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Trump pick for Latam bank poised for win after regional opposition fades

Cassandra Garrison and Andrea Shalal

By Cassandra Garrison and Andrea Shalal

BUENOS AIRES/WASHINGTON, Sept 9 (Reuters) - Regional opposition to President Donald Trump's pick to run the Inter-American Development Bank has faded ahead of this weekend's vote, giving a last-minute boost to the man who would become the first U.S. head of the key Latin American lender.

Mauricio Claver-Carone, Trump's fiery senior Latin America adviser, has majority support to head the IDB, but a group of countries had appeared close to having the 25% vote needed to hold up the election.

Some countries that had opposed Claver-Carone's candidacy, including Argentina, Chile, Mexico and Costa Rica, and some EU officials, now privately concede they do not have the backing they had hoped for.

An Argentine foreign ministry official suggested plans to halt the vote were off the table because "there are not enough willing" member countries to block the U.S. candidate.

The IDB vote has become a geopolitical battle between the Trump administration keen to gain leverage in resource-rich Latin American and counter the rise of China, and some in the region who do not want to lose control of the lender.

The IDB has been led by a Latin American president since its inception in 1959.

Mexico, which was key to blocking the vote, has signaled that it will now not block the quorum needed to hold the election, a source familiar with the process said.

The source did not elaborate, but former Mexico foreign secretary Jorge Castañeda said in an opinion column that Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador had failed to galvanize opposition to Trump's nominee.

"Argentina could not block the election by itself; everything was in the hands of Mexico and AMLO," Castañeda wrote. "He chickened out."

Mexico's finance ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

The Latin American countries that called for a delay held around 22% of the bank's voting share - shy of the 25% needed to block a quorum on voting day. Argentine officials were hoping European countries would join their efforts and tip the balance.

With just days before the election, however, Argentine Foreign Minister Felipe Sola told a local radio station that European support had not materialized. "There was a decision on the part of Europe that did not come," Sola said.

"We are going to ratify our position that the IDB cannot be led by a U.S. candidate and that it cannot fall prey to the competition between the U.S. and China," the Argentine foreign ministry official said. He added that Argentina's candidate for the IDB post had already been officially nominated. (Reporting by Cassandra Garrison and Andrea Shalal; Additional reporting byS tefanie Eschenbacher in Mexico City; Editing by Adam Jourdan and Tom Brown)