Trump’s Wild Card: The Inter-American Development Bank



On the eve of an election affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and repeated protests around the country, President Donald Trump has chosen Mauricio Claver-Carone, an American of Cuban descent, as president of the Inter-American Development Bank. Trump’s closest allies, close to the White House but removed from the national reality it faces, have turned a blind eye.

Once more, the U.S. head of state has surprised us. In nominating his former adviser Claver-Carone, he breaks as candidate, breaking with a tradition dating back 60 years. It is widely known that Trump is not so much as remotely interested in diplomacy, multilateralism or even historical tradition. Trump’s purported desire to change the role of Latin America in the IDB has waxed and waned, but the fact that he has been able to garner the support of so many Latin American countries who are sympathetic to his ultraconservative ideology is truly concerning.

The IADB was founded in 1959 when the Organization of the American States drew up its founding agreement. The initiative was proposed by former Brazilian President Juscelino Kubitschek. During its 60-year history, the IDB has had four Latin American presidents: Felipe Herrera of Chile (1960-1970), Antonio Ortiz Mena (1970-1988) of Mexico, Enrique Iglesias (1988-2005) of Uruguay, and Luis Alberto Moreno of Colombia.

In contrast to regional consensus, Argentina, Mexico, Chile and Costa Rica were able to envisage with greater precision what the effects of this decision would be in the long term. They attempted to delay the vote, but they were lone voices among regional acquiescence. Claver-Carone won the support of 23 countries in the region, he needed just 15. It is necessary to read between the lines. Since his arrival in the White House, President Trump has demonstrated a desire to bring order to the United States’ relationship with the region. There was the setback in the process of détente with Cuba, the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada, immigration issues and the threat of military intervention in Venezuela, all supported by his most obsequious allies. It is the strategy of the iron fist, calling previous historical eras to mind. But what is happening with the IDB? Is it supposed to be a message to China given that China has increased its presence in Latin America? Is it a charter to guarantee access to the region’s natural resources? Or is it a strategy to further fragment Latin America?

Claver-Carone has been elected president of the Inter-American Development Bank for a five-year term. He will head an organization that will play a fundamental role in Latin America in the post-COVID-19 recovery. His election ignites a plethora of concerns both in Latin America and in Europe due to his conservative profile and his vocal opposition to Cuba and Venezuela. European Union Minister for Foreign Affairs Josep Borell previously warned European members of the bank that Claver-Carone would rupture the harmony of Latin America. Meanwhile, both the White House and its allies have downplayed the importance of the election.

With this gambit, President Trump has transformed the IDB, a bank created to foster regional development, into a geopolitical tool cut to the cloth of his electoral and strategic interests.

It is worrying how at the height of a pandemic, in a world confined for months on end, that authoritarianism and the ultraconservative tendencies have managed to deepen their levels of support. It was hoped instead that in the midst of the pain caused by COVID-19, in addition to its economic effects, that a more humanized world would emerge and that we would not return to the fractured normalcy of before. As things stand, we are looking at a Latin America that lacks leadership, affected by the pandemic like so many other regions of the world and in the throes of increasing social unrest.

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