to the election, U.S. administration officials and some congressional aides were worried that the Latin American leaders would successfully delay the vote over fears that Trump won’t win reelection.
However, Claver-Carone has repeatedly said he will stay away from partisan politics and welcomes the criticism of his nomination as a chance to draw attention to the little-discussed bank.
“My commitment remains the same: to work with the IDB member countries to outline a strategy to strengthen the bank, respond to the needs of the region, and create opportunities for shared prosperity and economic growth,” Claver-Carone said in a statement.
The IDB is a major source of financing for Latin American and Caribbean countries, loaning about $13 billion each year. And it’s expected to be more influential over the next few years as countries grapple with a major recession that predates the pandemic, but has only worsened in recent months.
Already, influential Democrats have come out against Claver-Carone being elected to lead the bank, particularly since the IDB in its 61 years of existence has been led by a pick from a Latin American country — not a U.S. partisan nominee.
“What does this say about the Latin Americans charting their own future? I have always believed that to achieve lasting results, countries need to take responsibility for their own development, and the U.S. should play a supportive role,” Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in a statement on Saturday.
“Those roles have now been reversed, and we need to review whether this is the best use of resources to assist the people of those countries,” Leahy added.
Latin American leaders, former administration officials, Democrats and experts have also expressed concern that Claver-Carone, a divisive figure in Washington circles, won’t be able to work with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to deliver on his promise to secure more money for the bank.
Last week, Leahy and former Republican officials including World Bank President Robert Zoellick, former Secretary of State George Shultz and former U.S. Housing Secretary Carla Hills, made a last ditch effort to persuade countries against holding a vote for Claver-Carone as it would “trigger an immediate institutional crisis at the IDB.”
“We should unite behind a candidate from the region with the vision, the credibility, the temperament, and the skills to chart a better future for the people of Latin America and the Caribbean,” they wrote in a joint statement.
Claver-Carone is set to take over the bank for a five-year term, replacing Luis Alberto Moreno, a former Colombian ambassador to the U.S. who led the bank for 15 years, at the end of the month.
He previously worked at the Treasury Department and as a U.S. representative to the International Monetary Fund. He is most widely known for his central role in crafting the Trump administration’s policies toward Venezuela and Cuba.
Claver-Carone, a Cuban-American, started his career in Washington as a lobbyist leading a political action committee that worked to preserve the U.S. embargo on Cuba. He also ran Capitol Hill Cubans blog, where he was pro-embargo on Cuba and argued against U.S. engagement with the communist-run island.
Claver-Carone garnered the support of a majority of the region’s countries, including: Colombia, Brazil, El Salvador, Ecuador, Jamaica and Haiti. Last month, Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico and the European Union had sought to delay the bank’s vote, but did not successfully do so.
The exact vote count is not formally made public per IDB’s election regulations, but an NSC spokesperson said Claver-Carone received the support of 23 governors from the region and garnered 66.8 percent of the vote. Argentina, however, made public that it abstained from voting, arguing that there has not been “adequate debate over the future of the IDB,” the nation’s government said in a statement on Thursday.
Ultimately, Claver-Carone was the only candidate running for IDB president. Former Costa Rican president Laura Chinchilla and Gustavo Beliz, secretary of strategic affairs to the president of Argentina, who worked at the bank for almost 15 years, were both in the running, but quit the race before the vote.
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