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Scheming at the Latin Development Bank

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Mauricio Claver-Carone, senior advisor to US President Donald J. Trump on Latin America, during an interview on the North Lawn of the White House August 14.


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One reason to be suspicious of international aid institutions is that they too often become vehicles that serve everyone but the poor. A good example is playing out now at the Inter-American Development Bank, where a club of Latin cronies is trying to derail President Trump’s nominee to run the place.

Mr. Trump’s nominee for bank president is Mauricio Claver-Carone. He’s the former U.S. executive director at the International Monetary Fund and now works at the White House National Security Council. Mr. Claver-Carone has the votes to be elected when the board meets Sept. 12. But a small group of countries are trying to derail the vote to block his reform agenda.

The IDB’s ostensible goal is reducing poverty by promoting economic growth in Latin America, which is in U.S. interests. Think about the destabilizing effects of migration crises. The U.S. has a 30% stake in the bank that last year made $13 billion in loans and guarantees in Latin America and the Caribbean. But the bank has little to show for more than 60 years of lending. Instead it has become a jobs program for friends of the influential.

Mr. Claver-Carone has promised to make IDB management look more like the region by naming to top posts Central American and Caribbean candidates along with South Americans from some small countries—all of which have long been under-represented. He has pledged to increase transparency and end the bank’s China-centric policies. He also has committed to a single five-year term and to implement term limits for future presidents.

This agenda threatens current IDB beneficiaries, especially certain nongovernmental organizations. Inter-American Dialogue President Michael Shifter recently argued against Mr. Claver-Carone in the Foreign Policy website without disclosing that his organization received more than $100,000 in grants and contributions from the IDB in 2017 and 2018. In polite circles that’s known as a conflict of interest. George Soros’s Open Society Foundation and the Ford Foundation also gave the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue more than $100,000 over the same period, according to the Dialogue’s biennial report.

Argentina is particularly worried. Among the imbalances Mr. Claver-Carone might correct is Argentina’s hold on a third of the bank’s top jobs given to borrowing countries though it has only 11.4% of bank ownership.

Buenos Aires is expected to propose its own candidate next week. But lacking the votes to defeat the American, it is also leading an effort to deny a quorum when the IDB votes. Mexico, Costa Rica and Chile are part of the scheme. If the idea sounds familiar, this is the kind of dirty trick dictators pull when they know voters are about to turn them out.

Mr. Claver-Carone’s opponents say the IDB presidency traditionally goes to a Latin American. But there is no such written rule and, judging by the whip count, a majority of members want a president who pledges to make the bank better at relieving poverty. They deserve the opportunity to cast their vote.

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2020-09-04 18:53:00

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