Mexican president names first woman central bank chief

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Sheets of 500 peso bills are seen at a Bank of Mexico printing facility in the eastern state of Jalisco (AFP/Ulises Ruiz)
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Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador on Wednesday nominated Deputy Finance Minister Victoria Rodriguez as the next Bank of Mexico governor, the first woman to head the central bank.

The announcement came a day after former finance minister Arturo Herrera said Lopez Obrador had withdrawn his candidacy for the post, unsettling financial markets.

"For the first time, a woman will be heading the Bank of Mexico," Lopez Obrador told reporters, saying the nomination, which requires approval by the Senate, was part of efforts to promote gender equality.

As deputy finance minister, Rodriguez "has acted with great responsibility so as not to spend just to spend," added the pro-austerity president.

The U-turn comes at a time when Mexico is facing rising inflation that has prompted the central bank to raise its benchmark interest rate for four consecutive meetings, to 5.0 percent.

Like many countries, Mexico is grappling with the impact of rising costs of energy and raw materials, as well as global supply chain bottlenecks as pandemic-hit economies reopen.

Inflation in Mexico reached 6.24 percent in the 12 months to October, more than double the central bank's target of around three percent, and the highest in almost four years.

Gabriela Siller, head of analysis for the financial group BASE, tweeted Tuesday that the surprise withdrawal of Herrera's nomination "creates uncertainty" and could raise questions about the Bank of Mexico's autonomy.

Lopez Obrador pledged to uphold the central bank's independence, describing Rodriguez as a "responsible" person who will act "in accordance with the rules."

In May the president ruled out asking central bank chief Alejandro Diaz de Leon to stay on past the end of the year, saying he would be replaced by an economist with a "social dimension."

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