Increased U.S. influence over the largest source of development financing for Latin America and the Caribbean would also give the United States a leg up on China in a part of the world where Beijing’s economic influence has been rapidly growing.
Claver-Carone said in an interview that the pandemic has “taught us the fragility of our east-west supply chains” and validated Trump’s priority of bringing U.S. companies back home. “For those who don’t,” he said, “we want companies to create a north-south axis . . . in terms of supply chains.”
As Latin America faces a severe economic downturn, the United States can offer significant resources, Claver-Carone said: “Do you want the largest economy in the world to partner up for the mutual benefit of the region we live in? I think the answer is yes.” He said he planned a “team effort” and described “an impressive new generation of finance leaders throughout the region.”
The nomination effectively closes the door to a number of Latin American countries that planned to nominate their own candidates for the September election to replace Colombian Luis Alberto Moreno, who has served three five-year terms as bank president. In its 60-year history, the IDB has had only four presidents, all of them serving multiple terms.
In the interview, and in conversations with numerous Latin American leaders informed of the U.S. decision in recent days, Claver-Carone stressed that U.S. resources will be crucial in rebuilding the region, now the site of numerous coronavirus hot spots. Brazil, whose president, Jair Bolsonaro, was a close Trump consultant in the matter, is now second only to the United States in its number of infections.
“The other candidates were not well known by the region,” Claver-Carone said. “Everybody knows me. . . . It’s really been humbling in all the conversations I’ve had over the last 48 hours, the level of comfort, a huge level of relief” at the prospect of his taking over.
One senior Latin American official contacted by Claver-Carone said he spoke of the need for “administrative reforms . . . and the issue of financing the institution with a new injection of money that probably implied it would be easier approved by Congress if the [IDB] is headed by an American.”
“There might be very strong support from some countries,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private diplomatic conversations. “There will be very strong opposition from others, not only because it breaks the unwritten rule. . . . I think the Europeans should be worried. If the Americans can take over any institution they want to, what would prevent them from taking over the IMF?”
While regional development banks in Latin America, Africa and Asia have traditionally been headed by officials from that region, the International Monetary Fund is historically led by a European, and the World Bank by an American.
Claver-Carone said that consultations have already indicated he will receive a majority of votes and that he hopes to hit the ground running after an Oct. 1 inauguration. “We will commit to a one-term, five-year presidency, and we hope to institutionalize one or two terms maximum and to lead by example,” he said. “I do this with a deep commitment to working with countries in the region.”
A former Treasury Department official and U.S. director at the IMF, Claver-Carone, a Cuban American, was a member of the Trump transition team. Appointed to the NSC job in September 2018, he has been a leading voice in the administration’s hard line toward Cuba and Venezuela.
His likely departure from the NSC has been met with some approval at the State Department, where many consider him abrasive.
The Latin American official described him as “very confrontational . . . very direct. He has no soft skills.”
“Sometimes this is an advantage, to be honest,” the official said. “For me, that’s okay. But some people resent it.”
There are 48 members in the IDB, 26 that are “borrowing” countries in Latin America. Non-borrowing countries are primarily European donors but also include Japan, South Korea and Israel. The United States, which contributes 40 percent to its resources, is by far the largest donor.
All 48 meet annually, usually in Latin America. But the Trump administration was irritated last year when Moreno, the current president, agreed to hold the annual meeting in China. The meeting was eventually canceled, however, when China refused to accept the Venezuelan delegation appointed by opposition leader Juan Guaidó, recognized as interim president by the United States and much of Latin America.
China recognizes the Venezuelan government of Nicolás Maduro, which the United States and others have branded illegitimate and vowed to force from power.