Colombia central bank board elects Leonardo Villar as new chief

The National Colombia Bank Logo is seen during the presentation of the quarterly economic report, in Bogota

BOGOTA (Reuters) – Colombia’s central bank board said on Thursday it had named International Monetary Fund official Leonardo Villar as its new chief, to take up the post from Jan. 3.

Villar, who served on the bank’s board between 1997 and 2009, is a former Colombian deputy finance minister. He replaces Juan Jose Echavarria, who did not seek re-election to a second four-year term.

More recently Villar has served as a representative for Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Spain, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Venezuela at the IMF.

His appointment comes as the board is holding is holding its benchmark interest rate at a historic low of 1.75%, in a bid to help the economy after months of lockdown this year to stem the COVID-19 pandemic. Analysts expect the rate to remain steady until the final quarter of 2021.

Villar was educated at Universidad de los Andes in Colombia and the London School of Economics in the UK, the board said in a statement.

He can serve as the head of the board for up to 12 years.

Many in the market had expected Finance Minister Alberto Carrasquilla, who currently represents the government on the board, to be named as the new chief.

President Ivan Duque is expected to name two new board members in the first quarter of next year.

(Reporting by Nelson Bocanegra and Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Tom Brown)