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Wal-Mart's Latin America head to retire

NEW YORK (AP) -- Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced Friday that the president and CEO of Wal-Mart Latin America, who oversaw the company's Mexico business during the time of an internal investigation of a bribery scandal, will retire in March.

In a press release, the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer said that Eduardo Solorzano Morales will be succeeded by Enrique Ostale, president and CEO of Wal-Mart Chile.

Solorzano will continue as chairman of the board at Wal-Mart's Mexico unit.

Gian Carlo Nucci, who is executive vice president and chief operating officer of Wal-Mart Mexico, will succeed Ostale.

Solorzano led Wal-Mart's Mexico unit from 2005 until 2010 and oversaw dramatic expansion of the business. With the company's acquisition of Wal-Mart's operations in Central America, he was instrumental in expanding the company beyond Mexico. In addition, he was responsible for the conception and creation of Banco Walmart, the world's first Wal-Mart bank, and the development of successful new formats such as Bodego Aurrera Express.

"For 27 years, Eduardo has been a champion for our customers in Mexico and across Latin America and we are pleased he's staying on as chairman of Wal-Mart Mexico," said Doug McMillon, president and CEO of Wal-Mart International in a statement.

The news comes as Wal-Mart is facing increasing pressure amid allegations, which surfaced last April, that the company failed to notify law enforcement that company officials authorized millions of dollars in bribes in Mexico to speed up building permits and gain other favors. Wal-Mart has been working with government officials in the U.S. and Mexico on that investigation.

The allegations were first reported by The New York Times. The paper also published a story last month that focused on how Wal-Mart allegedly paid bribes to local officials to open a store in Teotihuacan, Mexico, on the site of ancient ruins.

On Thursday U.S. lawmakers released emails that show CEO Mike Duke and other top executives knew about those bribes regarding that particular store in 2005.

Congressmen Elijah E. Cummings and Henry A. Waxman say the emails contradict earlier claims last month by Wal-Mart that executives weren't aware of the bribes.

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Brooke Buchanan said Thursday that the emails don't contradict earlier statements by the company, because they refer to events in 2004 not 2005.

Wal-Mart shares rose 27 cents to close at $68.63.