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Exclusive: Honduran Citi executive nominated for No. 2 job at Latin American bank - sources

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The new U.S. chief of the Inter-American Development Bank has nominated Reina Irene Mejia, chief executive of Citi Honduras, for the No. 2 job at Latin America’s main development bank, people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

IDB President Mauricio Claver-Carone, who took over on Oct. 1, is assembling a new leadership team that he promised would be both diverse and represent the smaller countries in the region, which have never held senior leadership positions at the bank.

If confirmed as executive vice president, Mejia would be the highest-ranking Latin American woman to ever serve at the IDB.

The IBD’s 14-member board of executive directors will vote on the nomination next week, along with those of former Paraguayan finance minister Benigno Lopez, as vice president of sectors, and Richard Martinez, Ecuador’s former finance minister, as vice president of countries, the sources said.

Both men resigned from their government positions this month.

A spokesman for the Bank declined to comment.

Mejia, Citigroup's C.N corporate and investment bank head for Honduras, joined the U.S. bank in 1996. She was the first Honduran woman appointed as CEO of Citi Honduras, and is the current president of the American/Honduran Chamber of Commerce.

One of the sources described Mejia as “tough but diplomatic,” and said she would complement well Claver-Carone, a Cuba hardliner and the first U.S. citizen ever elected to head the IDB in its 61-year history.

Claver-Carone has vowed to strengthen the Bank’s funding base, increase transparency and build more unity in the region. He has pledged to serve only one five-year term as president.

Mejia’s finance background could help assuage concerns raised about Claver-Carone’s lack of banking experience. Before joining the IDB, Claver-Carone had served as U.S. President Donald Trump’s senior Latin America adviser, advocating for greater U.S. public and private engagement in the region.

A source familiar with Claver-Carone’s thinking said Mejia’s extensive work with small- and medium-sized businesses that drive growth in the region - and her focus on female enterpreneurs would be beneficial as he seeks to reshape the bank and expand its capital base.

September’s vote on Claver-Carone’s nomination was contentious, pitting the Trump administration, which is keen to gain leverage in resource-rich Latin America and counter the rise of China, against Argentina and other regional powers loath to lose control of the lender’s top job.

The bank has been led by Latin Americans since its inception in 1959, while the No. 2 position - functionally the bank’s chief operating officer - has traditionally been held by a U.S. citizen. If confirmed, Mejia would replace John Scott, who is serving in that role on an interim basis.

In a blog published on Citi’s website in 2016, Mejia said she earned both a bachelors degree in economics and an MBA in finance from Southern Illinois University, before joining Citi.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Tomasz Janowski

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