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Brazil backs France's Lagarde in IMF race

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil on Tuesday backed French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde as the next head of the International Monetary Fund, aligning itself with other big emerging markets such as China instead of its Latin American neighbors.

Brazil was one of the last major countries to officially announce its backing, and Lagarde’s election to lead the global lender was already all but assured.

The move put Brazil in line with the United States and with some other major emerging markets such as Russia and China, but it also risked alienating its fellow Latin American countries, many of which supported Mexico’s Agustin Carstens.

Brazil chose Lagarde not only for her experience, background and knowledge, but also for her commitment to continuing IMF reforms, “which implies increasing representation among emerging economies,” Finance Minister Guido Mantega said.

“We hope Minister Lagarde will not only look at the European crisis, but will look at global problems,” he added.

The race for the job comes as developing economies are pushing for more influence at the fund, which is traditionally headed by a European.

As powerhouse emerging markets such as Brazil, China and India have grown economically, those countries have complained that they still suffer from under-representation at the IMF.

In Latin America, Peru, Colombia and Chile have backed Carstens. Yet Carstens was seen by some Brazilian officials as too conservative an economist, and Brazil’s emerging rivalry with Mexico as a major power in Latin America also may have been a deciding factor.

Writing by Luciana Lopez; Editing by Brian Winter and Vicki Allen

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