IDB breaks precedent, elects US citizen as new president

IDB breaks precedent, elects US citizen as new president

Economy & Policy People Regions

The Inter-American Development Bank, in a virtual meeting of its board of governors, voted Mauricio Claver-Carone its new president on Saturday, breaking a 61-year precedent since the region's main development bank was created, by having a US citizen in its top position.

Claver-Carone, a Cuban-American nominated by US President Donald Trump, served as a Deputy Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs for the National Security Council. He takes over October 1 from Colombian Luis Alberto Moreno, who served three five-year terms at the Washington, DC-based institution, the IDB said in a press release. 

By tradition the top job at the bank has always been held by someone from Latin America, while the no. 2 position has been held by an American. This nomination spurred controversy and a call by some nations and a US senator to postpone the vote. 

In the end, press reports said Claver-Carone was elected by 30 of the 48 governors, with 23 votes coming from the region. Under the rules, to be elected president of the bank, a candidate must receive a majority of the total voting power of the IDB's member countries as well as the support of at least 15 of the 28 regional member countries. Heading into the vote Claver-Carone had the support of 17 member countries.

Claver-Carone, the bank's fifth president, is a key driver behind a US sponsored economic program to boost regional growth called "America Crece." The Florida-born Claver-Carone is one of the architects of the sanctions campaigns against Cuba and Venezuela. He promised to modernize and make the IDB more inclusive. He will oversee the IDB Group, which comprises of the IDB, IDB Invest and IDB Lab.

Several countries tried to get the vote postponed, including Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica and Mexico. Argentina and Costa Rica withdrew their candidates late, while Chile and the European Union protested the fact that an American was nominated for the top spot by the US government, which is the largest shareholder in the bank. Claver-Carone was previously rejected to be the IDB's vice president, twice, by outgoing president Moreno.

The bank's 48 members are from Latin America, the Caribbean, Europe, the United States, Canada, Israel, Japan, Korea and China. 

Claver-Carone was nominated by the US, El Salvador, Guyana, Haiti, Israel and Paraguay. He previously served as the US representative to the International Monetary Fund and as an advisor to the US Treasury Department.

In a statement released September 3, US Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, along with Republicans former US Secretary of State George Shultz, former World Bank President Robert Zoellick and former US Trade Representative Carla Hills, said the controversy over Claver-Carone's candidacy should have led to a postponement of the vote until next year.

"Rather than changing the foundational structure of the IDB by means of a vote on its next president in the midst of the COVID crisis, the shareholders should wait a few months and weigh the long-term implications of abandoning such a well-established precedent," the statement said.