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  • Chile's President Sebastian Pinera waves after being sworn in, next to former president Michelle Bachelet, at the Congress in Valparaiso, Chile March 11, 2018.

    Chile's President Sebastian Pinera waves after being sworn in, next to former president Michelle Bachelet, at the Congress in Valparaiso, Chile March 11, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 11 March 2018
Opinion

His cabinet includes Pinochet supporters and conservative politicians.

Conservative politician and businessman Sebastian Piñera Echenique was sworn in as the new president of Chile Sunday on the 28th anniversary of the end of the dicatorship of Augusto Pinochet.

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Outgoing President Michelle Bachelet handed Piñera the presidential sash after he pledged to loyally serve as president, preserve freedom and safeguard the constitution and laws.

Piñera headed a coalition of right-wing parties, even though his campaign had a “center” front cover, and his male-dominated cabinet includes far-right Andres Chadwick as interior minister and Hernan Larrain as justice minister. Both supported Pinochet's regime but distanced themselves from him later on their political careers.

Chadwick was named president of the Catholic University Students Federation by Pinochet himself, and both used to support Colonia Dignidad, a German colony founded by Nazi officer Paul Shafer where they used to torture and murder activists who oppsed the Pinochet regime.

Piñera ran for president under a politically “center” platform, but analysts says his cabinet members suggest more of right-wing lining government.

In 1998, he came out defending Pinochet and Chilean sovereignty as the former dictator was arrested in London over charges of genocide by a Spanish judge. During a speech then, he asked Chileans to stand in solidarity with Pinochet and his family.

The new right-wing government may backtrack on more progressive laws and projects passed during Bachelet's administration. Isabel Pla, Piñera's new Women and Gender Equality Minister, and Health Minister Emilio Santelices have opposed the legalization of abortion, which was just legalized in certain cases.

Piñera has promised to attract foreign investment to create jobs and improve the economy, as well as giving tuition-free higher education to at least 300,000 students and approving the same measure to 90 percent of the students in technical careers.

This is Piñera's second term as president after his 2010-2014 administration. He has accumulated a massive fortune, which Forbes estrimates at about US$3 billion, due to his investment activities in airlines, supermarkets, football clubs, etc.

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