Wednesday, June 17, 2020

U.S. nominates Claver-Carone to IADB (June 17, 2020)

The United States announced yesterday that it will nominate President Donald Trump's top Latin America adviser, Mauricio J. Claver-Carone, to head the Inter-American Development Bank. If he is confirmed, Claver-Carone would be the first non-Latin American to lead the bank.

Claver-Carone, senior director for Western Hemisphere affairs at the National Security Council, is known for his hawkish positions on Cuba and the U.S. sanctions against the government of Venezuela, notes the New York Times. He is one of the architects of the U.S. administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela and the tightening of the embargo against Cuba, reports the Miami Herald. Claver-Carone was also an influential lobbyist and activist with strong roots in the Cuban-American community.

The move is part of the Trump administration's efforts to reassert U.S. power in the region, particularly aimed at keeping Chinese influence in check. "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," notes the Washington Post.
"The nomination of Mr. Claver-Carone demonstrates President Trump’s strong commitment to U.S. leadership in important regional institutions, and to advancing prosperity and security in the Western Hemisphere," Steven T. Mnuchin, the U.S. treasury secretary, said yesterday.

The United States, a non-borrowing member of the bank, controls 30 percent of the vote and is the institution's largest contributor. The United States traditionally nominates the No. 2 official at the IDB. It was not immediately clear what caused the White House to switch gears, reports Reuters. Analysts said it could be irritating for Latin American leaders, and potentially for other parts of the world. 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.

In the midst of a strong economic downturn in the region, Claver-Carone said U.S, resources will be critical. “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.” The election of a U.S. representative to preside over the bank would allow it to better mobilize the capital and tools that the region needs to grow, Claver-Carone told the Miami Herald.


Venezuela Supreme Court orders takeover of opposition parties

Venezuela's Maduro-loyal Supreme Court ordered the intervention of the country's two most important opposition political parties. The judges suspended the board of directors for the Justice First party yesterday, a day after doing the same for the Democratic Action party. In both cases former members of the opposition who are now allied with the Maduro government were named to run the parties. Last week the court also undermined opposition efforts to create a new electoral commission. All the decisions affect legislative elections that must be held this year and will affect the country's only opposition-led government organ, the National Assembly. (Associated Press, see last Thursday's briefs)

“What’s clear is that Maduro, with these actions, is doing away with whatever image we had remaining of Venezuela as a democracy, even as it was during the 20 years of Chavismo,” Dimitris Pantoulas told the Wall Street Journal.

Much of the opposition led by Juan Guaidó, president of the National Assembly, has rejected participating in any electoral process under current circumstances. On Sunday, in response to last week's court ruling about the electoral commission, seven opposition parties declared that parliamentary elections under these conditions are a "farce." (Efecto Cocuyo)

News Briefs

  • Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández (JOH) tested positive for the novel coronavirus, as did his wife and two aides, reports the Washington Post. He has mild symptoms and plans to continue running the government from self-isolation. Honduras imposed a strict lockdown in March and started reopening a week ago. About half a million jobs were lost or suspended, according to estimates by the business sector, reports the New York Times. Honduras has confirmed more than 9,000 cases of the coronavirus, with 322 deaths, according to the Pan American Health Organization. But testing is limited and the public health system is operating under great strain, reports the Associated Press.
  • JOH said he had started the so-called “MAIZ treatment,” an experimental combination of microdacyn, azithromycin, ivermectin and zinc. Honduran medical experts have criticized the treatment's efficacy in general, which they say is being sold as a magic cure in Honduras in order to justify reopening. (Criterio)
  • U.S. authorities detained two Guatemalan cousins who allegedly witnessed a $1 million election campaign contribution by Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzman to JOH's 2013 presidential campaign, reports Univisión. They were indicted as co-conspirators of former Honduran congressman, Juan Antonio ‘Tony’ Hernandez, JOH's brother.
  • Brazilian police raided the homes and offices of 21 supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro yesterday as part of an investigation into the financing of anti-democratic rallies that have been occurring weekly for months. Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes also granted police permission to inspect financial and phone records of 11 federal lawmakers allied with Bolsonaro, reports Reuters. Among those targeted by the raids were Congressman Daniel Silveira and conservative blogger Allan dos Santos. The raids follow an incident last week when a small far-right group of the president's supporters, known as 300 do Brasil (300 from Brazil), tried to invade Congress in Brazil's capital, before security intervened, reports Deutsche Welle. (See Monday's briefs.)
  • Brazil reported a record number of daily cases from coronavirus yesterday: reported 34,918 new cases, bringing the number of infections to 923,189. But Brazilian media, in collaboration with state health departments, said the figure was probably undercounted by a few thousand, reports NPR.
  • Bolivia’s interim leader Jeanine Áñez proposed postponing the country’s general election a second time, due to coronavirus concerns, reports the AFP. The country’s legislature last week approved September 6 as the date for the elections, already delayed by the pandemic. Áñez said “Postponing probably for a month or two months is not going to hurt anyone." But experts are increasingly concerned over Bolivia's political stability and Áñez's apparent maneuvers to retain power. (See June 5's briefs.)
  • The Pan American Health Organization voiced concern over Covid-19 cases in Haiti, even as the country's health officials said the country might have ducked the worst of the epidemic. PAHO director Dr. Carissa Etienne said “the spike” in Covid-19 infections that Haiti has been seeing over the past several weeks remains a serious concern along with the increasing flow of Haitian returnees crossing the country’s land border with the Dominican Republic despite restrictions, reports the Miami Herald.
  • Border regions are becoming an area of particular concern for outbreaks in the region -- particularly the frontier between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, reports the New York Times. The Pan American Health Organization said that it was focusing its efforts in these rural frontier areas, where populations are on the move and medical facilities are lacking. In addition to the Haiti-DR border area, the organization mentioned the one between Costa Rica and Nicaragua and the Amazon region that Brazil shares with its neighbors.
  • Travel restrictions at the U.S-Mexico border will remain in place through July 21, officials said yesterday. (Los Angeles Times)
  • Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador was elected on a leftist platform, but has governed as conservatively as his opponents would have, writes Viri Ríos in New York Times Español.
  • Chilean officials said more than 31,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, or nearly one-sixth of the country’s total so far, were omitted from the official tally due to accounting glitches, reports Reuters.
  • Colombian president Iván Duque's approval rating more than doubled from 23% in February to 52% by the end of April. Fighting the coronavirus outbreak has allowed him to shift his government's focus from social unrest and accusations of corruption, reports Reuters.
  • Colombia will suspend government deficit limits until 2022 to allow the government to respond to pandemic needs, reports Reuters.
  • Edén Pastora, a former Sandinista guerrilla, died yesterday in Nicaragua -- Washington Post obit.
  • The comparison of how society reacted to HIV and the novel coronavirus is useful, both because of differences and similarities, writes Lucas Gutiérrez in the Post Opinión. Both viruses have worst effects on those who society has "decided to leave exposed," he writes, noting that "those who exist in this abandonment are more exposed to all kinds of situations, including the violence of the police forces."
I hope you're all staying safe and as sane as possible, given the circumstances ... And in these times of coronavirus, when we're all feeling a little isolated, feel especially free to reach out and share.

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