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Chile Inaugurates First Woman President


Michelle Bachelet has been sworn in as Chile's first elected woman president. The inauguration in the Pacific coast city of Valparaiso drew leaders and officials from governments across Latin America and beyond, among them Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Valparaiso, the seat of the Chilean Congress since 1990, was the scene of political pageantry, as Chile inaugurated a new president.

Ms. Bachelet, 54, a center-left coalition leader, who won an election run-off in January, is promising to continue free market policies that have fueled rapid growth here, but also campaigned to boost social spending to close the income gap between rich and poor.

Ms. Bachelet received the sash of office in ceremonies in the Chilean congress, located in Valparaiso, 100 kilometers from the capital Santiago, as a political legacy of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Ms. Bachelet's father, an air force general was arrested for opposing the 1973 military coup led by Pinochet, and later died in prison. The new president, as a young member of Chile's Socialist party, was also jailed for a time during military rule.

The inauguration drew leaders from across Latin America, including other left-leaning presidents. Among them Brazil's Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, and the new Bolivian president, Ivo Morales.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice led a U.S. delegation, and held a series of bilateral meetings with regional leaders, including Mr. Morales, a former Bolivian coca growers federation chief, who said on election, he would be a nightmare for U.S. policymakers.

With reporters looking on, Rice and Mr. Morales, in a leather jacket, rather than business suit, greeted each other warmly.

In an apparent bit of humor, the Bolivian leader, of indigenous ancestry, presented the Secretary with a traditional Indian stringed instrument, a guitar-like Charango, that appeared to have coca leaves lacquered to its surface.

Mr. Morales supports the legal cultivation of coca, the base ingredient for cocaine, but also used for medicinal purposes by rural Bolivians. But he also said he opposes illegal drug trafficking, and Secretary Rice said Friday they have a basis for talks.

The Secretary also had bilateral sessions with, among others, Ms. Bachelet and Uruguay's left-leaning president, Tabare Vazquez, but did not have a meeting with Venezuela's Mr. Chavez.

Secretary Rice has had an ongoing verbal battle with Mr. Chavez, who she accuses of curbing the democratic opposition in his country.

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