Donald Trump’s top adviser on Latin America has won election as head of the Inter-American Development Bank, the first time in the 60-year history of the region’s top development bank that it will not be led by a Latin American.

US nominee Mauricio Claver-Carone promised to oversee an expansion of lending and to make the bank more efficient and responsive after securing 30 of the 48 votes from the bank’s member nations at a virtual meeting in Washington on Saturday.

The most important development bank for Latin America and the Caribbean, the IDB lends $12bn-13bn a year to the region to fund infrastructure and help improve health, education and sustainability.

Argentina and Costa Rica had put forward alternative candidates in an effort to keep the bank in Latin American hands but both withdrew in the days before the vote after failing to receive adequate support. A last-ditch Argentine attempt to deny the meeting a quorum by trying to persuade countries not to attend also flopped.

“My commitment remains the same”, said Mr Claver-Carone after his victory was announced, “to work with the IDB member countries to outline a strategy to strengthen the bank, respond to the needs of the region, and create opportunities for shared prosperity and economic growth.

Mr Claver-Carone told the Financial Times before the vote that he believed the IDB needed a big capital increase in order to remain relevant to Latin America and to counteract increased Chinese lending to the region.

From his White House post as Western Hemisphere chief on the National Security Council, Mr Claver-Carone has pushed hard for tougher sanctions on Havana and Venezuela, a position which led some Latin American governments to question his suitability for the IDB role. Mr Claver-Carone said he would not take partisan positions when running the bank.

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Five former Latin American presidents issued a joint statement opposing his candidacy as “a serious aggression to Latin American dignity”. Argentina said before the vote that it would abstain, underlining its “agreement with multiple and respected voices of the most varied academic, social, political and ideological provenance which have expressed the impropriety of violating a tradition of regional governance “.

But after what diplomats described as a powerful and effective lobbying campaign, the US said Mr Claver-Carone secured the votes of 23 of the 30 Latin American and Caribbean shareholder nations. These were understood to include regional giant Brazil, close US ally Colombia as well as El Salvador and Venezuela, represented by the opposition administration of Juan Guaidó.

Born in Miami to a Cuban mother and a Spanish father, Mr Claver-Carone had little time for the notion that his nationality should be a bar to his candidacy, pointing out that the incumbent, Colombian diplomat Luis Alberto Moreno, was born in Philadelphia and that a previous IDB chief, Enrique Iglesias, was born in Spain.

Nonetheless, Latin America’s failure to rally behind a regional candidate and stand up to US pressure was seen by some observers as symptomatic of a wider malaise in a region which has been severely weakened by poor economic growth and political polarisation.

Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington think-tank, said the election “encapsulates the Trump administration’s relationship with Latin America over the past four years, marked by Latin America’s acquiescence in the face of unilateral US moves, with no meaningful consultation, breaking norms and traditions and using intimidation tactics, while an increasingly leaderless and fragmented region is unable to get its act together.”

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Via Financial Times