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The European Union proposes to postpone the election of the new IDB president

Josep Borrell, the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy for the European Union, in July.FRANCOIS LENOIR / AP

The European Union has moved chips in the debate over the succession to the leadership of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), a key piece on the board of international aid in Latin America. Faced with Donald Trump’s intention to place an American at the helm, contrary to the tradition that reserves that chair for a Latin American, the European foreign service proposes the suspension of the elections until March 2021, when the elections have already been held. November presidential elections in the United States. In a letter sent to the countries with capital in the Bank, and to which EL PAÍS had access, the high representative for Common Foreign Policy and Security, the Spanish Josep Borrell, considers that the pandemic does not allow to pay “the necessary attention” to the replacement of the institution, especially “if we consider the presentation, without precedent, of a candidacy to preside over the Bank by the Government of the United States.”

The recommendations of the European Chancellery are not binding and it will now depend on the decision of the partners whether or not they support the initiative promoted from Brussels. It is behind the community rejection of Trump’s move to break with a diplomatic tradition respected for 60 years: the head of the World Bank is for an American; the managing director of the International Monetary Fund, for a European; and the leadership of the IDB, for a Latin American. When Trump nominated Cuban-American Mauricio Claver-Carone for this last position, he broke a balance that could leave the European Union in a 2-1 minority in the trident formed by the main multilateral credit organizations. Borrell, in a text dated July 30, does not hide the European community’s disagreement with Washington’s move.

“Since its founding in 1959, the IDB has been led by a Latin American president and a vice president nominated by the United States. This was the vision of Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy, who agreed on the need to strengthen the Bank’s Latin American identity (…) We believe that changing this model is a long-range policy that can only be the result of calm reflection, ”says the text. The election is scheduled for September, but Borrell proposes to postpone it until the Board of Governors scheduled for next March. By that date, the name of the president of the United States will be defined, whether Donald Trump gets re-election or Democrat Joe Biden wins. “It is not a good idea to break with the practice that the president of the IDB is a Latin American country, especially on the eve of the elections in the United States,” they say around Borrell.

The European Commission’s proposal was not agreed with Latin America, where the board clearly leans towards the United States candidate. Mauricio Claver-Carone has the support of at least half of the American governments, including those of Brazil and Colombia -two key pieces in the regional gear-, and his country continues to act as owner and lord in the Bank’s shareholders (it has 30% of the voting rights, light years from the rest of the partners). Thus, the only possibility that Trump’s man does not succeed Colombian Luis Alberto Moreno, in his position since 2005, is the suspension of the election. Borrell clarifies in the letter that the electoral postponement “does not have to mean an extension of the mandate of Luis Alberto Moreno,” because the statutes allow the IDB executive vice president to take over in his place if necessary.

In Latin America, the possibility of postponing the date may fall well in Argentina, which has ratified that it will maintain the candidacy of Gustavo Béliz despite its obvious disadvantage. Béliz has a promise of support that the Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, made to his Argentine counterpart, Alberto Fernández. But the good harmony that the Mexican showed with Trump during his visit to Washington shakes the Mexican commitment.

A matter of numbers

To impose his candidate, Trump needs the support of half plus one of the 26 American countries that make up the IDB, plus half plus one of the voting power of the partners, which is, for example, 30% for United States, 16% for Europe and 22% for the sum of Argentina and Brazil. The first condition would be assured. The second gives at least a chance to the postponement strategy. Because for the election to be held, “an absolute majority of the total number of Governors must participate, including an absolute majority of the regional governors, with a voting power that represents at least three-quarters of the voting power of the institution.” , according to the detail of the rregulation that appears on the bank’s official website.

It will, in any case, be a matter of numbers. If Mexico and Argentina, which add 19% of the voting rights) and the European Union, which together owns 9.35%, do not participate, the Assembly will not reach the representation of “three-quarters of the voting power of the institution”.