authoritarianism, Economy / Finance

Former presidents anticipate nullity of election in the IDB

Aug 27 2020


The time has come to vehemently insist on the importance of postponing the election of the next president of the Inter-American Development Bank because, as the candidacy of a US citizen has been maintained, we are not only facing the breakdown of a practice that has accompanied the history of the institution, but also a very serious violation of the fundamental political agreement under which it was conceived.

The IDB has operated for sixty years under the norms established in the 1959 debates, in which the parties, assembled in a special Commission, determined the mechanisms for joining the bank, the financial systems of the contributions, and the organization of the entity itself. It was within this framework, after an intense debate between the parties, that the location of bank’s headquarters in Washington, DC, was decided. The principle of reserving the IDB presidency for Latin America and the Caribbean and the vice-presidency for a United States citizen was established in the first session of the Governors, which was held between February 3 and February 16, 1960 in El Salvador.

The logic and wisdom of that founding political agreement were broken in mid-June of this year when the United States announced the nomination of an American citizen for the IDB presidency. There was no special commission to address the issue. Nor was there a deliberation among the Board of Governors made up by the 48 member countries of the bank, where the standard in force for six decades would have been revised. This fact, this fundamental rupture, calls for a new debate in Latin America and the Caribbean, and in other IDB partners, who are facing an act of very deep significance, as this nomination constitutes a serious lack of respect for the rules of hemispheric and international coexistence, and certainly a serious assault on Latin American and Caribbean dignity.

On March 10, a news release from IDB stated: “the IDB Group’s 2020 Annual Meeting has been rescheduled and will take place in Barranquilla, Colombia, in the first half of September 2020. This meeting will also feature the election of the next president of the IDB.” The main reason behind the rescheduling was “because of the extraordinary public health circumstances surrounding the global response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).” If that was the reason in mid-March, it is much more so now with 180,000 deaths in the United States, 115,000 in Brazil and 60,000 in Mexico, to point out the highest statistics in the Americas.

On July 27, the Board of Governors Assembly was rescheduled for March 2021, but the date for the election of the IDB president was preserved. The latter calling was conceived under unacceptable conditions, because a candidacy born only due to the breakdown of historical institutional procedures was already under way. The politically sensible thing to do was, and is, to postpone both actions. The appropriate course should be joining efforts on carefully preparing a Board of Governors Assembly that defines both the strategy to be followed by the IDB in the face of the enormous economic and social challenges posed by the pandemic, and who should preside over the institution to execute that strategy. It is true, unfortunately, that the US’ voting power, by adding Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela (of Guaidó), would achieve 49% of the vote, thereby needing only one or two additional countries on its side to achieve its reprehensible purpose. Due to its form and substance, this would be an arbitrary imposition, which would undoubtedly have very negative consequences for the future of both the institution and the relationship between the United States and Latin America and the Caribbean. The damage to the IDB would be irreparable.

Thus, with absolute conviction we declare that the election scheduled for September 12 and 13, should it occur, would lack legitimacy and sooner than later should be considered invalid. The United States, without consultation or debate in the relevant IDB bodies, launched its candidacy bypassing agreements, understandings and regulations under which all the parties of the IDB assumed its creation and operation throughout six decades. Such an institutional logic governed from the Eisenhower administration until March 2020. Now the American president breaks that coexistence and seeks to impose his candidate over the historical consensus. Therefore, this summoning lacks all validity. The governments of all member countries of the IDB should realize that the institution must not have a president appointed through an election deprived of historical and political legitimacy.

Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Felipe González, Ricardo Lagos, Julio María Sanguinetti, Juan Manuel Santos, Ernesto Zedillo . August 26, 2020     

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