Luis Alberto Moreno, Colombia's dynamic, longtime ambassador to Washington, was elected president of the Inter-American Development Bank yesterday by a surprisingly large majority of the bank's Board of Governors, shortly after candidates from Venezuela and Nicaragua pulled out of the race.
Moreno, 53, will assume his role as head of the multilateral institution Oct. 1. He will succeed Enrique V. Iglesias of Uruguay, who has distinguished himself as a driven visionary since he took over in 1988.
Established in 1959, the IDB is the oldest and largest regional development bank in the world. It provides financing for economic and social development projects throughout Latin America, approving some $6.6 billion in new lending commitments last year.
U.S. Treasury Secretary John W. Snow issued a statement saying Washington looks forward to working with Moreno. Widely viewed as the Bush administration's preferred candidate, Moreno faced challenges from Venezuela and Brazil until hours before the vote.
Snow said the IDB needs to "help unleash the power of the region's entrepreneurs" since the private sector has emerged as the primary driver of economic growth.
In a single round of voting, Moreno won 26 votes: 20 from the 26 borrowing countries of the Americas plus the United States and Canada, and six from non-regional members: Britain, Spain, Norway, Israel, Italy and South Korea.
As a result of the vote, Moreno garnered 56.06 percent of shareholder stock in the bank, exceeding the required 50.01 minimum to win, according to two sources who attended the secret ballot.
Moreno sounded exhausted from a grueling campaign that took him to 18 countries in three weeks and from intense cross-examinations by voting blocs, including the finance ministers from Caribbean countries.
"I think there is a real opportunity to come together around an agenda of social cohesion to bridge many of the differences, to boost infrastructure and fuel the entrepreneurial energy in Latin America," he said in a telephone interview.
Brazil's Joao Sayad, the current vice president for finance and administration of the IDB, came in second with seven votes from countries of the Americas and three from non-regional members.
At the start of the proceedings at 10 a.m. yesterday, Venezuela, which announced its candidacy only 10 days ago, withdrew before the vote.
"Venezuela realized that it could not count on Caribbean countries, which it supplies with free oil, to swing the vote against Moreno," explained one analyst.
"Ambassador Moreno took the embassy of a very troubled nation and propelled it to become one of the most influential and effective centers of diplomacy in Washington," said Moises Naim, editor of Foreign Policy magazine and a former minister of industry of Venezuela.
"He will bring the same vigor, talent and political savvy to an institution that is critical to the future of Latin America," Naim said after the vote. Moreno has been ambassador since 1998.