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Chile to inaugurate new president
Right-leaning businessman Sebastian Pinera has to deal immediately with earthquake aftermath.
Last Modified: 11 Mar 2010 11:36 GMT
Bachelet leaves office popular despite criticism of her government over its earthquake response [EPA]

Sebastian Pinera is to be inaugurated as Chile's new president against a backdrop of reconstruction efforts following one of history's worst earthquakes.

The Harvard-tained economist will be signed into power at 12pm (15:00 GMT) on Thursday in Valparaiso, 120km from the captial Santiago, converting the government's orientation from left to right.

Chileans will expect Pinera, a former senator, to deal with reconstruction after an earthquake measuring 8.8 magnitude killed almost 500 people and left hundreds missing two weeks ago.

"We won't be the government of the earthquake, we'll be the government of reconstruction," Pinera said after the February 27 disaster, naming five new governors in each of the worst-hit central regions.

In video
New Chile president faces earthquake aftermath

Pinera, 60, is one of Chile's richest men according to Forbes magazine, having made money via a credit cards business and an airline.

Alvaro Uribe, Alan Garcia and Evo Morales, the presidents of Colombia, Peru and Bolivia respectively, were among those who arrived in Chile on Wednesday for the ceremony, which is expected to be sombre due to the recent disaster.

"We would like to deepen our trust because when there is trust, we can solve social problems, and problems such as this earthquake," Morales, who presents a leftist ideology, said.

Mixed verdict

Michelle Bachelet, the outgoing president, leaves office with an 84 per cent approval rating in Latin America's second biggest economy.

This despite a poll by El Mercurio, a local conservative newspaper, showing that 72 per cent of people believe that Santiago reacted too slowly to the disaster and that 60 per cent of those polled think that aid delivery has been inefficient and not quick enough.

About 14,000 soldiers have been assigned to keep security and assist with the relief efforts and thousands of volunteers have been drafted in to help.

More than 90 per cent of homes in the disaster area are now receiving regular power and warer and food aid is available.

The earthquake did not damage the country's mines - Chile is the world's top copper producer - but important wine, fish and paper pulp industires were seriously affected near the epicentre in south-central Chile.

Some analysts expect losses in such industries to cause national economic growth to drop by half per centage point in 2010.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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