Thu | Dec 8, 2022

Latam women emerge as possible picks for IDB president

Published:Friday | October 7, 2022 | 6:40 AMHuntley Medley - Associate Business Editor

Regional political and economic observers say it is possible that a new slate of vice-presidents could emerge after the dust settles from the process now in train to elect a new president of the Inter-American Development Bank after American Mauricio Claver-Carone was removed as president by the IDB board of governors on September 26.

Sources say that for the election, which is highly political, extensive high-level “horse-trading” is now in full play, as governments putting forward candidates are promising vice-presidential appointments in return for support from others of the institution’s 48-member countries.

While Caricom members, which are also IDB members – Barbados, Belize, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Suriname, The Bahamas, and Trinidad and Tobago – have been urged to put forward candidates, such candidatures appear unlikely to succeed, especially against the background that Jamaica’s Finance Minister Dr Nigel Clarke was elected in March this year as chairman of the institution’s influential board of governors, typically made of member countries’ finance and economic ministers or central bank heads.

The IDB has not made public whether it has received any nominations since the office of its secretary advised members on September 28 that the process was formally open and would run for 45 days.

The election follows on November 20, both in-person at the IDB headquarters in Washington, DC in the United States and virtually.

However, sources say the names of at least three women in particular have been making the rounds as possible replacements for Claver-Carone. They are Alicia Bárcena, former head of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, ECLAC, the United Nations’ regional economic body; Laura Chinchilla, former president of Costa Rica; and Michelle Bachelet, the former president of Chile.

The IDB president is elected to serve a five-year term and may be re-elected for another five years.

The successful candidate must get a majority of the voting power of member countries. Voting power in the IDB is determined by each member country’s holding of ordinary capital in the institution.

The United States controls some 30 per cent of the bank’s capital, but the administration of current US President Joe Biden has said it will not put forward a candidate. To win, candidates must also be supported by at least 15 of the 28 members from the Latin America and the Caribbean region.

Bárcena, 70, is currently Mexico’s ambassador to Chile and has been announced as her country’s nominee for the IDB’s top executive job by Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Bárcena headed ECLAC as executive secretary between 2008 and March this year, after holding several positions at the UN, including being undersecretary general for management, chef de cabinet and deputy chef de cabinet to former secretary general Kofi Annan. She also previously served as deputy executive secretary of ECLAC, director of ECLAC’s environment and human settlements division, coordinator of the Latin American and Caribbean Sustainable Development Programme of the UN Development Programme, and director of the Environmental Citizenship Project at the United Nations Environment Programme.

Chinchilla, 63, an international consultant and political scientist, who led Costa Rica between 2010 and 2014 as head of the socialist-leaning National Liberation Party, or PLN, had originally been proposed by her country for the job of IDB president in 2020. Her candidacy, and that of Argentina’s Gustavo Beliz, were withdrawn in the wake of Claver-Carone’s nomination by the Trump administration, and amid an unsuccessful call by some Latam countries for a postponement of the September 12, 2020 vote.

Claver-Carone’s election had been viewed as a betrayal of a tradition, since the creation of the IDB, for its head to be from Latin America and the Caribbean. He replaced Colombia’s Luis Alberto Moreno, who served as IDB president for 15 years. Claver-Carone was removed last month after internal investigations into an intimate relationship with a subordinate.

Chinchilla has been active in the Inter-American Dialogue, a network of global leaders which promotes democratic governance, prosperity, and social equity in Latin America and the Caribbean. She also worked as a fellow at Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service in the US. It is not immediately clear if the government of newly elected Costa Rican President Rodrigo Chaves Robles of the Social Democratic Progress Party, would put back Chinchilla for a second IDB run, although she resigned from the PLN in July.

Bachelet, 71, was president of Chile between 2006 and 2010 and again from 2014 to 2018, running on a socialist party ticket. On August 31 this year she demitted office as the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, a post she had held since 2018.

Bachelet’s mother and father were political prisoners of the regime of authoritarian army general Augusto Pinochet, who staged a coup with the backing of the US and ruled Chile with an iron fist between 1973 and 1990. The current Chilean president is left-leaning Gabriel Boric, who took office in March, having won a decisive victory in the December 2021 elections at the age of 35.

huntley.medley@gleanerjm.com