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Trump Nominates Adviser To Lead The Inter-American Development Bank

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

President Trump is getting pushback for nominating one of his advisers to lead a key funding institution for Latin America. The post has traditionally gone to a Latin American, but as NPR's Carrie Kahn reports, the objections to the nominee go beyond the fact that he's a U.S. citizen.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: The candidate is Mauricio Claver-Carone, a Cuban-American lawyer and Trump's top adviser on Latin America in the National Security Council. The president wants him to take over the Inter-American Development Bank. The IDB funds billions of dollars of projects throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MAURICIO CLAVER-CARONE: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: In a call to reporters in Spanish this month, Claver-Carone said his leadership at the bank would be magical and unique opportunity to deepen ties and realize the dreams of a Pan-American region. He says he wants to lure foreign investment back to the region from China. That, of course, is a popular sentiment in Latin America during the current pandemic economic slump. Having a U.S. citizen at the helm of the Development Bank, though, is not. Since its founding more than 60 years ago, the IDB's president has always been from Latin America.

JORGE CASTANEDA: It's not just that it's an American and breaking with tradition; it's this particular American, which I think rubs a lot of people the wrong way.

KAHN: Jorge Castaneda is a former foreign minister of Mexico. He and a long list of prominent Latin Americans have voiced objections to Claver-Carone's candidacy. They point to his hard-line stance on immigration and promotion of tough sanctions against Nicaragua, Cuba and Venezuela. Chris Sabatini, a senior researcher at Chatham House in London, says Claver-Carone doesn't have the right experience.

CHRISTOPHER SABATINI: He's not a development economist. He's not a technocrat.

KAHN: And Sabatini says that in a region where Donald Trump is not popular, Claver-Carone wouldn't be seen as an advocate for the hemisphere.

SABATINI: He hasn't spoken out. The region has been bullied and insulted and ignored. He's done none of that.

KAHN: In a rare confrontation with the Trump administration, a handful of countries - including Mexico, Chile, Costa Rica and Argentina - have called on the bank to postpone next month's vote until after the U.S. election. Claver-Carone says he has the votes and that a minority of countries are just trying to subvert the bank's democratic process.

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CLAVER-CARONE: (Speaking Spanish).

KAHN: He says, "frankly, they're just using rhetoric that's more appropriate for the 1960s than 2020." Chile's foreign minister says that kind of talk shows Claver-Carone doesn't have the diplomatic skills necessary for the job. But he's in the minority. This week, 17 countries signed a letter supporting Trump's pick, giving Claver-Carone the votes he would need. The opposing countries, however, could just sit it out, denying the quorum needed for the vote to even take place.

Carrie Kahn, NPR News, Mexico City.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.