Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Calls to postpone IDB election (Aug 11, 2020)

 There are growing calls in Latin America -- and Europe -- to postpone the election for the Inter-American Development Bank's new president. The new head is scheduled to be chosen in September, but there are calls -- from Mexico, Chile, Costa Rica, and Argentina -- to postpone the vote to March, ostensibly due to coronavirus logistical complications. But the true controversy is related to the U.S. Trump administration's nomination of Mauricio Claver-Carone to head the region's leading development finance lender. Claver-Carone would become the first person from outside Latin America to lead the Washington-based bank, upsetting a longstanding tacit  distribution of power in which the IMF is headed by a European and the World Bank by somebody from the U.S.  (Reuters)

Mexico, the EU nations and Chile have a combined vote share of about 20 percent, meaning that they would need the addition of nations representing five percent of the vote to deny the U.S. quorum for a vote in mid-September. Brazil and Colombia, however, have promised to back the U.S. nominee. Opponents probably lack the votes needed to defeat Claver-Carone or rally behind one of the rival candidates. Under voting rules, the U.S. controls about 30% of the final determination. Brazil has 11%, and Colombia 3% — giving the bloc nearly 45%. (Los Angeles Times)

The EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell favors a postponement, though the European Union is not a member of the IDB but holds an advisory role A large group of former foreign ministers from the region and international relations experts have joined the call to postpone, also citing concerns about institutional legitimacy. (Open Democracy

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. (See June 17's post.) Claver-Carone has little banking experience, and his appointment is being seen as part of Trump’s effort to put Americans in charge of key international organizations, reports the Los Angeles Times.

The White House nomination seems more related to domestic politics than international diplomacy, argues Christopher Sabatini in the Washington Post. But the timing for such partisan polarization in the institution couldn't be worse, as Latin America is confronting one its worst economic declines in modern history. "Meeting these urgent institutional and financial needs will require statesmanship, not the sort of U.S. partisan considerations embodied by the current candidate."

Roberta Jacobson and Dan Restrepo made a similar argument in a recent Americas Quarterly piece: "...To be effective, to be an instrument of partnership in which each country carries its respective burden – and not be an antiquated instrument of implicit U.S. hemispheric ownership – the IDB cannot be reduced to a mere tool of U.S. policy." (See briefs for July 30.)

News Briefs

Trinidad and Tobago
  • Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Keith Rowley claimed victory for his ruling party in yesterday's general election. Preliminary results gave the People's National Movement (PNM) 22 of the 41 electoral seats -- final results expected today. The coronavirus pandemic overshadowed the campaign -- up till now the country has had a relatively low number of cases, which the government touted as a credit to its management. But cases are on the rise, and the opposition has criticized Rowley’s government for requiring nationals who did not return to the country before the border closure to obtain exemptions to travel home. (Reuters, BBC)
  • Racism feeds into ISIS recruitment success in Trinidad and Tobago, reports Al Jazeera.
  • Bolivia's interim government deployed military and police troops to protect key installations and the transport of medical oxygen amid protests over the country's delayed elections. Security forces clashed with protesters yesterday, raising concern of a repeat of deadly repression of demonstrations last year after president Evo Morales was ousted following a controversial reelection bid, reports Reuters. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • A deeply rooted fear of hospitals in Mexico is complicating the country's already monumental fight against the coronavirus pandemic, reports the New York Times. Many people see hospitals as Covid-19 death traps. As a result, they postpone seeking care until their cases are so bad that doctors can do little to help them, a vicious cycle that makes contagion worse and likely hides the true extent of the disease.
  • Mexico’s health ministry reported on Sunday 4,376 new confirmed coronavirus infections and 292 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 480,278 cases and 52,298 deaths. (Reuters)
  • Mexico lost 1.1 million formal jobs between March and July, but started adding new jobs again last month, said President Andrés Manuel López Obrador. (Reuters)
  • Dry season fires in the Amazon this year are off to an even worse start than last year, despite the Brazilian government's promise to step up enforcement against illegal blazes, reports the Washington Post. President Jair Bolsonaro is under pressure from international investors and national banks, but has also undermined his administration's efforts to protect the environment.
  • Bolsonaro has sought to blame indigenous communities for the fires devastating the rainforest, but researchers say that granting secure land tenure to indigenous forest communities in Brazil’s Amazon is a key way to stem rising deforestation rates. (Reuters)
  • A new generation of female indigenous leaders are leading the fight against the destruction of Brazil’s forests both in the Amazon and the Cerrado savanna, reports the Guardian.  
  • Peruvian lawmakers should support a bill that would protect the country's Amazon indigenous communities, argue Lizardo Cauper & Jorge Pérez in Reuters.
  • Guatemala is reopening, even as Covid-19 infection rate continue to rise, leading public health experts to fear a coronavirus explosion, reports El Faro. Lucrecia Hernández Mack, congressional representative with the centrist Semilla Party and former Health Minister, notes the lack of clear protocols for many sectors that have reopened. 
  • A French human rights activist was killed in Guatemala, where he headed a farming NGO, reports BBC.
  • Colombian soldiers have been repressing the farmers’ protests to prevent the forced eradication of coca crops in Meta department, according to local media. (Telesur)
  • CARICOM played a key role in ending Guyana's prolonged political impasse to an end after the March 2 general election, argues Wazim Mowla at the Aula blog.
El Salvador
  • El Salvador's president and congress are at an impasse over how to regulate the country's economic reopening after months of lockdown -- if they don't reach an agreement soon, individual businesses and their customers will be forced to self-regulate, reports the Associated Press.
  • The case against former President Mauricio Funes and former Security Minister David Munguía Payes represents a worrying trend, argues Bo Carlson in El Faro. “The gang truce, rather than being a public policy proposal that Salvadorans can openly debate, has become an accusation that political parties levy against one another.” (See post for July 24.)
  • Argentina’s intense political polarization threatens to derail the debate over a government proposed judicial reform, leaving the country without a sound alternative to its dysfunctional justice system, argues Natalia Volosin in Americas Quarterly.
  • Reuters has the play by play on how Argentina government officials finally reached a deal with foreign creditors, lsat week. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Argentines are worried about insecurity, which dropped initially during the country's coronavirus lockdown but is now on the rise. The issue is politically polarized in Argentina, and the governing party is divided between hardline factions in the Province of Buenos Aires and a softer crime fighting approach from national authorities, notes the Latin America Risk Report.
  • Two Mapuche women were found dead in Chile's Araucanía region. (Telesur)
  • Well-being, inequality and sustainability should be measured just as carefully as the monetary value of a nation’s products, argues ECLAC head Alicia Bárcena in Americas Quarterly.
Puerto Rico
  • Hundreds of Puerto Rican voters were unable to participate in primaries this Sunday, due to lack of ballots. Voting at affected centers will be rescheduled, but the episode could affect the outcome of November’s general elections on an island with a voter participation rate of nearly 70%, reports the Associated Press.
I hope you're all staying safe and as sane as possible, given the circumstances ... Comments and critiques welcome, always.

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