Presidential hopefuls exit in Chile cabinet shuffle
SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Chilean President Sebastian Pinera shuffled his cabinet on Monday to allow ministers with presidential aspirations to leave, as his embattled conservative coalition seeks support before presidential elections in November 2013.
The unpopular Pinera's right-wing bloc suffered a loss in local elections last month, which likely accelerated the departure of presidential hopefuls bracing for leftist former President Michelle Bachelet to make a comeback bid.
Public Works Minister Laurence Golborne, a charismatic businessman, and Defence Minister Andres Allamand, a seasoned politician, who are seen as the right's best chance to retain the presidency, both left the government.
"(Golborne and Allamand) are taking up what I see as the most noble of duties, missions and responsibilities that a citizen of our country can undertake: aspiring to the presidency," Pinera said at a ceremony to mark the cabinet change. "Go travel our country, region by region ... to conquer a new majority of Chileans."
Many Chileans hoped Pinera, a former airline magnate, would tackle social inequalities in Chile more effectively than his predecessors, but polls show they are disappointed so far.
Pinera's trusted advisor Interior Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter was appointed Defence Minister, government spokesman Andres Chadwick was named Interior Minister and Santiago's governor Cecilia Perez became spokeswoman. Deputy Public Works Minister Loreto Silva replaced Golborne as minister.
National Heritage minister Catalina Parot also left in Pinera's third sweeping cabinet change, which is not expected to significantly affect policy in the world No. 1 copper producer.
GEARING UP FOR 2013 ELECTION
Pinera, a billionaire is rated the most unpopular leader in Chile since the end of Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship in 1990. He has been battered by protests demanding free and improved education, stricter environmental laws and greater regional autonomy. Continued...